E-line Shuts Down for Two Months Starting Jan. 22

Beginning January 22, the E-Embarcadero streetcar line will be completely shut down for approximately two months. The shutdown is related to construction of a new center boarding platform on the T-line to serve the new Golden State Warriors’ arena, Chase Center, on Third Street. Beyond the impact on the E-line, the entire six-mile length of the T-Third light rail line will be converted to bus operation for the same period.

Wait, what? That new platform is almost a mile south of the end of the E-line, so why is the E affected? Well, the construction will sever the rail link to Muni Metro East (MME), one of the two service and storage facilities for Muni’s light rail vehicles. MME stores and services vehicles for other lines as well, particularly the N-Judah (but not the historic streetcars, which moved back to their Cameron Beach Yard home near Balboa Park in 2018). So Muni needs room to store those light rail vehicles overnight and are using the track the E-line uses to turn around on King Street, plus the T-line tracks on Channel and Third Streets north of the construction zone. Muni staff was concerned that E-line operations would overly complicate their LRV movements.

It’s not clear how seriously Muni considered constructing a bypass track to carry T-line trains around the one block construction zone, which would have also allowed MME to remain in operation. During BART construction in the 1960s and 1970s, Muni regularly used these temporary track arrangements to carry PCC streetcars on the J, K, L, M, and N lines around the construction of BART stations on Market Street, switching the streetcars from one side of Market to the other repeatedly as the work progressed, with nothing more than occasional weekend substitution of buses. Of course, back then, the alternative would have been shutting down the Twin Peaks and Sunset Tunnels and going to complete bus substitution on all five streetcar lines, an alternative Muni lacked the extra buses to carry out at the time.

But that was then and this is now. Muni’s planning staff did consult with Market Street Railway during the decision, leading to a better result than they initially proposed. Besides the E-line shutdown, Muni Planning initially proposed modifications to F-line service during the T-line shutdown, leading to less frequent and convenient F-line service during this period. Muni staff was concerned about having enough operators to handle the substitute T-line buses, and wanted to take some operators from the F. But after hearing our concerns (which reflected impacts on Fisherman’s Wharf and Castro merchants as well as F-line riders), they agreed to leave F-line service unchanged during the T-line construction.

Muni believes the T-line substitute buses will provide enough capacity to handle intending E-line riders on King Street and the southern Embarcadero. The T-bus terminal is on Market Street at the Embarcadero Muni Metro station, next to F-line stops to and from the Wharf, so there will be a connection there.

The double-end PCC streetcars normally used on the E-line will appear on the F-line during the shutdown period. No word on whether Melbourne 496, the popular 1928 tram that has been an E-line regular for the past year, will join them on the F once in awhile during the shutdown.

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“Newest” PCC Streetcar Collides with Truck

Around 8:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day, the newest PCC streetcar to reenter regular service following a complete rebuilding collided with a large box truck while returning to the carbarn after completing its day’s work on the F-line. The impact knocked the streetcar, No. 1063 (painted to honor Baltimore Transit), off the track and turned the truck on its side. No injuries had been reported by the time this post was made. The streetcar had no passengers aboard at the time of the collision.

Car 1063 was southbound on Third Street, headed for Muni Metro East, its storage and maintenance base, when it collided with the truck at Mission Bay Boulevard South. The 1063 suffered extensive damage to its door side front corner. The driver’s side corner and the rest of the car appeared undamaged, though it is possible there could be frame damage underneath. Damage to the truck was also extensive.

Observations made at the scene seem to indicate that the truck was struck in the middle of its box behind the cab, with the force of the impact flipping the truck on its side and derailing the streetcar. The angle of impact suggests that the truck was turning left from southbound Third Street onto eastbound Mission Bay Boulevard South at the time of the collision. This was confirmed to news media by a Muni spokesperson.

The intersection is signalized for both streetcars and motor vehicle traffic, with separate left turn signals that are interlocked with the streetcar signals so that only one or the other is given a signal to proceed at a given time. No information has been released regarding the setting of the signals at the time of the collision; however, we were told at the scene that there should be security camera footage from the streetcar and perhaps from surrounding buildings that could determine who was at fault.

Car 1063 had reentered regular service within the last month after being completely rebuilt by Brookville Equipment Company in Pennsylvania, part of a contract covering 16 Muni PCCs. Like all streetcars going through the rebuilding program, Car 1063 had to successfully complete a 1,000-mile “burn in” period, during which all systems including propulsion and brakes had to be thoroughly tested and the car had to pass braking tests required by the California Public Utilities Commission before it was certified to carry passengers.

There have been several collisions involving T-line light rail vehicles on Third Street (which is used by F- and E-line streetcars on their way to and from the car barn). These have involved cars or trucks turning left in front of streetcars running in private rights-of-way, such as on The Embarcadero, King Street, and Third Street. In a collision almost exactly four years ago, a truck pulled in front of vintage streetcar 162 on January 4, 2014 at Bay Street and The Embarcadero, causing significant damage to the streetcar (which is currently being repaired in Southern California). The trucker was found at fault and Muni received a substantial insurance payment.

The Third Street tracks were blocked for several hours while the truck was righted, the streetcar re-railed, and the intersection cleared. Buses replaced LRVs on the T-line while Third Street was blocked.

The San Francisco Police Department is investigating the collision. A damage assessment on the streetcar will be made by Muni, but even a cursory visual inspection indicates Car 1063 will be out of service many months.

We will keep you up to date on developments on this story.

 

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