Thank You, Ed Reiskin

Note: A version of this article is contained in the current edition of the Market Street Railway magazine Inside Track, reaching mailboxes now. It has been updated here.  

By Carmen Clark, MSR Board Chair and Rick Laubscher, MSR President

Ed Reiskin, a daily Muni rider, on a Milan tram
(Courtesy San Francisco Chronicle)

Edward D. Reiskin, Director of Transportation (the top executive) of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, is moving on from his post. His last day in the office was this week. We at Market Street Railway will greatly miss his leadership.

The top job at SFMTA is more demanding than that of almost any transit agency CEO, in large part because SFMTA itself is more than just a transit agency. It is in charge not just of San Francisco’s buses, light rail vehicles, cable cars, and streetcars, but also of its parking, taxis, bicycle and pedestrian safety, and even the operation of the streets themselves.  

Ed Reiskin came into this multifaceted job at the behest of the late mayor Edwin W. Lee in 2011. Reiskin had succeeded Lee as head of the Department of Public Works, and Mayor Lee believed his knowledge of the city and its processes for getting things done would serve San Francisco well. He certainly brought impressive credentials to the job, having been Deputy Mayor of Washington DC and holding Master of Public Administration degree from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, an MBA from New York University, and a Bachelor of Science degree from MIT.

At SFMTA, Ed devoted much time trying to build a more unified culture from the disparate departments that had been combined into the larger agency, to deliver services more efficiently to the public. Importantly for us, Reiskin also recognized the importance of putting his agency’s best foot forward to the public. He was a consistent supporter of historic streetcar and cable car service, not at the expense of reliable daily bus and light rail service, but still as a core part of the basic transit network, one that brought the public delight. 

During Reiskin’s tenure, Muni Heritage Weekends became an annual event after being started as a one-time Muni Centennial event in 2012. The second historic streetcar line, the E-Embarcadero, finally began operations after being a dream for decades. The renovation of the 32-car PCC fleet was completed, and a new track loop at Civic Center has been approved and funded, allowing for future expansion of F-line service in the most heavily traveled portion of the line. As Ed prepares to depart, proposals are being solicited to restore five more priceless double-end vintage streetcars, and planning is again proceeding to extend historic streetcar service from Fisherman’s Wharf to Aquatic Park, the first step in the eventual extension to Fort Mason.  

Ed Reiskin provided the leadership to achieve all these things for the historic streetcar operation in San Francisco, and much more. Though his schedule was jammed with demands and meetings, he found time to meet with us every month, bringing in his top lieutenants to go over projects in process and ensure they were moving forward, and listening to our ideas for further improvements. 

All the while, he oversaw the replacement of virtually Muni’s entire bus and light rail fleet and responded to demands from bicyclists and pedestrians for safer streets by implementing safety measures at a pace unprecedented in San Francisco’s history, even as fast-growing population, increased congestion, understaffing, and worn out infrastructure made his job tougher. 

After eight high-pressure years, Ed Reiskin has elected to seek new professional challenges, while the SFMTA Board faces the very big challenge of finding a new Director of Transportation that can balance the priorities and deliver services to the people of San Francisco as well as Ed Reiskin has.

On behalf of the members and friends of Market Street Railway, we extend our deep thanks for his steady and consistent leadership and wish him well in his future endeavors.

UPDATED: At the SFMTA Board of Directors Meeting on July 15, MSR President Rick Laubscher made this statement on behalf of Market Street Railway.

Our organization has been supporting Muni for 40 years.  When I first met Ed Reiskin eight years ago, the only thing we asked is that he be honest with us.  Tell us where he agreed, where he didn’t, what might be possible, what wasn’t.  

In other words, open communication and fair dealing.  That should be the norm, but it often hasn’t been in the past.

With Ed, it was.  We have accomplished a lot of positive things together, and we appreciate that.

And though we focus on Muni’s cable cars and historic streetcars and buses, our organization is passionate about the success of SFMTA as a whole.  We have been transit-first advocates for decades.  And we know a lot about how SFMTA works – and sometimes, why it doesn’t work as well as we’d all like.

