Muni is rolling out another round of service enhancements starting Saturday, and the biggest change will be the new daily service from 10am-7pm on the E-line, the historic streetcars that run from Fisherman's Wharf to Caltrain.The E-line began running from 10am–7pm Saturdays and Sundays on weekends starting August 1st, 2015. The new daily service will take more pressure off of the congested F-line, which has about 23,000 riders daily. It's particularly crowded from the northern waterfront to the Ferry Building.
Streetcars aren't only for tourists
"This is very timely going into visitor season," said Rick Laubscher, president of Market Street Railway, the advocacy group for the city's historic streetcars and cable cars. "For locals, it will connect Fisherman's Wharf to the ballpark, making it easier for people to enjoy a full day of baseball and the fabled attractions of the Wharf. It also, of course, connects Caltrain, which is going to enable Peninsula commuters to have an easy ride on the surface all the way up to the northern waterfront."
Wharf workers coming in on Caltrain or BART should have an easier ride up the Embarcadero, too. With the new service, “People going along that stretch of the waterfront will get relief every day, just as they do on weekends," Laubscher said.
Ceremony on July 31st, 2015, launching the E-line weekend service.
Locals like SoMa resident Katy Liddell are excited to see the expansion. "Having regular service every day is going to make such a difference," she said, "The T is unreliable; it’s just one car. The N just gets really overcrowded." And, she said, daily service will make it easier to make it a habit. "Right now because the E only runs on the weekend, we all forget about it and we forget to take it," she said. "We’re going to put a big Post-In on our refrigerator: Take the E-line!"
Laubscher noted, "When you open any new line, it takes a while for people to realize it’s there and its’s convenient for them."
Delays stem from drivers, not equipment
Laubscher acknowledged that since its weekend inception, the E-line has been plagued with delays of up to 30 or 45 minutes at times. The most common issue, he said, is having enough trained operators, on which we've previously reported. Muni currently is implementing a general signup, he said, whereby any operator driving any mode of equipment can change to another model of equipment based on his or her seniority. “It becomes Muni’s obligation to train them on the equipment, and that takes time,” he added.
Even though the E-line requires double-ended cars because there's no loop to turn around, the streetcar itself is rarely the culprit in delays, Laubscher said. They're simple and sturdy machines with few breakdowns. "Equipment availability should not be a problem," he said. There are five cars on the E-line all the time (the F-line has 20, but it's also a longer route, going out to the Castro), and there are seven in the fleet. Several older cars also could be used as backups, he told us—at least three of which are fully restored and ready to roll.
More signs, longer hours urged
Laubscher said Market Street Railway is also urging Muni to add clear, permanent signage on the platforms so people aren't confused about the destinations on two routes, the E- and F-line. SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose said though the agency is still developing permanent signage, it "will have large temporary banners in place this week. We will also have ambassadors in place starting this weekend to direct riders to the line."
Market Street Railway also would like to see E-line service start earlier. "We believe it should start with the morning commute, not at 10am, because that’s how you build a regular ridership of residents," Laubscher said. "We understand that Muni is easing into this one step at a time, so we’re patient about this."
In addition to the E-line, look for more changes, including frequent service on 20 bus lines and expanded service hours on eight lines. Also, lines will make new connections to BART, and new Owl routes are launching.
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