Since his passion and determination grabbed the attention of San Franciscans in the 1970s, Harvey Milk has been a household name here. His terrible assassination in 1978 brought global attention to his human rights advocacy, specifically for LGBTQ people. The movie “Milk” in 2008 brought his story to millions more around the globe.
In 2009, Market Street Railway urged the SFMTA to dedicate a PCC streetcar used in the movie, No. 1051, to Harvey. It wears the simple green and creme paint job commonly used on the Muni streetcars of that day — the streetcars Harvey boarded at the old East Portal of the Twin Peaks Tunnel on Castro Street and rode to City Hall to do his job — or sometimes, to protest.
For Harvey Milk was also a dedicated transit advocate, one of the strongest on the Board of Supervisors of his day. He didn’t really have a choice, in one sense, because he didn’t own, or want, an automobile. Living on the limited income from his small camera store on Castro Street and the part-time salary of Supervisors (which was $9600 a year in 1978), he took Muni’s streetcars and buses everywhere. He was the first Supervisor to buy and use a Fast Pass, and believed that attractive, affordable mobility was the key to livability in cities.
Market Street Railway created interior displays for the streetcar when it was first dedicated, celebrating the different facets of Harvey Milk. When the car was rededicated March 15 of this year following a total rebuilding, we restored those internal displays. We were delighted at the ceremony when SFMTA Director of Transit John Haley asked us if we could help create external signage to let people who see the car on the F-line know that it’s Harvey’s car, without making too big an impact on the historic livery the car wears. (By the way, the unique and diverse liveries are a major reason SFMTA prohibits advertising on the outside of the historic streetcars, a position we have steadfastly supported for decades).
Car 1051 now wears this decal over its front door, paying visible tribute to Harvey to boarding riders and passersby. It reads, “Dedicated to Harvey Milk, 1930-1978: SF Supervisor, Human Rights Champion, Transit Advocate.”
We were able to do this thanks to a generous grant from Ambassador James Hormel and his husband Michael Nguyen, which will also enable us to expand and maintain the displays on Car 1051 and tell the story of Harvey Milk, Transit Advocate, in other media and forms as well. We thank Jim and Michael for their support. We welcome your donations to Market Street Railway to help us bring more positive attention to Harvey Milk and other transit advocates in our city’s history as well. Just click here to help us. Thanks!