Test run puts Muni line in charter territory

A trip down the N-Judah Muni line, which runs parallel alongside Golden Gate Park and stretches out to the western rim of San Francisco at Ocean Beach, may soon be available for rent.

In a recent early-morning test run, Muni operators successfully navigated a streetcar down the western portions of the N-Judah trackway.

It was the first time in a decade that the vintage vehicles traveled on the part of the line normally reserved for light-rail vehicles.

While the breakthrough will not result in historic streetcars becoming a regular sight on the N-Judah route, the Market Street Railway, Muni’s nonprofit partner organization, wants the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to again make the vehicles available for private charter service on a portion of the N line.

Muni’s streetcars are only used for operational purposes on the F-Market route, but they are available to be rented out for private charter service at $646 for two hours on all light-rail lines, excluding the underground section below Market Street. The agency rents the streetcars about once a month.

However, the portion of the N-Judah west of Arguello Boulevard has been exempted from any streetcar charter opportunities due to an accident more than a decade ago, when a particularly wide streetcar slammed into a disabled-passenger boarding ramp at Judah Street and Ninth Avenue. With last week’s test proving that the right type of streetcar can clear that intersection, Rick Laubscher, president of the Market Street Railway, is advocating that the agency bring the vehicles back for charter opportunities.

SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said the agency is “willing to review any reasonable proposal.”  

The charter service could attract local community groups, history buffs and fans of vintage streetcars, Laubscher said.

Greg Dewar, who operates the blog N-Judah Chronicles, said the possibility of bringing streetcar charter service to the transit line would be good for both customers and the agency.

“If you can go more places on a private train, it becomes more of an attraction, so Muni could charter its streetcars for longer times and make more money,” Dewar said. “I know I would definitely charter a streetcar if they ran it on the N-Judah line.”

Take a private ride in Muni streetcar

$646 Current price for two hours of charter service on a historic streetcar
$671 Price for two hours of travel, effective July 1, 2012
$173 Hourly price following two-hour time period
44 Historic streetcars currently active in Muni’s fleet
6 Muni Metro routes

Source: SFMTA

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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