June 2, 2012

The N Judah Shutdown Reminds Us Why They Built The Line Way Back When

Last night I wanted to attend a party held by my web services provider downtown. Normally this would have been a short trip on the N to Montgomery St. Station, but alas, no N due to the shutdown. Instead I took my (normally) trusty backup - the 71.

Little did I know I'd be boarding a bus that would exemplify everything that is wrong with riding mass transit - from serious overcrowding, to deadbeats back-door boarding to avoid paying fares, to a herky-jerky ride, and of course being so crowded the bus literally smelled like a sardine can (and not in a good way). Needless to say, I was glad to get to my destination without being too late, and at least the party had free beers.

However, as we were lurching towards downtown on an over-crowded Haight Street full of buses and double parked cars, it served as a reminder of why the N Judah line was built in the first place, and why the decision to go to "trackless trolleys" in the post-war era has proven to be a near-fatal mistake we are still recovering from.

First off - why the N was built in the first place. Before the N was built, most of the Sunset District was made up of sand dunes. The City and various other interests wanted this area developed, but there was no easy way to connect with downtown and the rest of San Francisco, hence the N Judah line was conceived and built.

After having this long service interruption, and lenghty delays on crowded streets and buses, you begin to appreciate why people in the 1920s, upon hearing of the N-Judah's approval called it a "God-send to Humanity." Not only does cutting through the Sunset Tunnel save a lot of time, LRVs/Streetcars can carry a lot more people per vehicle than the buses can.

Likewise, you start to realize that the "cost cutting' mentality that had us lose many of our rail lines in favor of the so-called "Trackless Trolleys" took away many well-used rail lines, and replaced them with buses that provide that inimitable herky-jerky ride one is accustomed to on lines like the 38 Geary, not to mention that said trolley buses don't command the street presence a rail line does. It's yet another example of how short term thinking, particularly by politicians, damage Our Muni for decades.

That said, once this N-pocalypse is over, the work done will make things ride smoother, and like dental work, it's painful to get done but once it's over, it's OVER, and people in the future will be glad we put up with the hassles for a little over a week.

April 9, 2012

Quick Hit: Video of Mayor Lee Driving Old Number One from the Muni Celebration Last Week

Last week was the first of what will be a few events commemorating the 100th Anniversary of Our Muni. I took a moment to shoot a short video with my iPhone of Mayor Lee driving Old Number 1 on the tracks over by the Market Street Railway Museum. It's a little bumpy because I was trying to hold my phone as well as assorted swag from the event all at the same time, but it came out ok. Besides, when is the last time you saw a streetcar with a police escort?

May 3, 2011

Join Market Street Railway and City Guides for a Charter Ride on May 22nd!

Market_Street_Railway_Logo.pngThe good people at Market Street Railway and City Guides are teaming up to do another "Museum in Motion" charter tour on one of the historic F-line cars on Sunday, May 22nd.

The ride will feature tour guides Ethan Chickering from City Guides and Mike Frew from Market Street Railway, who will regale you with fun and interesting historical notes about San Francisco's diverse neighborhoods along the F Line. The trip will start and end at the Market Street Railway Museum at 77 Steuart Street downtown. Tickets are $30, and proceeds go to support the ongoing efforts of both organizations, and the cost of the charter as well.

I've not yet had a chance to attend one of these, but from what I've heard from those who have , these are a fun way to learn more about the City you live in, and you get to meet all sorts of interesting people as well! If you're thinking of attending, get your tickets ASAP because these events are very popular and you don't want to miss out.

If you do attend and bring a camera, why not submit a few photos to the NJC Reader Photo Group?

August 23, 2010

Charter Service on the N-Judah! HELL YES!

Over the weekend our friends at the Market Street Railway noted on their blog that a ban on chartered historic streetcars on the N Judah line may come to an end. It seems that some tests were done at night and several of the old cars can successfully navigate past the boarding platforms after all.

The ban on any historic trains west of Arguello came about when a wider car hit one of the boarding platforms. However, after last week's test, there's some hope that at least some of these cars could make their way out to Ocean Beach.

This is not unprecedented, and there's plenty of photographs of old cars making the trip. However, I can safely assure you, the Loyal Readers, that if in fact they restore this to Ocean Beach, I am SO going to organize a charter trip, hopefully on the "boat tram" on a sunny day.

May 8, 2010

Hey! It's National Train Day Today!

Theodore_Judah.jpgAs if you didn't have enough to celebrate in May, today is National Train Day! While many cities are doing cool events today, San Francisco is not, which is lame. There wouldn't have BEEN a San Francisco if there wasn't a transcontinental railroad. And, if you're not using Amtrak to take a trip in California, you really should try it sometime. I've taken the train to San Diego and I always take it to Sacramento and it's just so much more civilized than the Hell that is flying these days - which is like taking Muni in the sky I think!

And don't forget - the guy who was called "crazy" and did much of the engineering of said transcontinental railroad was Theodore Judah - for whom Judah Street and the N Judah are named after!

April 28, 2010

Some Fun Video: Color Video of Our Fair City, Circa 1939...

Recently I discovered several YouTube channels that specialize in old footage in color. This one was rather fun to watch, regarding the opening of both the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges within a few years of each other.

