Celebrating Muni’s Big Day December 28


Muni’s famed streetcar No. 1, on its very first run, with Mayor James Rolph, Jr. at the controls, headed west on Geary at Jones, December 28, 1912. San Francisco History Room, San Francisco Public Library photo.

December 28 is the 100th anniversary of Muni’s opening day — the first big city publicly owned transit system in America. We wish we could all meet at Kearny and Market and ride Muni’s first streetcar out Geary Street — for a nickel. But we’ve teamed up with Muni to offer maybe the next best thing: riding that very same streetcar, No. 1, gloriously restored, along Market Street and The Embarcadero — for free!

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Car No. 1 as recently restored, thanks in part to the advocacy of Market Street Railway.

But (as the TV commecials say) wait, there’s more. ALL Muni service, including the cable cars, is free on December 28. We are working with Muni to put additional historic streetcars into regular F-line service that day, including 1914 car No. 162, 1948 PCCs 1006 and/or 1008, and 1952 PCC No. 1040. The historic streetcars will likely operate between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. We’re hoping to see 1950 trolley coach No. 776 operating downtown as well, but that hasn’t yet been finalized.

The center of action is going to be our San Francisco Railway Museum, across from the Ferry Building at the F-line Steuart Street stop, open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. that day. On that Centennial day, we’re offering Muni employees (with their ID cards) a 10% discount on all merchandise in our gift shop (the same deal our Members get every single day, whether at the museum’s gift shop or in our online store).

We’re planning special events for our Members that day, including a talk from our board chair and president, Rick Laubscher, on the status of the E-line and our vision for it. He’ll also answer your questions. That’ll happen at the museum at 2 p.m.

Don’t forget, all Muni rides are free that day, so pack up the friends and family and come to San Francisco — and the San Francisco Railway Museum — to celebrate Muni’s 100th birthday December 28.

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Celebrating Civic Activism – With a Cable Car

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Powell cable car No. 26 reenters service in its 1947 livery, November 14, 2012. On the running board, from right to left: SFMTA Chair Tom Nolan, Vice Chair Cheryl Brinkman, Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin, MSR President Rick Laubscher, MSR board member Bruce Agid. Frank Zepeda photo.

The news media that covered the return of Powell cable car No. 26 to the fleet a few days ago missed a major point. To them, it was just another spruced-up cable car (about which, more below). But Market Street Railway’s point in recommending that the car be painted in this green and cream livery was to celebrate the civic activism that saved the Powell cable cars 65 years ago this month.
MSR has been working with Muni for almost 20 years to add both color and historic authenticity to the Powell Street cable car fleet by painting cars in different liveries they wore in past times. (Go here and scroll to the bottom of the page. You can see the story of each livery by clicking on a cable car.) The last major unrepresented era was the early Muni green and cream livery that was first applied after World War II and lasted into the 1960s, when it was slightly modified (as shown on Car No. 3).
In painting No. 26 into this livery, we honor the early days of civic activism in San Francisco. The power structure, led by Mayor Roger Lapham, had come together to plan the scrapping of the Powell cable lines in favor of buses in early 1947. But Friedel Klussmann, a Telegraph Hill resident active in women’s civic activities of the day (such as gardening), cried foul. She was ignored by the old boy network, but persevered and build a grassroots organization, largely of women, who beat back the proposal in that November’s election. The rest, as they say, is history.
While Friedel Klussmann already has a cable car dedicated to her (Powell No. 1, constructed in 1973 for the centennial of the invention of the cable car and now under renovation), No. 26 celebrates a broader movement — of San Franciscans who stand up and advocate for better transit in general.
The ceremony to welcome No. 26 back to the fleet also included a tribute to one of the cable car operation’s own: painter Efren Bernal, who did much of the work on No. 26. Diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer not long ago, he couldn’t be there personally, but his family came to represent him, and heard his work lauded by SFMTA leaders including Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin. His wife noted that Efren always signed his work, and showed us his name in tiny letters inside a yellow strip on the rear platform of No. 26, in about as inconspicuous a place as possible. That matched the Efren Bernal we got to know during the renovation of the car: modest, yet wanting to know everything he could about the original paint scheme, so he could get it right.
And so, this cable car honors Efren Bernal as well.

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Thank You, SPUR!

SPUR is one of the great urban planning non-profits in the world. Formally named San Francisco Planning and Urban Research, the organization is widely respected as a powerful and responsible advocate for making our city more livable as well as economically strong and esthetically beautiful.
Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher was one of four San Franciscans honored last week with Silver SPUR awards, given annually for helping make “San Francisco and the Bay Area a better place to live and work.” Here’s the video SPUR showed of Rick.

2011 Silver SPUR Awards: Rick Laubscher from SPUR on Vimeo.

SPUR’s announcement of Rick’s award said, in part, “Rick Laubscher is most well known for his transformative impact on Market Street’™s historic streetcars, but his transportation advocacy and commitment to San Francisco’™s important historic treasures extends well beyond the Market Street Railway. A fourth-generation San Franciscan, Rick and his family have long been engaged in the vibrant life of Market Street. Among his civic contributions, Rick served as founding board chair of The City Club of San Francisco, on SPUR’s board and transportation committee, and on the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce board. Over his career, Rick has been a radio and television news reporter, a corporate public relations executive and a civic activist.”
In his acceptance remarks to the 2,000 people attending the awards luncheon at Moscone West, Rick said he considers the honor to belong to all those who have worked so hard to keep historic transit a vibrant part of our city’s present, and, through expansion to Fort Mason and Mission Bay, an even bigger part of its future. He noted that It is the collective work of dozens of champions, both inside the city family — at Muni and other departments and in the political leadership — and among citizen-advocates in Market Street Railway and other organizations, that have brought San Francisco the F-line, the promise of the E-line, and enhanced cable car service.
Rick also invited those in the audience who share Market Street Railway’s view that Muni’s historic streetcars should be an even more important part of the city’s future to get involved as advocates for the streetcars, either by joining MSR or by acting independently to let city decision-makers know of their support. He said, “We especially welcome the involvement of a new generation of San Franciscans in helping us integrate the historic streetcars with better bicycle, pedestrian, and transit infrastructure, especially on the street where I grew up, Market Street.”
SPUR produced great videos explaining the work of each honoree. They tell their stories succinctly. Here are the links to the videos for Natalie Berg, Art Gensler, and Dale Minami.
The Silver SPUR award recipients this year, as in past years, demonstrate the many ways individuals can contribute to a better city. Congratulations to all of them.

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