That’s why we want to thank Ed for his leadership in every area of SFMTA’s responsibilities.  You, as a Board, have made an excellent decision in our view by making Tom Maguire the interim director.  You face a daunting decision in finding a permanent director who can match up to the standards Ed Reiskin has set for humble yet passionate service, for collaboration, and for his love of this city and its transportation networks.

Thank you, Ed. A great transportation chief. A great San Franciscan.

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Thanksgiving 2017

This Thanksgiving we’re grateful for all the workers at SFMTA (Muni) who operate the historic streetcars and cable cars and keep them on the streets and looking good.

We’re grateful to the SFMTA Board of Directors and Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin for their strong support of historic transit in San Francisco, and to those on their staff who share their commitment.

We’re especially grateful to our members and donors who make our advocacy possible.

And we’re grateful to be part of a dynamic evolving city that protects its past and integrates much of it into the present and the future.

One current example: this photo was taken at lunchtime the other day from the main dining room of the newly (and wonderfully) renovated Fisherman’s Grotto No. 9 on Taylor Street’s Restaurant Row at the Wharf. What was a tired (albeit historic) restaurant is fresh and new, but still displaying old-time Wharf tradition (along with a fabulous Crab Louis, by the way).

And the views! Golden Gate Bridge to the west and, oh yes, streetcars to the south, with the fishing fleet as a foreground object. The shot above was snapped with an iPhone, but we expect the ace volunteer photographers among our members to get some much better shots soon. Importantly to us, this shot symbolizes how vintage streetcars have become so integrated into the fabric of our city. Even as a detail in a photo, they just fit in — as they have done for 125 years in San Francisco.

And since food’s on our mind today, we’re grateful for many other traditional San Francisco restaurants that still deliver the goods: Sam’s Grill on Bush near Kearny, John’s Grill on Ellis (which Dashiell Hammett took the 20-line streetcar to reach), and Scoma’s at the Wharf. And don’t forget bars like the Buena Vista Cafe at the end of the Hyde cable.

Happy Thanksgiving, San Francisco!

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First Rebuilt PCC, Honoring Harvey Milk, to be Welcomed Back March 15


The first of 16 PCC streetcars to go back into service following a complete rebuilding at Brookville Equipment Corporation in Pennsylvania will be celebrated at 10:15 a.m. on Wednesday, March 15 at the F-line terminal on 17th Street at Castro and Market.

Streetcar 1051 will be rededicated to Harvey Milk, to whom it was originally dedicated in 2009. The streetcar contains informational displays, prepared by Market Street Railway, celebrating Harvey Milk not only as a pioneering openly gay elected official and champion on LGBTQ rights, but also as a vocal advocate for public transportation.

Milk was the first member of the Board of Supervisors to regularly use a Muni Fast Pass. He rode PCC streetcars painted exactly like the 1051 between his City Hall office and his home and camera store in the Castro. District Supervisor Jeff Sheehy will speak, as will SFMTA officials and a representative of the Castro Merchants, a strong supporter of the F-line.

“We are proud to welcome this streetcar back into Muni service fully restored, rebuilt and ready for action,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation, in a SFMTA news release. “The Harvey Milk streetcar honors the memory of Supervisor Milk. His legacy is well-known and this permanent exhibit honors his life and draws additional attention to his efforts to improve Muni and make San Francisco a better place to live.”

The historic streetcar displays the simplified green and cream livery of the 1970s and is the same Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) model that was in service at that time. It was featured in the film “Milk,” starring Sean Penn, which debuted in 2008.

The current $31.5 million rehabilitation of the original 16 PCCs in the F-line fleet, which were built between 1946 and 1948 and were last overhauled 25 years ago, includes re-engineering of the electrical and propulsion systems, inspection of current ancillary electrical systems and rewiring all lighting systems. The cars are being “skinned” down to their frames, which are inspected and repaired where needed. New sheet metal is applied over the whole body.

The streetcar will be open for public inspection before and after the brief 10:15 ceremony and is then cleared to enter regular passenger service. Come by for the event, and then look for the shiny new car on the street.


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