Tuesday, February 24, 2015

San Francisco Streetcars

Last week in one of my posts I stated that I thought the cable cars in San Francisco would cease to run because of the cost of operation. My son AJ still considers San Francisco his home and he took exception immediately. He gave me a little information about the cable cars and told me he was surprised I did not mention the historic streetcars in use in San Francisco. I remembered seeing the streetcars around town and now I remember he told us while we were visiting San Francisco that the cars came from all over the world. The historic cars are used on cable car lines, bus lines and trolley lines. Trolleys are different from busses because they run on rails and use overhead electric lines as a power source.

At the time we were driving around the city looking for particular locations and I thought the trolley cars and extra pedestrian traffic boarding the trolleys were a nuisance. I realize now I was thinking like a motorist and not thinking like a tourist.

The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency, hereafter referred to as MUNI, was created to improve public transportation in the city to allow better traffic flow and make the public transportation more appealing to visitors. San Francisco has the Bay Area Rapid Transit system (BART) and MUNI working together to provide transportation to everyone in the San Francisco Bay area.

The cable car system has three lines that provide access to Market Street, Union Square, Ghiradelli Square, Nob Hill, Powell Street, Hyde Street, Fisherman’s Wharf and other city areas in between. Busses move on surface streets covering most of the areas surrounding downtown. In most of the city public transportation of some sort is accessible within four blocks.

Market Street Railway is a non-profit organization with about 1,000 members that was established to raise money to help the city and MUNI improve the transportation system and beautify the cars to make them more attractive to tourists. The Market Street Railway conducts festivals to raise money to buy historic cars from around the world. They have the No. 3357 car from Hamburg, Germany, nine cars from Milan, Italy and fourteen cars from Philadelphia.

Some of the cars are Peter Witt cars designed by him when he was the commissioner of the Cleveland Transit system. These cars are entered via the front door and the conductor is located in the center of the car for people to pay on the way to the back to exit. This design was intended to speed up stop time to ingress passengers.

After thinking about it, I agree with AJ. Cable cars and streetcars will never leave San Francisco. There is too much history and too much visitor appeal associated with the look of the transportation systems in the city. Use the following web URLs to see some pictures of the cars.

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