The foot of Market Street is very different this week. The streetcar tracks have PVC pipes stuck in the flangeways to reduce the tripping hazard for thousands of strollers visiting corporate-sponsored displays where the F-line and Muni buses usually run.
Lower Market and the southbound lanes of The Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building have been turned over to an event called “Super Bowl City”, demoting the F-line streetcars to a Ferry-Wharf shuttle service, with buses taking over for streetcars the entire length of Market Street (and connecting right in front of our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building, on Don Chee Way. By the way, our museum will be open regular hours, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.)
This cross-platform bus-streetcar connection, which Market Street Railway proposed after Muni planners were ready to turn the buses back a block away, has been strongly praised by the Castro Merchants at the west end of the F-line, who were rightly disappointed to lose their streetcar service for three weeks. We’ve posted their signs in our museum windows to help promote the connecting bus service.
At the museum, we’re striking a football theme, drawing on archivist Grant Ute and our friends at the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association for a replica of an actual streetcar ad from promoting a semi-pro football game at Kezar Stadium in 1945, the year before the 49ers came into existence. Kezar was served by the 7 and 17 lines of the old Market Street Railway and by Muni’s N-Judah line. For this celebration, we brought back a tee shirt featuring an N-Judah dash sign from the 1950s. It’s on sale at the museum now, and will soon appear in our online store.
Back on the street, the streetcar-bus connection seems to be working well, with saturation service of 15 streetcars the first day of Super Bowl City easily handling crowds shuttling between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building/Super Bowl City entrance area. The streetcars carry banners celebrating the Super Bowl, an idea suggested by Market Street Railway to the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. The banners will draw even more attention to the historic streetcars while they pass through the hundreds of camera shots of the Ferry Building taken from the various media platforms set up at the event. The banners are not considered advertising, which is forbidden on the outside of the historic streetcars. They were applied carefully using cable ties by Muni’s great streetcar maintenance team to avoid marring the exterior of the historic cars.
The buses, too, are heavily scheduled and include many articulated coaches. They loop clockwise around the museum and Hotel Vitale, while the streetcars loop counterclockwise. In the shot below, and inbound streetcar, with passengers on board, turns from Steuart Street to Mission, and will then head north on The Embarcadero to the Wharf. The bus has come south on The Embarcadero from Don Chee Way and is now headed west on Mission, again with passengers. It will turn north to resume the normal F-line route on Market after the Super Bowl City street closure.
No question it’s going to be a disruptive week for transit, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the area. We at Market Street Railway have two hopes. One: the streetcars get worthwhile and welcome exposure on the national stage through their high visibility next to Super Bowl City. Two: the city leadership seriously reassesses the need to ever close down lower Market Street to transit in the future. We believe Super Bowl City could have been accommodated within the confines of Justin Herman Plaza, which would have allowed it to be better served by transit.
Remember, streetcars won’t return to Market Street until all the construction on Lower Market is taken down. The target date for that is February 12.
Brings to mind a song from 1974 (back before the Super Bowl became such a big deal): “Makin’ the Best of a Bad Situation”.