How San Francisco Integrates Historic Rail Lines into its Transit System

San Francisco has managed to operate and integrate historic rail transit into its overall public transit system. Clement Lau explains how the City does it.

2 minute read

August 20, 2014, 1:00 PM PDT

By melaniecj


Lovers of vintage rail travel can get their fill in San Francisco.

Los Angeles County planner Clement Lau recently took a trip to the Bay Area city and shares what he learned about how streetcars and cable cars operate as part of a overall modern transit system.

The F Market and Wharves line uses exclusively historic equipment from both the city’s retired fleet and from municipalities around the world, Lau writes. The San Francisco Municipal Railway (Muni) operates the line, supported by a nonprofit organization called the Market Street Railway that raises funds and helps restore vintage streetcars.

“While historic, the F Market & Wharves line is an integral part of Muni’s intermodal urban transportation network, operating at frequent intervals for 20 hours a day, seven days a week.  It carries local commuters and tourists alike, connecting residential, business and leisure oriented areas of the city.”

San Francisco’s cable car system, invented in 1873, is iconic and also run by Muni. Once a popular mode of transportation replicated in cities around the world, only three of the 23 lines San Francisco established still operate, according to Lau.

“The vast majority of the 7 million annual passengers on the cable cars are tourists, rather than locals.  This reflects the fact that the cable cars are among the most significant tourist attractions in San Francisco. . .”

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