Buses on F-line, No E-line Sunday, June 24

The Pride Parade has been San Francisco’s summer kickoff celebration for more than decades now, with huge throngs lining Market Street to watch almost 300 parade units go by.

Back in the 1980s, historic streetcars were actually part of the parade, shown here in 1983, as a Blackpool boat tram and Muni’s famed Car 1 participated. The boat tram’s authentic destination sign seemed particularly appropriate.

This year, though, streetcars will be completely absent from the parade route, not only for the duration of the event, but for the entire day and night of Sunday, June 24. Muni is operating substitute buses instead, via Mission Street.

The fact that the historic streetcar fleet has moved back to Cameron Beach Yard (across from the Balboa Park BART station) from its temporary home the past four years at Muni Metro East (in Dogpatch on the T-line), means E-Embarcadero line streetcars would have to head into service early and stay out until the parade route clears, since they must now use Market Street going into and out of service. Rather than do that, Muni Operations has cancelled E-line service altogether on Sunday.

 

So don’t look for any vintage streetcars on the street at all Sunday, June 24. No E-line service from the Ferry Building (shown above) to the Giants’ game, no streetcars to offer visitors to the city, or Pride Parade participants or spectators, a fun ride to Fisherman’s Wharf. As we have reported here before, any excuse to shut down or impede the E-line sounds like a good excuse to certain people in Muni Operations. (Important note: Muni has managed to operate streetcars along The Embarcadero on numerous occasions in the past when Market Street was blocked to transit. They know how to do it.)

By the way, June 23 marks the 35th anniversary of the opening of the first Historic Trolley Festival. We’ve found some never-before published photos of that memorable event that we’re publishing in the next issue of our member magazine, Inside Track, as part of a look back at the demonstration project that proved the value of historic streetcars as part of Muni’s daily operations. You can receive it by joining Market Street Railway.

 

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Buses Back on the F as E Starts Daily Service

IMG_5007Today marks the beginning of daily service on the E-Embarcadero historic streetcar line, which will now run daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Fisherman’s Wharf to AT&T Park and the Caltrain Depot along The Embarcadero and King Street. It’s a major service expansion following nine months of the weekend-only service that inaugurated this long-anticipated line.

And what greeted the E-line streetcars on their first day of daily service?  A too-familiar sight on the original historic streetcar service, the F-line: buses instead of streetcars.

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Today (April 23) is the first day of the new Muni operator signup. Operators throughout the system are changing routes and modes (bus, streetcar, light rail, cable car) as their union’s contract allows them to do, based strictly on seniority. When this happens, Muni has to train hundreds of operators on their new modes (though every one of them, by contract, has to be qualified to operate a bus from the beginning of their career).

What this means in practice is that, at the beginning of these signups, operators are assigned to the F-Market & Wharves line who haven’t yet completed streetcar training. They’re given buses to drive instead.

That’s why at Noon today there were six buses on the F-line and only nine streetcars. It appears there’s a run or two missing as well.

All five E-Embarcadero runs are out and all are filled with double-end PCC streetcars. (Actually, the E-line runs HAVE to be streetcars because buses can’t use the roughly paved streetcar/light rail right-of-way south of Mission Street — the right-of-way used by the F-line, north of Mission, is smooth enough for buses.)

We only know that all the E-line runs are filled at the moment because we went down there and counted the cars ourselves. (We’d love to tell you the scheduled headways of 15 minutes are being kept, but they’re not. Several times, we saw two cars 2-5 minutes apart with a gap much longer than 15 minutes afterward.)

Anyone should always be able to know how much service is currently on ANY Muni line, and where the vehicles are, by consulting the live map on NextMuni, which has included the E-Embarcadero line on the Saturdays and Sundays it’s been running since last August.  However, the E-line is mysteriously missing from the live map today.  It doesn’t show up as a route you can check, as it used to.  (If you want to check the current F-line service — what cars [and, sigh, buses] are on the line and where they are, click here.

We know that Muni is actively training new streetcar operators for the F-line. We hope they’ll be on the streets — with their streetcars — soon, so the buses can go back to the barn!

UPDATE, April 25: Muni Planning Director Julie Kirschbaum apologizes for the lack of an E-line NextMuni map, attributing it to a glitch on the vendor’s part. She says she’ll alert us when it’s fixed; then we’ll alert you!

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F-line Buses, No E-line Labor Day Weekend

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Suddenly, unexpectedly, with only two days notice to business and community stakeholders, including Market Street Railway, Muni’s parent, SFMTA, says it will replace all F-line streetcars this Labor Day Weekend with buses.

Last weekend, Muni put out a notice that E-Embarcadero service this Labor Day Weekend would not operate, but there was no mention of the F-line switch.

The stated reason for the “bustitution” of the F-line on virtually no notice is that construction work is going on at Fourth and King Streets. They’ll be putting in new “special work” — switches and crossings — to create a connection to the new Central Subway, scheduled to open in 2019.

We have been told that Muni’s construction division knew they were going to do this for at least six months, but that Muni Operations only learned about it a couple of weeks ago. The work involves taking one of the two tracks on King Street out of service at the intersection of Fourth.  The N-Judah and T-Third light rail lines run through that intersection, as well as the E-line historic streetcars on weekends. Muni has hurriedly slapped together a temporary boarding platform on King, have cut back the T-line trains to end at the Fourth and Berry T-line station, and will run the N’s in and out of the Caltrain Station at Fourth and King on a single track.

Did we mention there’s a Billy Joel concert that will bring 40,000 people to AT&T Park on Saturday night, in the middle of all this?

With just a single track going through the intersection, Muni planning and operations people apparently decided at the last minute that they didn’t want the F-Market cars going through there as well, on their way to and from their car barn down the T-line. But the thing is, the F-line has been physically cut off from the car barn on several occasions due to past construction. In each case, Muni successfully stored the F-line streetcars overnight on The Embarcadero, between Mission and Folsom Streets.  They could have done that for Labor Day weekend too, but they didn’t.  We don’t know why.

Market Street Railway has already heard howls of outrage from merchants along the F-line who are furious both about the bustitution on what is one of the busiest visitor weekends of the year for many of them — and equally furious about the total lack of notification that would have allowed them to plan.

Market Street Railway has shared its objections to this precipitous move with SFMTA leadership. We believe it disrespects a wide range of stakeholders and shows no concern for both the visitor industry and the many businesses that believe having streetcars, not buses, on the F-line is important, especially on a key sales weekend.

Compare the way BART has gotten the word out about its Labor Day Weekend Transbay Tube shutdown. Decisions made and understood within the BART organization months in advance, providing their staff time to get the word out repeatedly. Clear and consistent messaging that gave the public easy-to-understand options,and plenty of time to make alternative arrangements.

Not much of a comparison, actually.

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