Where the Streetcars Used To Go


Where the streetcars used to go

That’s the title of a wonderful new interactive map by San Franciscan Chris Arvin. We could yammer on about how it does a great job of showing you the extent of streetcars in three different eras, and how Chris has selected some choice photos to illustrate the various lines, but just click the link above and go find out for yourself.  It’s terrific.

One comment, though. One of the many transit advocates who posted Chris’ great work to Facebook commented, we “demolished our public transit.” That’s simply not true. The vast majority of those streetcar routes shown in the 1940 map still exist, as Muni bus routes (most of them zero-emission trolley coaches, as the streetcars were).

A few streetcar routes that were eliminated were legacy routes established back in the days of multiple companies, when later-established streetcar routes often meandered around to avoid streets already occupied by competitors.

Muni realigned their routes in the 1980s to reflect changing travel patterns of San Franciscans. Buses were far easier to reroute than streetcar lines would have been. No question in our mind that a few of those conversions, such as the B-Geary, were a huge mistake and with foresight, other lines could have sparked higher density development (such as the 12 line on its private right-of-way in the middle of Sloat Boulevard, had it been rerouted through the Twin Peaks Tunnel — which could have served a second Parkmerced, as the M line still serves the original). But on balance, the level of transit service was preserved for San Franciscans. Now to implement logical, helpful streetcar extensions, such as to Fort Mason, the E-line through Mission Bay and Dogpatch, and a branch of the T-line out Evans Avenue to serve Hunter’s Point and enable more density among its route (but that’s another story).

Thanks again for this great gift to the city, Chris Arvin!


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