More F-line Service. But More Streetcars?

The good news: Muni has added more sorely needed F-line service on weekends. The bad news: the additional service is mostly provided by buses, at least for now.
The additional service was long planned, and depended on additional streetcars being available – specifically, some of the 16 streamliner PCCs being renovated by Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania. But that contract does not appear to be going well. The first PCC of the batch has been back in San Francisco more than a year and is still unreliable. (Our members will get a full report on the nature of the problems in the new Inside Track newsletter being mailed next week.)


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Pilot PCC No. 1071 on a test run at the L-Taraval Zoo terminal, September 29

Trying to push things forward, Muni put the pilot streetcar, No. 1071, into passenger service this summer, but had to withdraw it almost immediately because of unreliability. It went back into service last Tuesday after more testing without passengers, but it failed on the line two out of its first three days in service, having to be towed back to Beach Yard (formerly Geneva), where the vintage streetcars are maintained.
Nonetheless, Muni plans to start putting six additional streetcars from the Brookville order into service as early as this week, after modifying some components that were found unreliable in the pilot car.
Meantime, buses are filling those new weekend runs on the F-line, but there are a couple of problems.
First, it appears that most bus operators are not turning on the GPS transmitter that makes their vehicle visible on the “NextMuni” displays at F-line stops or on our live F-line map. (If you see a four digit number beginning in 8 on the live map, without an image of a streetcar next to it, that’s a bus with GPS turned on.)
Second, as SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin volunteered to us the other day, lots of riders just plain don’t want to ride the buses, letting them pass them by at F-line stops. So they’re not helping reduce overcrowding as much as more streetcars would.
To their credit, SFMTA project, maintenance, and operations leaders have been open in discussing the challenges of the renovated streetcars with it, and they express a resolve to end up with reliable vehicles from this contract.
We’ll see how those new streetcars do in service when they appear, and we’ll keep you updated on this important issue here and in our newsletter.

Comments: 11

  1. I’d rather have F-Market buses running on our streets than pressed into service restored streetcars that hasn’t had all the bugs shaken out. Thanks for keeping the public informed.

  2. One wonders if the unreliable component or components is or are relics of the original post-war PCC design, or something that was believed to be an improvement on the “old school” parts. Having helped in PCC maintenance (mostly in the air-electric type) I can see where there a lot of places where an amended Murphy’s Law can be enforced: “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong, most likely in the most inaccessible part of the car.”

  3. This is the second time I’ve heard operators accused of not turning on their GPS—the last time it was a 311 operator who said we turn them off for breaks. The instruction I got in that area was that when the radio is set to the correct run number, the GPS is on (some people have said it was the signs, but the older buses don’t have electronic signage). I’ve driven trolley coaches at two yards, and the “F” line, and bustituted for all with diesels, and no one has ever said to manually turn on the GPS any other way. And, it’s a Muni rule to have our radios properly set, and they DO call you if you’re wrong.
    As to the unpopularity of “F” bustitutes, we could fix that by restoring our vintage buses—yes yes, wring your hands about the money, but if we’re running coaches no one wants to ride, it’s wages, maintenance, diesel and pollution costs, all for naught. One way or another, the money is getting spent.

  4. The SFMTA isn’t paying Brookville until the streetcars are accepted, right? Is their work under warranty?

  5. Yes, there is a warranty, but it’s all in how well that warranty is enforced.

  6. I may be way off track here, but, if there are issues with the returned cars, could MUNI not send more of the Vintage fleet rather trhan PCC out on those busy busy weekends, I appreciate that they need a conductor, but is it something that could be looked at at all? It would be great to see 130/162 and other out a bit more often…….

  7. Those vintage streetcars that are currently operable are already out on the street on weekends. Unfortunately, staffing shortages in maintenance have led to a backlog of needed repairs on some of the vintage streetcars.

  8. It sounds to me like someone at Brookeville is cutting corners and any quality the riders were told to expect just isn’t there.

  9. It’s tragic that there is trouble with these cars.
    I do hope the folks at Brookville know what they are doing and haven’t broken anything through well intended but misguided improvements.
    I don’t know much about PCCs but I know from other types of old equipment that it is usually very difficult to see inside the mind of the original designer and that things are interdependent in more ways than immediately meet the eye. Changing anything thus often has unintended consequences, and these improvements are almost always negative.

  10. Yesterday I informed some tourists at the Castro stop that they might prefer to pass up the F-line bus and wait for a historic streetcar that would soon be arriving. Just as I said that another bus arrived. Until then I’d not seen any buses but around 2:15 there were three consecutive buses.
    To allow riders a choice, I’d like to see MUNI make an effort to precede and follow every F-line bus with a historic streetcar.
    W.Watt

  11. Well, if you need the extra runs but only the buses are available, then so be it. I hope Muni put out notices that buses will be covering most of these runs.
    I myself would rather have a seat on an empty bus, rather than stand in an overcrowded streetcar anyday. As a tourist looking to ride my favourite PCC or Milano or other cars, (getting on anywhere on Market St Downtown or anywhere else) I myself would still pass it up if its horribly overcrowded.
    Would these buses come from the Kirkland Garage at Powell & Beach as its right next to the F-Line?

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