Fleet Heads Back to Cameron Beach Tonight!

Attention shutterbugs!  The F-line’s historic streetcars will head back to Cameron Beach Division via the J-Church line today and tonight (Friday, November 6).  Grab your cameras and snap away!

The historic fleet has been exiled to Muni Metro East, just off Third Street on the T-line, for well over a year now.  Light rail vehicles have been stored at Cameron Beach (formerly the venerable Geneva Division, opened as a streetcar yard in 1900!) instead, during reconstruction of the tracks at their home across the street, Green Division.

But with access to Muni Metro East cut off for the next eight days while Muni installs switches at Fourth and King Streets to connect to the future Central Subway, the only way to continue streetcar service on the F-line is the send the fleet back to Beach.  (The E-Embarcadero line will NOT operate this weekend due to the Fourth and King construction.)

Market Street Railway wants this return to be permanent, not temporary. The historic fleet has been unprotected for too long already, while the $9 million protective canopy we worked so long and hard to have built at Beach has been all but unused.

With predictions of an El Nino-driven wet winter, it is more important than ever that the streetcars get back under that canopy — and stay there whenever they’re not in service.  That’s why, even if the fleet is sent back to Muni Metro East at the conclusion of the Fourth and King work, we will strongly advocate for their permanent return to Cameron Beach before the heavy rains start. The City has too big an investment in these streetcars to leave them unprotected through a winter like this.

We invite photographers to post photos of pull-ins to Beach on the J-line on our Market Street Railway group on Facebook, or email them to rick@streetcar.org tonight, and we’ll post the best ones over the weekend!

Let’s all welcome the fleet back home!

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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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Clearing Cars from Market Street

Traffic cops on Market Chron photo

Market Street is fundamentally different today: private automobiles, including ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, are banned from turning onto the city’s main drag between Third and Eighth Streets. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, implemented the changes in support of the Safer Market Street initiative, designed to reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians hurt on Market.

The Chronicle has a good story on this.  We thank them for the use of the photo above, by Liz Hafalia.

The new restrictions build on earlier rules that force eastbound automobiles to turn off Market Street at Tenth Street, then again at Eighth and Sixth.  As bicycle traffic has mushroomed over the past decade, the street has gotten more difficult to navigate for everyone.  That’s especially true of transit vehicles, including of course the F-line streetcars.

Perhaps the biggest news for F-line riders in the new change is this: Muni is extending the “transit only” lane on Market — the track lane — from its current end at Sixth, eastward to Third Street in both directions.  And they’re going to paint that lane bright red, like the existing portion westward on Market.

This should speed F-line loading because the way it has been, automobiles were allowed to use the track lanes in the busiest two blocks of Market, between Fifth and Third. They’d stop next to the boarding island on red lights and delay streetcars from reaching the island to load and unload passengers. This could add another minute or more to running times per stop, slowing overall service.

We may not see the total benefit of this change right away in that stretch, because right turns will temporarily be permitted onto Market from northbound Fifth Street while Ellis Street is closed for Central Subway construction.

And of course, enforcement will be everything in making this work. A common complaint about Muni’s network of transit only lanes in the city is that you never see police enforcing them. Muni vehicles now have forward facing cameras, but under California law they cannot be used to issue tickets for the moving violation of driving a non-transit vehicle in those lanes.

Yesterday, though, many tickets were issued to drivers who ignored the clear new signage and turned onto Market Street.  We hope the SFPD will keep their motorcycle teams out there every day to ensure the new arrangement works as it should.

In the longer run, Market Street Railway is participating with many other groups and city agencies in a total redesign of Market Street, due to be implemented late this decade.  For the streetcars, this will include creation of limited stop service along Market between Haight Street and the Ferry, to be shared with a couple of major crosstown bus lines.  Having fewer stops will greatly increase the efficiency and capacity of the F-line, because riders just going a block or two will instead use the plentiful local bus service at the curb.  We have also successfully advocated to install a short-turn streetcar loop on McAllister and Seventh Street North (Charles Brenham Place), to allow a better balancing of streetcar service along the six-mile long F-line.

