What We Do and What We Don’t Do

Since our blog has attracted new readers of late, it’s a good time to make sure folks are clear on what Market Street Railway does, and what it doesn’t do. We are Muni’s non-profit preservation partner. Muni, a city agency, actually owns and operates the F-line and cable cars as part of San Francisco’s overall transit system, and are responsible for maintenance, security, and safety.

San Francisco Municipal Railway

What Muni (the transit division of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency) does:

  • Owns, operates, maintains the cable cars and historic streetcars.
  • Is responsible for safety and security of the vehicles and passengers.
  • Sets fares and operating rules.

Market Street Railway

Members and volunteers of the independent, non-profit Market Street Railway contribute the time and resources which allow Muni to take San Francisco’s vintage rail lines beyond a normal transit service. Specifically, Market Street Railway:

  • Advocates for better F-line service — more streetcars on the line, maintained well and protected from the elements when not in service.
  • We have been credited by many for making the initial F-Market line a reality in the first place.
  • Acts as a champion for expansion of vintage rail service where it would value to the neighborhoods it serves. This includes the first extension of the F-Market up the Embarcadero to the Wharves and a further extension, now under environmental review, to serve Aquatic Park park and Fort Mason.
  • Supported the startup of the E-Embarcadero line from Mission Bay to the Wharf and advocated for the popular trial service during Sunday Streets.
  • Helps Muni acquire additional streetcars — we have also performed cosmetic restorations on several streetcars as well as a cable car and some historic buses.
  • Preserves San Francisco transit history through our San Francisco Railway Museum, which serves as both a visitor center for the F-line and, with its displays and artifacts, interprets the cable cars and streetcars themselves, which we call “museums in motion.” We help enliven these vehicles by supporting Muni with research and design services to expand the number of historic paint schemes on streetcars and cable cars.”

Market Street Railway does *not* have any authority on safety, security, maintenance, or operations matters involving the historic streetcars or cable cars. We respect and support the fact that these are Muni’s responsibilities. When they need to install modern equipment to meet current regulations or needs, we might offer suggestions as to placement to harmonize with a car’s historic fabric (as we did with the running lights installed on 1914 Muni streetcar No. 162), but we don’t — and can’t — tell them not to make changes that relate to safety and security.
Even antique transit vehicles have to evolve to meet changing needs. The cable cars are a great example. Muni reacted enthusiastically to our suggestion to paint rebuilt Powell cars Nos. 15 and 25 into colorful hundred-year-old-plus liveries, but we certainly wouldn’t expect (or suggest) that they take off the front windows or running lights (neither of which were around on cable cars at the turn of the 20th Century) to make those cars “more authentic.”
We pass these distinctions along now to help our blog readers direct their questions and comments to the right place going forward.