In his San Francisco Chronicle column this week, Native Son Carl Nolte reminds us that, when looking back into history, not to forget there were bad old days as well. He writes about Market Street, “At rush hour, there were so many streetcars on Market – and so much automobile traffic – that the street was nearly impassable.”
Streetcars gridlocked on Market Street in 1922. In the foreground, Lotta’s Fountain is visible on the corner of Market & Kearny. San Francisco Municipal Railway photo.
Long before the Muni Metro subway opened, 18 streetcar lines once shared 4 tracks on the surface of Market Street. Muni’s streetcar lines ran on the outside tracks while our namesake Market Street Railway Company ran on the inside. Nolte notes a major problem:
“The four-track setup was also dangerous – there was only 23 1/2 inches of clearance between the moving streetcars. This meant that people interested in taking a car on the inside track had to inhale when a car on the outside track passed by. Accidents were common.”
Not to worry though, while the F-Market & Wharves historic streetcars are all authentic antiques, the line runs according to modern safety standards. When looking back on history, remember things weren’t perfect and there were both the ups and downs just like today.