Ding! Ding! All Aboard the E Line!

Did you ever think you’d see one of these in front of AT&T Park?

By Nellie Tran

This past weekend was the first of two pilots for the E Line, the proposed transit line for the America’s Cup World Series that would use historic streetcars to carry riders from Caltrain directly to Pier 39.

I boarded a green and cream-colored streetcar, which gingerly pulled into the Caltrain Muni station.

To see what the E Line would be like, I boarded one of its streetcars at the Caltrain Muni station.  The fare was $2 but the payment machine was broken so I got to ride for free.  There were 5 different historic streetcars running on the line, each one unique and vintage, and hailing from different cities from around the world.  Mine happened to be a beautifully restored green and cream-colored San Francisco streetcar from 1948.  Its presence on King Street, set amongst the contemporary backdrop of glassy, rectangular high-rises added an interesting contrast and a little bit of charm to an area that is often criticized as being sterile and lacking in character.

I sat at the very front of the car and found the driver, Angel, to be a friendly and great resource for how the waterfront has changed.  A longtime resident of San Francisco for over 30 years, he was able to share a magnificent history of San Francisco’s waterfront as we passed the different structures and attractions along the embarcadero.  The weather seemed perfect and an ocean breeze drifted into the open windows.  The scenic views from the streetcar were lovely and interesting. You could see ships on the bay and colorful and interesting people buzzing about outside.

Riders in the streetcar just before it became packed with more people.

The streetcar quickly filled up when we reached the Ferry Building stop.  There was an excitement in the air as people poured into the car taking up all the green leather-clad seats.  At just about every station after that, tons of people were getting on and off the car, cramming in, standing up, and grabbing onto a rail for balance wherever they could.

The streetcar driver, Angel, has been with the MTA for 27 years and has never been in an accident.

Finally, “Ding! Ding!”  We arrived at Pier 39 and Angel was ringing the streetcar bell to warn pedestrians to get out of the way.  I was enjoying my ride and decided to stay on the train.  I rode the whole loop back, winding up at the Caltrain station once again.  The whole loop had taken about an hour.

When I exited the streetcar, I met Christopher, an SFMTA volunteer.  He said anyone could provide feedback about the E Line by calling 311 or visiting the website sfmta.org.

If you missed out on this pilot, there will be another one in October to coincide with Fleet Week.  If things go well with the pilots, the E Line will be in service during the races next year.  If things go really well, the streetcars may be in permanent operation even after the races are over and the route may extend all the way into Fort Mason.

As for my own opinion on the E Line- I think it’d be great to have the E Line connecting this part of town to Pier 39, Fisherman’s Wharf, and beyond.  With all the new housing coming up in Mission Bay, Caltrain ridership on the rise, the tech boom, the continuing popularity of AT&T Park, and the potential Warriors Arena, I can easily imagine the E Line getting just as many riders boarding at the stops near the Caltrain and ballpark as there had been near the Ferry Building.  It would be a great service to have that direct connection to the northern waterfront.

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11 thoughts on “Ding! Ding! All Aboard the E Line!

  1. Great story. Our non-profit, Market Street Railway, is a long time advocate for the E-line and partnered with the South Beach-Rincon Hill-Mission Bay Neighborhood Association to provide volunteers to give informations to E-line riders during the weekend. We couldn’t agree more that the growth in the neighborhood and in attractions along The Embarcadero makes the E-line a great addition to Muni and the city.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Rick. I think it’s a good thing to provide people with more mass transit options as well. Especially in that traffic maze down there.

  3. Never let it be said I am not a glass-half-empty sort of fellow. This is what caught my eye: “the payment machine was broken so I got to ride for free.”

  4. Hey John, that’s funny you mention that because it also caught mine when I was reviewing Nellie’s piece. I chose to turn away, but I know what you’re getting at.

  5. This all sounds fun & dandy, like any good PR piece should. What it lacks a a massive dose of reality. The author might want to try and catch an existing F-line car along the same route headed back into town from the wharf area, say at around 5:30 in the afternoon. Real-time usage for regular riders, and any unfortunate tourist who’s wandered away from Fisherman’s Wharf. Expect to wait for upwards of an hour, as car after car (with passengers massed in the front and often empty seats in the rear) whizzes by. The City advertises these vehicles as though they were Disneyland rides, but they remain PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION necessary for residents and workers to get to and from home and work. There are neither enough cars nor drivers to meet the needs of residents, workers AND visitors; and what PR pieces like this one don’t show is the disgust on the faces of the visitors to this fair city who, realizing they’ve been sold a bill of goods about magical streetcar fun, eventually give up the wait and end up walking to their destinations, sometimes miles away. You all just have no idea what a PR nightmare you’re perpetuating for “The City that knows how.”

  6. Good points, Patricia. I guess most people who live in the city know not to ride the F car for anything other than the feel of whimsy it creates while taking you to the Wharf. Same goes for Cable Cars. Not everything always has to be negative in this city. Why the hell do people who hate and complain about everything like living here?

  7. Dear Patricia, I would like to point out that my post was not intended to be a PR piece. I have no affiliation with the agencies who put on this pilot. I wrote this as a resident and as someone who tried riding the E Line for that day- and my experience turned out to be a positive one. If I had a negative experience, I would have written accordingly. The piece is focused on the E Line, so my thoughts about the F Line were not included.

    I do hear your concerns as a fellow resident, and I encourage you to submit your comments to the SFMTA. There will be another E Line pilot Oct 2-7 and that would be a good opportunity to submit your thoughts.

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