Some Things to be Thankful For

With all the grousing people like to do about Muni — and yes, there could certainly be improvements in many areas — it’s only fair to point out the positives, especially at this time of year.

Streetcar no. 1010 on 17th Street

First and foremost, be grateful for the commitment Muni makes to the vintage streetcar service. Yes, it takes lots of advocacy and assistance to make the service what it is, but I never forget that almost no other big city transit agency would even consider something like this — no matter how well it works.
Thanks for those Muni team members that go the extra mile:  operators who care about what they’re doing, helping passengers with information, calling the stops, making visitors feel welcome; the maintenance crews that keep the cars looking great and running well in the face of tremendous service demands (don’t try running a bus that hard year after year!); and for the capital projects folks who have helped get long-stalled projects like Geneva covered storage, finally moving forward. (No, not everyone cares, but I believe it’s better than it was in many areas.)
Recognize the ongoing support by generations of elected and appointed officials in San Francisco — Mayors, members of the Board of Supervisors, SFMTA Board members, and others. The steady support for the vintage streetcars makes the renovation of additional equipment, planning for extensions, etc., possible, because the existence of the service itself is not under threat.
Be glad that Muni has renewed its focus on the historic flavor of the cable car system, adding additional vintage liveries to the Powell line and reaching an agreement to keep the current artifact collection at the Cable Car Museum.
I’d sum up by saying that in 25 years of working with Muni leadership and front-line people, I believe the commitment to operating vintage transit as an integrated, important part of the Muni system is stronger than it has been in many years — because top leadership understands the value vintage transit brings to the city, and to Muni’s own image.  There have been many Thanksgivings in the past quarter-century when that was far from true.
And on our non-profit’s side of the fence, I’m grateful for the donations of time and money from our 1,200 members that make our advocacy and education possible; to the tremendous numbers of hours put in by our volunteers who both manage our organization and carry out our projects, for the great work of our museum team day in and day out, and for the ongoing stream of new folks who offer their skills and talents without asking for compensation, such as the photographers Kevin Sheridan and Todd Lappin (who took this shot the other day at 17th and Castro). It’s great to be part of this team.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.


Comments: 4

  1. Yes, I agree with all your comments, Rick. Thanks to all the MUNI team members, the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors and the SFMTA Board for their support of vintage streetcars and the F line. But, I think they all know, and it is a fact, that the F line is the most popular MUNI route. I have been there, in the summer, when it’s standing room only in both directions and you have to hope there is an empty car right behind the full one. So, they have to do what they are doing to keep the service up to a standard that the public demands. Good luck to all of them. I hope the cars, that have gone, or are going, in for re-building, are all “runners” when they return and add a lot to the great vintage streetcar service that is the MUNI F line!!

  2. Indeed, let us give thanks for Muni. It may be far from perfect, but when the rest of the West Coast was a “traction desert”, Muni kept the faith with electric railway service, providing a “traction oasis” where those who appreciated “trolley power” could “travel better electrically”. I remember my first visit in 1967, how different Muni was from the Pacific Electric of my boyhood: No air brakes, air compressors or air whistles, no couplers, no walkover seats, but no matter–there was track with wire above it and I was happy! Just call me a San Franciscan wannabe, looking forward to celebrating Muni’s Centennial in 2012.

  3. You’re quite right about some of the good stuff Muni does, Rick.
    But in my experience it takes a good cop bad cop approach to keep Muni working and the vintage fleet moving and to get ANYTHING done by the broader City and County.
    Market Street Railway is the good cop and we are all better off because of it, not the least due to your persuasive, positive and calm efforts.
    RT Murphy

  4. The MUNI certainly is an outstanding example of what trolleys can do for a city. My mother used to take the N-Judah every day, back when PCC’s were just “old” and not “vintage.” San Francisco is one of only seven cities never to completely discontinue streetcar service (the others being Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Boston, Toronto and Newark). Five of the cities eventually purchased LRV’s, and only three of the seven cities still use PCC’s. (New Orleans doesn’t count, those are Perley-Thomas cars)

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