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Streetcar Instrument Panel

Lessons from SF’s transit system from a trip this weekend:

1. Love the streetcars on the Embarcadero. Old, beautiful, and every one is packed. Unless there’s some bottleneck in capacity they need more. They were somewhat infrequent, which is strange when trolleys are leaving passengers on the curb.

2. Ditto cable cars. But I’m sure if they could add cars to the line they would.

3. Found myself being a change fumbler on the streetcar. Didn’t have enough change ($2.25), so I put in a $5. The bus driver said I way overpaid and should have asked her first (not clear what she could have done – sign says “exact change”). Gave me two transfers – as if that helps me. Lesson: at least for tourists, cash payment can be good. I paid more than double (happy to do so), and didn’t actually cost any time (stood aside while I figured this out).

4. After I paid my $5, a woman behind me handed me a handfull of change and asked me to pay it and get her a transfer. Dropped it in the slot and it was $0.47. Driver asked who did that and passenger just looked down until another passenger pointed her out. Then she asked for a transfer and the driver said “not for $0.47!” Lesson: yeah, stuff like that happens everywhere.

5. Bike share! Because my family was on the streetcar I had just missed, I thought I’d rent a bike (rack is at the station) and try to catch up. It was $9, but would have been worth it for the experience. After having to press countless buttons including my phone number, zipcode, etc (all on an unresponsive touchscreen) the next streetcar was approaching and I cancelled out (which still took 3 unresponsive button presses). ¬†Lessons: Price not competitive, user interface needs a lot of work and lost me as a customer.

4 Replies to “A Quick Trip to SF”

  1. Transit wonks should always make a pilgrimage to the San Francisco Cable Car Museum (1201 Mason St.). Thick cables, giant pulleys and old cable cars may not fascinate everyone, but I love going to that museum.

  2. The thing I really love that Seattle sorely lacks is late night service. I lived out by the ocean and could get downtown 24 hours a day. I also lived in Oakland for a bit and could get from downtown SF to within 3 blocks of my house 24 hours a day. The 2am bus down Geary street was completely jam packed with people who had been out drinking/clubbing. It was so nice to be able to get where I wanted to go when I wanted to go without having to worry about dealing with the last bus leaving without me.

  3. Matt,

    I expect that they have every restorable PCC car in the world already; ditto the Milan cars. Unless they want to resurrect a couple of Vertol’s as “legacy” vehicles (if they can make them run that is), they pretty much have the car fleet they’re going to have for the F.

    1. The F line is a rolling museum. They actually have a LOT of cars, but the trouble is, being museum pieces, they need a LOT of attention. They can only have a fraction of the fleet running at any given time (because they need to be out for maintainance quite often), and there are a number of cars which need several years of restoration before they can run at all. I believe they can’t actually acquire any more right now due to lack of storage barns.

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