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Posts from the "Historic Streetcars" Category

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MTA Director Heinicke Questions Use of Streetcar Rehab Funds

historic_streetcar.jpgFlickr photo: Ame Otoko
It may be a moot point now that funds are allocated, but MTA Director Malcolm Heinicke today questioned whether the MTA should be spending $18.7 million to enter into an agreement with Brookville Equipment Corporation to refurbish 16 historic streetcars. Some of his comments seemed to echo a Streetsblog piece a few months ago questioning whether those streetcars keep Muni stuck in the past.

"Don’t get me wrong, I love the F Line cars," he said at the MTA Board meeting. "[But] does it make sense to do this? What else could come of this money?" He added that the MTA has a new deficit approaching the same figure as the refurbish, and asked whether it was possible to forestall the project.

The MTA's deputy chief operating officer Samual Lau explained that during summer months the F line ridership "is intensely high" and the refurbish would be "especially helpful for tourist seasons." A public commenter argued it was long overdue and "necessary for the health and safety of everyone who rides the F line."

MTA Chief Financial Officer Sonali Bose chimed in that the grant from the Federal Transit Administration could not be spent on anything else. "These funds were applied for this specific purpose. We’d have to go back to the granting partner and ask that these funds be reallocated."

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Do San Francisco’s Historic Streetcars Keep Muni Stuck in the Past?

2201589840_00fd0da8ac.jpgFlickr photo: Telstar Logistics
Don't get me wrong, I love San Francisco's historic streetcars. I have ridden them often and can appreciate the nostalgic bumpy rides, even more so if I don't have to stand, and can grab a seat and peer outside the small windows.  But when I saw Rachel Gordon's story in the Chronicle this week about how Muni plans to renovate Streetcar Number One for $1.9 million it really got me thinking: In these tight budgetary times, is that really where we want to be investing our precious transit dollars?

According to the MTA, the money for the project is a mix of capital dollars: local funds (sales taxes) as well as state and federal grants, and it had been set aside for vehicle restoration. Fine, but how about this question:

"Why should San Franciscans only experience public transit's past? What if we were to also show people what public transit's future looks like?" asked Tom Radulovich, director of Livable City and a member of the BART Board of Directors. "I don't want this to be a transit museum. I want this to be a city where transit actually works."

Why, Radulovich asks, couldn't the MTA invest in some modern low-floor trams, like in Milan, Italy, that would carry greater volumes of people, especially during peak hours, when the historic F-line streetcars are often jammed because of the overcrowded LRVs on Muni Metro? He said the historics also interfere with bus movement. Despite the costs of the modern trams, Radulovich said it's an issue advocates have been talking about.

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