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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Streetcar Named 'Cincinnati' Is On The Tracks In San Francisco: Tribute Vehicle Was Built in 1949

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- Everyone knows about the cable cars in San Francisco.  They are as iconic as the city's Golden Gate Bridge.  But the city also operates a streetcar system that shuttles about 18,500 riders a day on a line that runs through downtown from Fisherman's Wharf to the Castro, two strong neighborhoods that are miles apart.  The wharf is on the waterfront and the Castro sits on the steep hills overlooking the bay -- the streetcars make the climb every day.

A streetcar named "Cincinnati" 
One of the 17 streetcars plying the route is named in honor of Cincinnati.  You can see it in the accompanying snapshot, left, taken last week by The Bellwether; the drawing above is from San Francisco's transit authority.  Officials said the tribute vehicle is painted in the yellow and green colors of the Cincinnati Street Railway Co., which ceased operations in 1951.  And after riding streetcars around San Francisco for several days, The Bellwether is ready to say they are a great way to travel in an urban setting.  They are inexpensive ($2 fare with a four-hour transfer), timely, easy to board and depart.
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory and his supporters on City Council have been heavily criticized for pushing to build a streetcar line here -- that criticism seems overdone.  Mallory and his allies clearly appear to be on the right track because streetcars work, they are a mass transit system for the future that comes with a knowable past.  Critics say building a $99 million Cincinnati streetcar system from downtown to Over-the-Rhine is a waste of public money and an exercise in civic hubris.  They liken it to a policy misadventure.  But lost amid this criticism is the principle that city leaders should lead, they should stake out bold initiatives, they should recognize that the municipal government has a duty to invest and look for alternatives to standing pat and doing nothing.  Mallory and his allies have demonstrated resolve.  They are taking a thoughtful risk aimed at creating a more livable community.

How successful are the streetcars of San Francisco?  Well, next week (Dec. 6) the SFMTA plans to hold a public hearing that will consider running the F Line streetcars more frequently.  The plan is to have them departing five minutes apart instead of the current eight.  Officials hope to lessen overcrowding and carry more passengers.  If you want to learn more about the San Francisco streetcar system, this SFMTA website has all the history.  Car No. 1057, the vehicle named for Cincinnati, was built in 1948 and never operated here.  It comes from Philadelphia, where it ran from 1949 until 1989, and was restored for a new life on the West Coast.


  1. Sweet. Glad to see that Cincy-made relic still in use, just like the old rustbucket cars in Cuba. I like those smooth trams in Phoenix, but was just as happy with the service of those rattlers in Boston and Chicago.

  2. The comparison is absurd. I used to work in downtown SF and the streetcars there run routes that go up and down steep streets for miles.

    The route of the proposed Cincinnati streetcars is only about 10 blocks long (Cincinnati blocks are not large, and all but one of them are as flat as a board). When I worked in downtown Cincinnati, I used to walk from Pete Rose Way to Findlay Market for lunch.

    This will be $100 million (before overruns) flushed right down the toilet.

  3. They say it's most photographed streetcar in San Fran. Nice for Cincy to be noticed out there. Can't wait to visit and ride it.

  4. Bob R,

    If you walked from Pete Rose Way to Findlay for lunch then you must have been walking in place in the back of a truck that drove you there. That would be at least a 1.5 mile walk. Unless you had really long lunches, I don't see your comment as a truthful statement.

  5. Bob R = COAST Troll.

  6. Bob R,

    Can I time you walking from Pete Rose way to Findlay? If you do it for lunch, as you say, you should be racing Ussain Bolt with that speed

  7. I like your post and thanks for sharing it.

  8. The walk was closer to 2 miles from Longworth Hall, and I did it round-trip in an hour several times.

    Regardless, the salient point is that it's a very short route in public transportation terms and unless you're going from one extreme end to another, it's in easy walking distance.

    In the first year, 80% of the people riding it will be doing so just to prove that the millions spent on it were justified. Give it a year, and I'll bet the cars are empty more than they are occupied.