RIP Transbay Terminal Streetcar Hump

A wrecking ball knocked the triple-track streetcar “hump” on the Transbay Terminal into oblivion today. The 71-year old building itself is next, really the final chapter in clearing the site for the billion-dollar terminal that will replace it, hoped to include stations for both high speed rail and Caltrain in addition to buses.

The “hump” was a streetcar ramp built in front of the terminal between First and Fremont Streets, just south of Mission. When it opened on January 15, 1939, some of the streetcars that had been going down Market to the Ferry Building — both Muni cars on the outer tracks and Market Street Railway Company cars on the inner tracks — were diverted to the new terminal, but the operation was such a mess (photo, below) that it caused what is still considered the worst traffic jam in Market Street history.

Transbay Terminal opening January 15 1939.jpgAt first, there were two streetcar tracks, one for each company, southbound on First and northbound on Fremont, switching into three tracks on the hump. They brought passengers to the trains that ran across the Bay Bridge: three companies with trains that ran as far as Chico.  But within a couple of years of opening, only the Key System trains serving the inner East Bay cities survived.

After Muni and the old Market Street Railway merged in 1944, First and Fremont were reduced to one track each, with two tracks on the ramp. By mid-1949, Muni was sending all its streetcars to the terminal: the B and C Geary lines, plus the J, K, L, M, and N. 

That ended when Muni Metro opened full-time in 1982, though vintage streetcars used the terminal hump during the Trolley Festivals of the 1980s, then again when the permanent F-line opened in 1995, until the Wharf extension opened in 2000.  The tracks on First and Fremont were torn up soon after, and only Muni buses have used the hump since.

Now, there are only photographs and memories…

Comments: 2

  1. how come the old streetcars had cow-catchers to prevent humans from getting stuck/pinned up them, but we don’t have them today?

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