Mid-Market Comeback


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PCC No. 1060 enlivens the scene at Seventh and Market Streets. (c) Melissa Wuschnig.

In his Chronicle column today, former Mayor Willie Brown said of the mid-Market area, “After decades of nothing but talk, that area is really taking off.”
Decades is right. I grew up on Market Street. My family had delicatessens between Fifth and Sixth and between Fourth and Third in the 1950s (and one at Fifth and Jessie as well). As a kid, I watched the stretch from Fifth west gradually deteriorate, as solid working-class stores like Weinstein’s folded and the respectable second-run theaters morphed into porn houses.
One of the selling points I made over and over for the F-line was the prediction (hope, really) that the colorful vintage streetcars would provide the truly attractive kind of public transportation that could stimulate infill development in the not-so-great parts of the street, by connecting them to the more vibrant parts of Market in either direction.
A lot of factors have played a role in the rejuvenation of mid-Market of course, led by Mayor Ed Lee’s staunch advocacy for the district (continuing what his predecessor, Gavin Newsom, started). No question the tax incentives for tech businesses coming to the area have been important, along with several other programs.
We believe the F-line streetcars are part of that positive stimulus for mid-Market, too, and Mayor Brown agrees. He wrote today, “The best part, however, continues to be the historic trolley cars. At $2 a ride, they’re one of the best tourist attractions in the city.” Unlike the rest of Muni, the trolleys actually run on time. Not that it matters, since the people riding them don’t appear to be in any hurry. If you’re lucky, you get the open-air car, which makes the ride all the better.”
While we concur with Mayor Brown, we do feel strongly that the F-line is, and must continue to be, about San Franciscans as much or more than visitors. It carries thousands of residents to and from work, school, shopping, and recreation every day, especially on the stretch from Castro to the Financial District.
Within a year or two, a couple of thousand new housing units will be completed along that stretch of Market, and the F-line will be their “neighborhood trolley.” So we need to ensure that the service meets the needs of locals first.
That’s why Market Street Railway is deeply involved in advocacy for the Better Market Street Project, which aims to remake our main street from Octavia to the Ferry over the next five years. You’ll be hearing more about our proposals soon in this space and in our member newsletter, Inside Track. We hope you’ll join us and help keep the F-line at the heart of Market Street.

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Mid-Market Madness, Continued

No sooner did we post a story about a man, apparently curled up on a boarding island on mid-Market rolling under an F-Market & Wharves streetcar, did we see this post from SFist pop up, showing a disturbed woman attacking an F-line streetcar (No. 1079) at Fifth and Market, and then herself being attacked viciously by another woman. Here’s one of the two eyewitness cellphone videos that appears on the SFist post.

Thank goodness for the presence of mind of the streetcar operator, who kept the car stopped and only left the controls to chase off the jerk who took advantage of the situation to casually tag the car’s windshield. It’s all on the video.
As we mentioned in our last post, Market Street Railway is committed to working with SFMTA to improve safety for F-line streetcars, operators, and passengers along the line, especially in mid-Market. We’re also committed to helping the Mayor’s economic revitalization plans for the area by showcasing the F-line streetcars as an efficient, attractive transit connection to attractions in both directions.
But as anyone knows who has tried to walk mid-Market Street in broad daylight, let alone nighttime, scenes like this have to become less common for the area to reach the goals the mayor has set for it.
We admit it: we were too PC (politically correct) in our earlier post, where we lumped in folks like this with those immersed in their own cellphone or earbud worlds as “people who are disoriented or distracted in one way or another.” The cellphone and earbud crowd can indeed endanger themselves, and vehicles, by obliviously stepping into traffic when they shouldn’t, but that’s nothing compared to people who seemingly have no idea where they are or what they’re doing. And in this video, we have two such, fighting each other, with a jerk tagger on top of it. All in broad daylight on Market Street.
Seeing this video reminded me of a personal experience a few weeks ago that I had chosen to ignore: walking to a meeting at SFMTA headquarters and being verbally threatened out of nowhere by a man at Tenth and Market who followed me up the street screaming the most personal kinds of profanities and waving his fists. Again, not an uncommon sight on mid-Market.
If this sort of thing isn’t somehow addressed, the current realities of mid-Market may be its future realities, no matter how much effort property owners and the Mayor’s Office make.

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