In transit jargon, the trip to the carbarn after completing the day’s runs is the pull-in. A man who helped revitalize San Francisco’s transit system has unexpectedly — and very sadly — finished his runs, way too soon.
Mayor Edwin Lee died suddenly of a heart attack in the early hours of December 12, 2017. He was just 65 years old.
Pictured above on a boat tram at the opening of the E-Embarcadero vintage streetcar line in 2015 with then-Supervisor Julie Christensen, we will always remember Mayor Lee for his delight with the historic streetcars. But he meant far more to the city’s transportation system than that.
As Mayor, Ed Lee put a team in place at the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, parent of Muni, that dramatically improved the condition of the vehicle fleet, replacing hundreds of buses (both trolley coaches and motor coaches) and began the replacement of the light rail vehicle fleet. Led by SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and Director of Transit John Haley, the LRV procurement and bus replacement were carried out in a fraction of the time that previous fleet replacements took.
He appointed strong bicycle advocates, disabled advocates, and transit advocates to the SFMTA Board of Directors. The Board’s strongest bicycle advocate, Cheryl Brinkman, is now the Board Chair. These appointments are part of an important legacy.
And we also remember how Mayor Lee took delight in Muni’s centennial celebration in 2012, even repeating what his predecessor “Sunny Jim” Rolph had done a century before — personally take the controls of Muni’s very first streetcar (yes, the very same streetcar) to kick off the celebration.
San Francisco’s newest transit line started operation this morning, August 1, 2015, after an enthusiastic kickoff event on The Embarcadero yesterday. This photo, by Scott Badovick, captures the instant when dignitaries led by Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisors Julie Christensen, Scott Wiener, and Jane Kim, SFTMA Board Chair Tom Nolan and Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman, SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, and SFCTA Executive Director Tilly Chang, simultaneously snipped a red ribbon to mark the occasion.
In the background, PCC No. 1006, one of the regular double-end service cars you’ll ride on the E-line. Next to it, Muni’s latest historic streetcar acquisition, No. 233, our second 1934 “boat tram” from Blackpool, England, purchased by Market Street Railway and donated to Muni through a generous donation from The Thoresen Foundation, with shipping underwritten in part by FedEx Trade Networks. Michael Thoresen represented the Thoresen Foundation and Cassandra Lirio represented FedEx Trade Networks at the event. Both joined the civic dignitaries who rode to the event at Mission Street and The Embarcadero from the new E-line stop in front of AT&T Park at Second and King Streets.
At the ballpark stop, San Francisco Giants President and CEO Larry Baer took a break from his last-minute baseball trade deadline activities to greet the dignitaries. He thanked Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher for his tireless advocacy for the E-line and noted what a great connection it will make for Giants fans as well as all other people coming to enjoy the length of the Northeast Waterfront.
After the ride up the Embarcadero on the boat tram, where Mayor Lee happily “rode shotgun,” standing in the morning breeze next to Muni trainer and motorman-for-the-ride Robert Parks, the dignitaries took turns praising the connectivity the E-line will bring between neighborhoods and attractions along its route from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Caltrain Depot at Fourth and King. Representatives of The Exploratorium and other attractions along the way were in the audience, while John Cannizzaro, President of the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District and Katy Liddell, President of the South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association both spoke. Each called for extending the E-line as soon as possible: Cannizzaro saying the environmentally-approved extension from the Wharf to Fort Mason needs to happen “sooner than later,” and Liddell endorsing Market Street Railway’s proposal to continue E-line service south from Caltrain over the T-line tracks through Mission Bay and Dogpatch.
The immediate focus, though, is working to see that the initial E-line service runs smoothly. SFMTA, Muni’s parent, has posted signs and banners at the exclusive E-line stops south of Folsom Street to make it easy for riders to distinguish them from the high-level N- and T-line platforms. Both SFMTA and Market Street Railway have ambassadors in place for the first few weekends of service to answer riders’ questions and provide information on the new service.
For now, the service is limited to Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is expected to be expanded to seven days a week, with longer hours, early in 2016.
On the SFMTA side, the E-line startup effort has been led by Ed Cobean, head of cable car operations, on a special assignment under the leadership of Director of Transit John Haley. Deputy Director of Rail Maintenance Lee Summerlott has led the work on ensuring enough PCCs were available, ably assisted by Manny Enriquez, who also led the final preparations of boat tram 233. Director of Communications Candace Sue and Director of Service Planning Julie Kirschbaum led their teams’ efforts in getting the E-line up and running. Thanks to all who were involved on the SFMTA side.
On the Market Street Railway side, our efforts were led by our very able Board Chair Bruce Agid, with enthusiastic help from Board Member Katie Haverkamp. In an unfortunate coincidence, Bruce wasn’t able to make the opening event, because he was doing his civic duty — jury duty that is! But he got shout outs for his tireless advocacy on the E-line by Supervisors Christensen and Kim, among others.