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Welcoming the World to a San Francisco without Cable Cars?

City plans to shut down most of the cable car system and the T Third will only run between Market and Chinatown for the APEC conference

The only sections of the cable car system open during APEC will be the parts on Hyde and Mason Streets, but not Powell Street or California Street. Photo: Market Street Railway

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From November 13-19, leaders of numerous nations will gather in San Francisco for the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC). These include many heads of state, including President Biden, China’s President Xi, and others. The US Secret Service is in charge of security, and they have demanded that a portion of Nob Hill around the Fairmont Hotel be sealed off tight as a drum, along with the area around Moscone Center.

According to SFMTA, this means Powell Street and California Street will have NO cable car service that week, just when the City will be flooded with journalists from organizations around the world, whose impressions of the City will be conveyed to hundreds of millions of readers (and prospective visitors).

To be clear, this was not SFMTA’s idea. We’re told both the transit agency and Mayor Breed wanted all cable car service to continue. But the Secret Service has the last word and their security perimeter boundaries trumped the desire to have our civic symbols on proud display in the areas where dignitaries and journalists would see them.

Cable cars will run on the outer ends of the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines, turning around at Chinatown. There’s no feasible way to run cable cars over just part of the California line, so America’s oldest and largest Chinatown will be stripped of cable car access to the Ferry Building — during an Asia-Pacific summit.

Not only that, but because the new Central Subway runs underground past Moscone Center, where the actual conference sessions will take place, only the one-stop section of the subway between Chinatown and Union Square will remain open during APEC, using a shuttle train. Regular T-line trains will divert at Fourth and King Streets and be routed through the Market Street Subway as a combined K-T line for that week.

The Central Subway will also be closed between Caltrain and Market Street. Photo: Streetsblog/Rudick

Further, the Embarcadero section of the F-line will see buses on November 15, with streetcars turning around at the Ferry Loop that day, because of some sort of APEC event.

Here’s Muni’s latest information on APEC transit and traffic impacts.

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Rick Laubscher is President and CEO of the Market Street Railway. A version of this post originally appeared on their website.

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