Muni may have new light-rail route with historic cars

Muni may soon expand its light-rail service — but in a way that connects with the transit agency’s past.

In 1979, Muni officials proposed the E-Embarcadero line, which would run from Fisherman’s Wharf to the train depot at Fourth and King streets. That route, however, was shelved in consideration of the shorter

F-Market route, which was proposed a year later, according to Rick Laubscher, president of the Market Street Railways, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving Muni’s past.

Now, Muni is looking at funding that would allow it to rehabilitate its historical streetcars and add theE-Embacadero route to its service.

Officials from San Francisco County Transportation Authority, the agency in charge of dispensing tax revenue for local transportation projects, have recommended allocating $3.5 million for the $24 million streetcar rehabilitation project. Today, the SFCTA Plans and Programs Committee will formally decide whether to move the proposal forward to the agency’s board.

The rehabilitation project is the beginning stage of a five-year plan to overhaul Muni’s entire historic streetcar fleet.

Because there is no terminal loop at the Caltrain station, all vehicles on the E-Embarcadero route must be double-ended streetcars, or “torpedoes.” The line needs at least 12 fully functioning torpedoes to maintain service that runs every 15 minutes for 20 hours a day, according to San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency documents.

SFMTA has only three torpedoes in regular service and five in limited service. The rehab project would introduce four more into service by 2012.

“Rehabbing the torpedoes is a necessary step before we can consider E-line service,” Muni spokesman Judson True said.

True said the SFMTA still does not have a date for when service might begin, but the line was included in the department’s Transit Effectiveness Project, a recently completed study that recommended more efficient public-transportation routes.

Popular among tourists and workers shuffling from the Financial District to Fisherman’s Wharf, the F-Market line carries 18,520 people each day, according to SFMTA ridership data.

“It makes sense to expand the F-line service,” True said. “It well serves our transportation needs and it provides a link to our transit past.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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