Nothing has improved San Francisco more in the past 30 years than the transformation of its waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero. The city’s mayor at the time, Art Agnos, bucked some strong special interests to achieve the removal of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway in front of the Ferry Building, replacing it with a surface roadway, pedestrian promenade, and — of course — streetcar tracks.
Mayor Agnos was aided in all this by his deputy mayor for transportation, the late Doug Wright (who was serving as Market Street Railway’s board chair at the time of his death in 2014). Art Agnos will share inside stories of how he and Doug got all those things done — including making sure the tracks were laid for the future E-line — at the next edition of Inside Track Live at our San Francisco Railway Museum, 77 Steuart Street (across from the Ferry Building) on Thursday, March 21, from 6 to 7 p.m.
Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher, who was active in advocating for the waterfront improvements, will converse with Mayor Agnos and moderate questions from the audience.
This special event is free for Market Street Railway members. We request that nonmembers donate $5 at the door to support our mission of preserving historic transit in San Francisco. Attendance is limited to 50 people. Please join us!
Beginning January 22, the E-Embarcadero streetcar line will be completely shut down for approximately two months. The shutdown is related to construction of a new center boarding platform on the T-line to serve the new Golden State Warriors’ arena, Chase Center, on Third Street. Beyond the impact on the E-line, the entire six-mile length of the T-Third light rail line will be converted to bus operation for the same period.
Wait, what? That new platform is almost a mile south of the end of the E-line, so why is the E affected? Well, the construction will sever the rail link to Muni Metro East (MME), one of the two service and storage facilities for Muni’s light rail vehicles. MME stores and services vehicles for other lines as well, particularly the N-Judah (but not the historic streetcars, which moved back to their Cameron Beach Yard home near Balboa Park in 2018). So Muni needs room to store those light rail vehicles overnight and are using the track the E-line uses to turn around on King Street, plus the T-line tracks on Channel and Third Streets north of the construction zone. Muni staff was concerned that E-line operations would overly complicate their LRV movements.
It’s not clear how seriously Muni considered constructing a bypass track to carry T-line trains around the one block construction zone, which would have also allowed MME to remain in operation. During BART construction in the 1960s and 1970s, Muni regularly used these temporary track arrangements to carry PCC streetcars on the J, K, L, M, and N lines around the construction of BART stations on Market Street, switching the streetcars from one side of Market to the other repeatedly as the work progressed, with nothing more than occasional weekend substitution of buses. Of course, back then, the alternative would have been shutting down the Twin Peaks and Sunset Tunnels and going to complete bus substitution on all five streetcar lines, an alternative Muni lacked the extra buses to carry out at the time.
But that was then and this is now. Muni’s planning staff did consult with Market Street Railway during the decision, leading to a better result than they initially proposed. Besides the E-line shutdown, Muni Planning initially proposed modifications to F-line service during the T-line shutdown, leading to less frequent and convenient F-line service during this period. Muni staff was concerned about having enough operators to handle the substitute T-line buses, and wanted to take some operators from the F. But after hearing our concerns (which reflected impacts on Fisherman’s Wharf and Castro merchants as well as F-line riders), they agreed to leave F-line service unchanged during the T-line construction.
Muni believes the T-line substitute buses will provide enough capacity to handle intending E-line riders on King Street and the southern Embarcadero. The T-bus terminal is on Market Street at the Embarcadero Muni Metro station, next to F-line stops to and from the Wharf, so there will be a connection there.
The double-end PCC streetcars normally used on the E-line will appear on the F-line during the shutdown period. No word on whether Melbourne 496, the popular 1928 tram that has been an E-line regular for the past year, will join them on the F once in awhile during the shutdown.
The headline above is a great quote from a great story in Curbed SF about a dad and his two kids riding every Muni line terminal to terminal this summer. This installment includes the F-line where they rode the newest PCC to return to service following rebuilding, Car 1050 (pictured above in yet another calendar-worthy photo from Traci Cox). The author, Mc Allen, describes rolling along The Embarcadero on the “retro delight” PCC, “exceptionally maintained as rolling museums”.
Along the way, since it’s a mostly tourist-laced area, the operator chimed the train’s bell several times to alert pedestrians wading into intersections. She also honked the rarely used yet very loud train horn, including a 40 second series of blasts at a clueless Uber driver trying to enter a “streetcars only” trackway along Pier 39.
After we made it to the end of the line, I asked the operator how she decides between the bell and the horn. She replied with the quote of the day: The bell is charming; the horn works.”