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New Development Fee Could Benefit Streetcars

Streetcar No. 1055, wearing its original 1946 Philadelphia livery, passes new condos on Market at Buchanan. Michael Macor photo for the Chronicle.

Streetcar No. 1055, wearing its original 1946 Philadelphia livery, passes new condos on Market at Buchanan. Michael Macor photo for the Chronicle.

The City of San Francisco is proposing a new fee on new market rate condo and apartment construction that will raise an extra $14 million per year for transit.

The Chronicle used an F-line streetcar passing a new upper Market development to illustrate the article about the fee. More than fitting, since every single new proposed residential development along Market for the past few years has used F-line streetcars in the illustrations of their proposed project.

Clearly, the developers think the historic streetcars are a valuable amenity.  Now they get to put some money where their artists’ conceptions are.

The article quotes a long-time supporter of Market Street Railway, Oz Erickson of Emerald Fund (who serves on our advisory council) as saying, “…for the whole city to work, everybody has to pay their fair share.”

Thanks to this legislation, carried at the Board of Supervisors by strong F-line (and Muni) supporter Scott Wiener and widely expected to pass, it looks like everybody will indeed pay more of a fair share.

The money that comes in from the new fee will be spread around a variety of areas at Muni to improve and expand service. It would be logical to apply some of it to expand streetcar service along Market in congested times, given the thousands of new units now under construction or planned along the F-line.

Though it will take a couple of years before the money starts coming in, this is a new long-term funding source for Muni, which is always welcome.

We thank Scott, the Mayor’s Office, the Planning Department, and SFMTA, which the article says worked together for an extended period to pull together this plan.

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No Streetcars on F-line This Weekend

A combination of events has left the F-line without streetcar service on one of the biggest visitor weekends of the year, July 25-26. You’ll only see buses on the F-line all weekend. The historic streetcars’ overnight base was moved last month to Muni Metro East, just off Third Street and the T-line, to allow rails to be replaced near their long-time home at Cameron Beach Yard across town. This means that the historic streetcars now enter and leave F-line service… — Read More

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F-line PCCs Move to Metro East on Friday

Muni’s 32 streamlined PCC streetcars will move their home base from Cameron Beach Yard to Muni Metro East (MME) at Illinois and Cesar Chavez Streets this Friday, June 20, and will operate out of MME starting Saturday. The ten Milan trams have been operating out of MME for almost two years. Milan trams stored together with LRVs at Muni Metro East shortly after their move there, August 2012. Peter Ehrlich photo. The move is tied to major track replacement at… — Read More

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Opposition to F-Line Fare Increase Keeps Growing

Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez, The Chronicle More and more city leaders, groups, and individuals are sounding off about Muni staff’s idea of tripling the F-line fare to match the cable cars. Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Supervisor Scott Weiner, whose combined districts cover most of the F-line route, have written a “two thumbs down” letter about the proposal, focusing on how it is discriminatory against residents along the line who depend on it. San Francisco Travel (formerly known… — Read More

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All-Door Boarding on All Muni Vehicles

Muni has just implemented all-door boarding, the first system in the country to do so. That includes F-line streetcars. People with cash must board at the front door, but those with Clipper cards, Muni Passports, or valid transfers (any proof of payment) can board (legally) at the back doors. Muni has even created a video outlining the basics of the new system, with enough old photos of buses and streetcars to make it worth looking at just for that. As… — Read More

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Photos of the Moment: A Different View

The other day, we talked about helpful Muni operators on the Boat Tram. Here’s a different angle on that, literally. The cruise ship Crystal Symphony called at Pier 35 yesterday, with relatives on board. A tour gave us the chance to snap a few shots from a vantage point San Franciscans rarely experience. That includes sweeping views of the Wharf area with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, and, in this case, two F-line streetcars, No. 1053 (Brooklyn) approaching… — Read More

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More F-line Service. But More Streetcars?

The good news: Muni has added more sorely needed F-line service on weekends. The bad news: the additional service is mostly provided by buses, at least for now. The additional service was long planned, and depended on additional streetcars being available – specifically, some of the 16 streamliner PCCs being renovated by Brookville Equipment Company of Pennsylvania. But that contract does not appear to be going well. The first PCC of the batch has been back in San Francisco more… — Read More

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