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.
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.
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.
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.
Have you had an interesting experience somewhere in South of Market? Drop us a line and we’ll share it with the neighborhood!