Fans know that in San Francisco and most other PCC cities, the streetcars only had a bell (actually called a gong) for warning pedestrians. Under modern safety regulations, the streetcars now also have a VERY loud horn.
The whole story is a nice shout-out to Muni and a must-read for any transit fan.
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.
The streetcar honoring Harvey Milk, civil rights icon and transit advocate, was rededicated in a ceremony at the Castro Street F-line terminal on Wednesday, March 15. Car 1051, looking factory fresh, was on display at the spare track next to Jane Warner Plaza while a parade of speakers, led by district Supervisor Jeff Sheehy, paid tribute to Harvey Milk — and to Muni’s parent, SFMTA, and Market Street Railway for their respective roles in keeping the F-line up to date.… — Read More
If you’re riding the F-line this sunny Saturday morning, you’ll find fewer streetcars out there, and longer wait times. But not to worry, it’s a “service improvement.” Who says so? Muni. Muni’s parent, SFMTA, sent out a blog post entitled “More Muni Forward Service Improvements Roll Out”. The F-line is mentioned. But when you click through to the story, it’s, well, a different story. After listing other “improvements” (including cutting back a major crosstown bus line to eliminate transfers to the… — Read More
NextBus, Muni’s vendor for live displays showing where every vehicle is on every route, has launched the full-time E-Embarcadero map. You can now see what’s on both the E- and F-lines by clicking here, then selecting the map you want: F-line only, E-line only, or a combination (as shown in the screenshot above). We thank NextBus (which labels its maps here “NextMuni”) for including the icons (which we supplied them) of the actual streetcars that are on the line, a… — Read More
Today 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:… — Read More
“Super Bust 50” is the headline of the new Castro Merchants monthly President’s Letter by Daniel Bergerac. You can read his entire letter here, but here’s the gist. As the Super Let Down after Super Bowl 50 starts to fade, let’s remember who is going to end up paying the biggest price for Santa Clara hosting this huge sporting event – – we are: local merchants, especially in The Castro. But, we are not alone, we hear, as local merchant associations all over… — Read More
The foot of Market Street is very different this week. The streetcar tracks have PVC pipes stuck in the flangeways to reduce the tripping hazard for thousands of strollers visiting corporate-sponsored displays where the F-line and Muni buses usually run. Lower Market and the southbound lanes of The Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building have been turned over to an event called “Super Bowl City”, demoting the F-line streetcars to a Ferry-Wharf shuttle service, with buses taking over for… — Read More
The popular San Francisco neighborhood news website, Hoodline, reports on Market Street Railway’s priorities for improving historic streetcar service. We appreciate the coverage and hope it helps move these items closer to reality. The tremendous popularity of the F-line has made a major impact on service quality, as anyone who tries to ride knows. We do feel strongly that the line can operate more efficiently than it does and become even more popular with locals, including people moving into the many new residential… — Read More
Muni turns 103 this week (December 28) — the first publicly owned big city transit system in the United States.
Seems only fitting to celebrate history with videos of Muni’s historic vehicles, keeping the past present in the future. First, F-line streetcars, shot this past summer by one of our best contributing photographers, Kevin Mueller:
And, to bookend the streetcars, some of the best natural sound we’ve heard on a cable car video. Just a pure ride, the only music coming from the percussive click of the cable, the ratchet of the hand brake, and of course, the bells.
Social media and their news media followers seem to be celebrating yesterday’s announcement by the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee that they will not seek to take down Muni’s overhead wires on the first two blocks of Market Street after all in the week before the Super Bowl, when that area and the adjacent Justin Herman Plaza will be turned into a big party for the NFL and its corporate sponsors. But it seems they misunderstand exactly what happened. Yes,… — Read More
Seven months ago, in April, we ran the photo above and this story. We based it in part on a Chronicle story that mildly said the F-line streetcars would have to be “rerouted.” We knew of course that they meant “bustituted,” since you can’t reroute streetcars without moving the tracks and overhead wires. We looked at the artist’s conception of the “Super Bowl village” on lower Market Street and noticed that there’s no tangle of overhead wires showing — the ones… — Read More
The historic streetcars are snug as a bug in a rug during this first rain of the season, now that they’re back at Cameron Beach Yard, their longtime (and we hope future) home during the current shutdown of the connection to the Muni Metro East storage yard. The historic cars’ trips going in and out of service again follow the J-Church line tracks from Balboa Park to 17th and Church. Ace photographer Curley Reed captured some great shots of the old… — Read More