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.)
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.