With San Francisco’s historic streetcars still shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we can’t take an actual ride to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the permanent F-Market line, but we can get some virtual thrills with these two new merchandise items, designed by Chris Arvin. Above, a poster with Chris’s iconic, er, icons that playfully visualize some of Muni’s historic streetcar fleet. Below, a pin featuring a PCC in original Muni livery.
More than ever, our nonprofit depends on support from those who love the cable cars and historic streetcars to enable us to strengthen our advocacy to get them back on the streets of San Francisco as soon as it’s safe. Please consider even a small donation or membership. Thanks.
View Northeast on Market Street From 2nd Street | March 29, 1951. SFMTA Archives
This coming October marks 100 years since Muni ran its first buses. We chronicle a century of coexistence — and competition — between buses and streetcars in San Francisco in a new exhibit now open at our San Francisco Railway Museum.
Originally obtained to extend the reach of Muni’s streetcar lines, buses got bigger and more capable but still were relatively unimportant until World War II. Then, after the war, they sidetracked streetcars to become the dominant form of transit in the city.
Come see this free exhibit at the museum, 77 Steuart Street between Market and Mission, across from the Ferry Building, Tuesdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Oh, and come in soon: we’ve just put our great 2017 calendar on sale at the museum only, for just $5 (down from $12.95).)
Later this year, our members will be able to peruse an enhanced version of the exhibit in our quarterly newsletter, Inside Track. Join now!
Even in the 1930s, transit stop spacing was an issue in San Francisco. Click to enlarge.
This pair of notices from our namesake (Muni’s privately owned competitor from 1921 to 1944) recently came to our attention. They would have been posted inside Market Street Railway streetcars, probably in the 1930s, as part of a campaign to win rider acceptance of wider spacing of streetcar stops.
No question that the main reason the company president, Samuel Kahn, initiated the change was to cut costs by shortening trip time. For the private company, every nickel (then the standard fare) counted, and the more trips a crew could make in a shift, the more nickels the company counted.
The same arguments in the posters apply today, and are being made today by Muni in its efforts to speed up service as part of its Transit Effectiveness Project (TEP). Our non-profit supports Muni in these goals.
We also support them in the proposals to reduce the number of F-line stops on the downtown portion of our main street, something neither the old Market Street Railway nor Muni ever attempted way back when. It’s all part of the Better Market Street project, which we’re involved with (along with myriad other groups). We’ll explain our views in detail in the next issue of our member newsletter, Inside Track, due out in September. To get our newsletter and to support our efforts to improve and extend historic streetcar service, please join us!
On April 17, 1892, the first electric streetcar service opened in San Francisco. The line started at Market and Steuart Streets, a block from the Ferry terminal and just a few feet from our San Francisco Railway Museum. The line of the San Francisco & San Mateo Railway ran out to Holy Cross Cemetery south of the county line, in what is Colma today. The line zigged and zagged through downtown, partly to avoid infringing on other companies’ street franchise rights, but generally followed Steuart, Harrison, 14th St. and Guerrero to reach San Jose Avenue.
Muni’s historic streetcar collection includes one of the city’s earliest, single truck No. 578, built in 1895, shown here near the terminal of the city’s first streetcar line on Steuart Street, at our San Francisco Railway Museum.
Made practical by Frank Sprague in Richmond, Virginia, just five years earlier, the electric streetcar was already decimating its predecessor technology, the cable car, in big cities all over America, and why not? Streetcars were twice as fast and easier to maintain, although they couldn’t climb steep hills like cable cars could. They also (at least initially) required overhead electric wires, which many found unsightly. Opponents of such wires successfully kept electric streetcars off Market Street for the next 14 years, although streetcar lines did spring up on many other streets, including Mission and Fillmore.
The 1906 earthquake and fire destroyed the cable car systems throughout the city; the main transit company of the time, United Railroads, took the opportunity (with some help from bribes) to string “temporary” wires on Market and bring streetcars to the city’s main street, where they have remained essentially ever since.
All of these early streetcar lines were privately owned, built to make a profit (which they amazingly did with a standard fare of five cents). But 20 years after the city got its first streetcar line, it got its (and America’s) first publicly owned streetcar line, the Municipal Railway (Muni), whose centennial we celebrate this year.
On April 27, 1992, while the permanent F-line was under construction, Muni and Market Street Railway mounted a grand streetcar parade down Market to celebrate the centennial of San Francisco streetcars. Today’s 120th will be marked simply by the same steady service streetcars provide every day in San Francisco. Cheers!
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