PLEASE SEE JULY 11 UPDATE AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST.
Sunday, July 9, has been a gorgeous day in San Francisco, but not a good day (again) for the E-Embarcadero line, which again has been mismanaged, in this case by assigning a streetcar that should have been on the E-line to the F-line instead.
In the photo above, you see one of the seven double-end PCCs, the 1007, working the F-line to Castro, not the E. The double-end PCCs are required on the E-line because single-end streetcars (which are five times more plentiful than double-enders in Muni’s fleet) can’t turn around at the E-line terminal at Sixth and King Streets. Making the issue more critical: for technically complex reasons we won’t get into here, two of those seven double-ended PCCs can’t currently use the Sixth and King terminal and thus have to turn around short of it, skipping the Caltrain stop in both directions and screwing up E-line service along the whole line. So good management means minimizing the number of days those two double-ended PCCs (1009 and 1015) are assigned to the E-line for now. If they had assigned one of those two cars to the F-line, no problem. But assigning a “good” E-line car, 1007, to the F, meant that 1009 was running on the E-line, and skipping the Caltrain stop every time, screwing up the line.
Using a different terminal for the 1009 and 1015 on the E-line guarantees the operation will be thrown off for the entire line, and Muni management knows it. Market Street Railway has made numerous recommendations to Muni management to try to make the E-line run more reliably, such as using vintage cars like Muni Car 1 or Melbourne 496, which can run the full E-line route without problems, to avoid ever putting those “bad” PCCs into the E-line mix. None of our suggestions has yet been put into effect.
As is common on the E-line now, we saw two E-line cars running nose-to-tail today when they should’ve been 15 minutes apart. That means there is a 30-minute gap between E-line cars elsewhere on the line at that moment…sometimes worse if other factors come into play.
And decisions like the one made today, to put one of the good E-line cars on the F-line instead, only makes things worse.
UPDATE, July 11: Market Street Railway and SFMTA leaders held their monthly meeting today and spent most of their time on the issue. The streetcar pictured above has been reassigned to the E-line and from now on, Muni Operations will do everything they can to limit double-end PCCs on the F-line to those two cars (1009, 1015) that have trouble using the normal E-line southern terminal at Caltrain.
The current issue was not the fault of Muni Rail Maintenance, which put the two double-enders out on the F-line (mistakenly assigning one wrong car) because of an overall temporary streetcar shortage. This included delays in getting some of the new streetcars just returned from Brookville Equipment Company into revenue service because of a shortage of operators to “burn them in” quickly — accumulate the required 1,000 miles without passengers to test the system. One newly returned car is also out with warranty work while another, about to go into rehab at Brookville, was pulled from service when a crack in the bolster under the car was discovered (bolster strengthening is a key target of the rehabilitation process). This temporary single-end car shortage should pass within a couple of weeks.
We had a productive discussion at this meeting on other steps that might be taken in the short-term to try to improve service performance on the E-line, though no actions were clearly committed to by SFMTA. We appreciate the discussion and look forward to seeing concrete positive results soon.