A new San Francisco Muni historic streetcar line will open Saturday along the waterfront, taking tourists and residents from the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets to Fisherman’s Wharf along The Embarcadero.
The new E-Embarcadero line, which will only operate on the weekends for now, between 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, is part of a ten percent increase in Muni service approved by the Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors back in May last year in their two-year operating budget.
SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin said the new E-Line will make critical stops from AT&T Park, The Exploratorium, Pier 39 and the Wharf:
“It’s not everyday that we get to inaugurate a new Muni line. Let alone a rail line on which historic streetcars will be operating.”
The new E-Line will share stops with the N-Judah and T-Third south of Ferry Building, said Katie Haverkamp, board member of the Market Street Railway, an independent advocacy group that supports the preservation of historic transit in the City.
She said specially double-ended streetcars will stop at the same stops as the N-Judah and T-Third lines, but riders will need board at the low-level islands near the accessible ramps.
Instead of heading into the portal before Folsom Street like the N-Judah and T-Third does, the new E-Line will continue on rail tracks on the street level to the Ferry Building.
On the northern side of the Ferry building, the E-Line make the same stops as the F-Market/Wharves line.
Haverkamp said she been training volunteers to help out with the opening of the new E-Line service. She said she will have 24 volunteers along The Embarcadero to the Wharf directing people to the new service.
Mayor Ed Lee joined other city officials on the opening ceremony Friday along the rail tracks near The Embarcadero. They arrived on one of the newly-acquired boat tram streetcars.
Lee thanked everyone involved in getting the E-Line running, which has been in the works since Senator Dianne Feinstein was mayor of San Francisco in the late 1970s and 1980s:
“Let’s link to its history of not only the car, the fun it will have, but all the appreciation that I have of the mayors and the leaders and the commissioners that have gone before us and supervisors all working together to make sure this part of the great public transportation system we want to have in our great City.”
Supervisor Julie Christensen said the new service will be fun to ride, but said that the new service is serious business for her constituents:
“They need to get around. This transportation on the east side is vitally important not only to get people back and forth to work and appointments, but to make sure our City continues to run smoothly.”
Supervisor Jane Kim said how the new service was important to The City as the it continues to grow:
“…we know that everyone can’t continue to drive. We have to make our streets safer for pedestrians and for cyclists, but we also have to make sure we have options not just to get to the downtown core, which many of our lines go to, but were also criss crossing and connecting to different neighborhoods.”
The E-Line was first tested during the America’s Cup in 2013. The SFMTA said ridership estimates during that time showed 1,500 to 2,000 passengers rode the E-Line per day.
Some of challenges since the America’s Cup to get the service running have been getting the double-ended historic streetcars needed for the line, funding for the new service, and operator training, said Reiskin.
He said the transit agency plans on boosting the E-Embarcadero to seven day a week service next year.
Before the America’s Cup, the original E-Line from 1915 to 1947 ran along Union Street, according to the SFMTA blog, which wrote about historical significance of the original route.
A plan is also being worked on extending the E-Line to Fort Mason, which was originally envisioned by Feinstein, said Rick Laubscher, board president of the Market Street Railway.
The SFMTA has the schedule and list of stops on its website for the new E-Line service.