F-line, Our Museum Adapt to Super Bowl Week

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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.

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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 streetcars the entire length of Market Street (and connecting right in front of our San Francisco Railway Museum across from the Ferry Building, on Don Chee Way. By the way, our museum will be open regular hours, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.)

This cross-platform bus-streetcar connection, which Market Street Railway proposed after Muni planners were ready to turn the buses back a block away, has been strongly praised by the Castro Merchants at the west end of the F-line, who were rightly disappointed to lose their streetcar service for three weeks.  We’ve posted their signs in our museum windows to help promote the connecting bus service.

 

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At the museum, we’re striking a football theme, drawing on archivist Grant Ute and our friends at the Bay Area Electric Railroad Association for a replica of an actual streetcar ad from promoting a semi-pro football game at Kezar Stadium in 1945, the year before the 49ers came into existence. Kezar was served by the 7 and 17 lines of the old Market Street Railway and by Muni’s N-Judah line. For this celebration, we brought back a tee shirt featuring an N-Judah dash sign from the 1950s. It’s on sale at the museum now, and will soon appear in our online store.

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Back on the street, the streetcar-bus connection seems to be working well, with saturation service of 15 streetcars the first day of Super Bowl City easily handling crowds shuttling between Fisherman’s Wharf and the Ferry Building/Super Bowl City entrance area. The streetcars carry banners celebrating the Super Bowl, an idea suggested by Market Street Railway to the Super Bowl 50 Host Committee. The banners will draw even more attention to the historic streetcars while they pass through the hundreds of camera shots of the Ferry Building taken from the various media platforms set up at the event. The banners are not considered advertising, which is forbidden on the outside of the historic streetcars.  They were applied carefully using cable ties by Muni’s great streetcar maintenance team to avoid marring the exterior of the historic cars.

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The buses, too, are heavily scheduled and include many articulated coaches. They loop clockwise around the museum and Hotel Vitale, while the streetcars loop counterclockwise. In the shot below, and inbound streetcar, with passengers on board, turns from Steuart Street to Mission, and will then head north on The Embarcadero to the Wharf. The bus has come south on The Embarcadero from Don Chee Way and is now headed west on Mission, again with passengers. It will turn north to resume the normal F-line route on Market after the Super Bowl City street closure.

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No question it’s going to be a disruptive week for transit, drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in the area. We at Market Street Railway have two hopes. One: the streetcars get worthwhile and welcome exposure on the national stage through their high visibility next to Super Bowl City.  Two: the city leadership seriously reassesses the need to ever close down lower Market Street to transit in the future. We believe Super Bowl City could have been accommodated within the confines of Justin Herman Plaza, which would have allowed it to be better served by transit.

Remember, streetcars won’t return to Market Street until all the construction on Lower Market is taken down. The target date for that is February 12.

 

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Hoodline Reports on Our Agenda

Hoodline headlineThe 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 developments along Market Street.

Importantly, though, we want to emphasize that some of these ideas, particularly regarding operations on Market Street have been developed jointly with SFMTA (Muni), and the Better Market Street Project.  They deserve a great amount of credit for working to make our main street better for everyone: transit riders (buses as well as streetcars), bicyclists, and pedestrians.

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Video Birthday Card

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.

 

Happy Birthday, Muni!

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Wires, Yes. Super Bowl Week Streetcars, Still No.

The first two blocks of Market Street, from Steuart (here) west to Main will still be closed to streetcars during Super Bowl week, forcing the substitution of buses on the F-line the entire length of Market Street.

The first two blocks of Market Street, from Steuart (here) west to Main will still be closed to streetcars during Super Bowl week, forcing the substitution of buses on the F-line the entire length of Market Street.

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, the wires are staying up, avoiding the cost and time of removing and replacing them (the Host Committee had reportedly offered to pay…is it possible they cringed when they saw the estimate?).  But from everything we’ve heard, the street itself will still close.  Muni bus lines will have to be rerouted. And, most importantly to us, the F-line will be cut in half, with no streetcar service on Market Street at all. (Streetcar shuttles would operate from the Ferry Building and Steuart Street stops (where our San Francisco Railway Museum is) and Fisherman’s Wharf. There would be no E-line service at all, either streetcars or substitute buses, Muni says.)

Focusing on the wires ignores bigger issues that almost no one is looking at.

Closing multiple blocks of our city’s main street for a period this long is simply unprecedented.  We are a history-oriented group with Market Street in our very name, and we know of no time when Market Street downtown has ever been closed for longer than it took a parade to pass by.  Sure, we close Market for several hours at a time for civic celebrations, such as the Pride Parade, the Giants Parades, and so on, but not for at least nine days (Super Bowl week plus at least a day on either end for set up and take down on the street.  Parades on Market are a civic tradition, dating back to the 19th century.  This is different.  It amounts to an outdoor trade show for a huge business enterprise.

The F-line will have to operate with buses the entire length of Market, since there is no place to turn streetcars around between Beale (the limit of the closure) and 11th Street/Van Ness.  This denies visitors attractive through streetcar service from the Wharf to Castro, serving all the destinations in between, including Union Square.

Specifically for mid-Market and Castro businesses, it could mean less business from people who come to the city than they would have gotten with attractive streetcar service. The Castro Merchants have stated many times that visitors much prefer to ride the streetcars, which are an attraction in themselves, rather than buses or the Muni Metro.  This cutting off of attractive transit service by this action of the NFL is ironic, given that the NFL has promised an “LGBT-friendly” Super Bowl celebration on San Francisco.

Given the increasingly frequent closures of Howard Street at Moscone Center for more than a week at a time, causing gridlock throughout downtown, is it time to ask where this is going?  If an outside organization can come into San Francisco and pre-empt our public streets on a whim, with no consultation, what is next?  As we said, the length of this closure of our main street is unprecedented.

We have learned through sources that Muni still plans to “bustitute” for the F-line streetcars on Market Street for at least nine days, counting set up and tear down of the displays.  We don’t fault Muni for this.  We know that no one at the Host Committee (or City Hall, apparently) even consulted with Muni before they proposed closing lower Market for this extended period and tearing down the wires.  Muni’s just trying to play the best hand they can, given the crappy cards they were dealt.  

We hope the Host Committee reflects a little more about the uproar over the wires and sees the positive possibilities here.  As a thoughtful commenter on our Facebook group put it, “Redesign some more -so the village fits – and transit (especially the F-Line) – passes through it. Then it will be a real village, and the overall effect and feeling of something special will be greatly enhanced! Tourists and locals alike love the colorful F-Line cars, so why does the Super Bowl Committee think they wouldn’t like them as part of an S.F. focused celebration? Indeed they should be the centerpiece or glue that ties the celebration and village to the rest of The City. No other host city could do something like this again.”

That is a perfect argument for getting the most out of the F-line and showing visitors one of the things that makes San Francisco special. Besides, we could very well have two cities in the Super Bowl who are represented in Muni’s historic streetcar fleet.  Imagine decorating these cars in tribute to their teams and making a big deal out of them.  Can’t do that if they’re on the sidelines.

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Backlash Against Removing F-line wires for Super Bowl

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

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Switch to Cameron Beach Goes Smoothly

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

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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… — Read More

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

  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… — Read More

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Clearing Cars from Market Street

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… — Read More

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New Development Fee Could Benefit Streetcars

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… — Read More

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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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