Kinda fun to think about the days when things got done FOR us and not TO us. Well sort of. But anyway.

January 27, 2010

Blast From The Past: The Blackthorn Tavern, Circa 1950!

834-Irving-Street.jpgCourtesy of Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project (which we should all join and support), I got a copy of this photo of what is now the Blackthorn Tavern, circa 1950, from the WNP's amazing website. It's an interesting photo to say the least- note the second floor in this picture!

Woody is a local historian and all around interesting guy. You may recall that he wrote this guest blog last year, about the celebrations upon the approval of the Sunset Tunnel in the 1920s, back in the days when San Francisco got things done. He is also the author of Carville By The Sea, a history about the beachside neighborhood made up of homes created out of discarded streetcars.

The WNP also produces many short videos, available on Flickr. Here's an interesting one about the lost streetcar of 20th Street. Notice how many of the buildings at Irving and 20th are STILL THERE:

June 3, 2009

Guest Blogger Wed.: Celebrating an Epic WIN, Old SF Style with the Sunset Tunnel


City politics and poor MUNI performance got you down? Cynical and skeptical? Perhaps all you need is a feel-good story from an era with a can-do attitude.

Sunset District property owners and real estate men lobbied aggressively at the dawn of the 1920s for new streetcar service to the neighborhood. Transit lines had served the area since the 1880s, but many wanted municipal railway service via tunnel, expecting to significantly cut down commute times and, hopefully, increase property values. With the help of housewives trudging door-to-door across the dunes to get petitions signed, the effort paid off in 1925 when the Board of Supervisors voted for the proposed Duboce Tunnel route for what would become the N-Judah streetcar line.

Although the cars wouldn’t begin running until 1928, the Sunset District couldn’t wait to celebrate. Led by realtor Frank Doelger (brother to Henry Doelger, who would fill the Sunset with blocks of stucco houses in the 1930s and 1940s), the community threw a massive party on the night on April 25, 1925. The supervisors had just approved the tunnel plan the week before, but the celebration organizers had no problem pulling together a ridiculously outsized program.

Continue reading "Guest Blogger Wed.: Celebrating an Epic WIN, Old SF Style with the Sunset Tunnel" »

May 26, 2009

Guest Blogger Wednesday: A Piece of SF History, Right Under Your Feet (Sort Of).


Every Wednesday, we'll be featuring a Guest Blogger who will share their insights into city life, Our Fair MUNI, or anything that comes to mind. This week's guest writer is "Mason Powell," who's been a contributor to the site since its beginnings in 2005, and provides behind the scenes help, including designing our famous The N Is Near T shirts!

Yes, that's a picture of a manhole cover. I took it while leaving the KPIX Eye on Blogs blogger party last fall! Now, I don't usually go around looking at manhole covers, but this one was different. It had the markings of the old United Railroads!

For those of us who are not transit nerds, a little background. The URR was the main transportation provider in San Francisco between 1902 and 1921. After it went bankrupt, it reorganized into the Market Street Railway, which was eventually sold to Muni in 1944. The company's #1,#2, and #3 lines all passed by here. Today the #2 and #3 lines are still running on Sutter Street, more or less, and keeping watch over (or is it under?) all of this is a piece of our transportation history.

Would you like to be a guest blogger? Email me and tell me a little about yourself and what you'd like to write about! Most of our spots are filled for now, but there's always room for more!

February 11, 2009

Humorous Historical Note: "The Taking of the N-Judah 1, 2,3"

Recently, I found a link to a rather humorous story about the N-Judah's history, courtesy of The Google, and in the process got a nice little history lesson about the N-Judah, the neighborhood, and San Francisco in general.

We start with a story recounted by alumni of the now-defunct Polytechnical High School on Lincoln Way over by what was once Kezar Stadium. (Most of it is now gone, replaced by new housing).

Anyway, in an alumni newsletter, a story was related regarding a particularly crowded N after school in 1955, filled with students leaving school one day. Now, this was in the day when trains had both a conductor and a driver. Trying to figure out why people weren't boarding, the conductor got off the train to investigate, and that's when a little mischeif started when a student pulled the cord telling the driver to take off, leaving the conductor behind!

As the N made its way downtown, students collected fares and gave out transfers, but ultimately were greeted by some fare inspectors and the SFPD. No one was injured or maimed, and students the next day got a stern talking to by The Man, but no one was ever caught. Kind of a funny story, actually.

I ended up checking out some other alumni newsletters and did some Googling about Poly High, and got an interesting view of life in San Francisco, particularly in the 1950s, mostly from the perspective of folks who were in high school at the time. It was kind of fun to read about how different things were back then.

I often find it interesting how we do a good job of preserving structures in town (which is good), but the way of life that once went along with them is long gone, replaced with endless high-end shoe stores and nail salons. And sometimes the most interesting accounts of life back in the day don't always come from history books about political leaders and the like, but the stories of everyday life from people recounting their experiences.

October 10, 2008

Good News! They're NOT Going To Kill Sunny Jim Rolph's Tree!

Over the weekend I was reading my copy of the Sunset Beacon, and read this rather disturbing story about how PG&E was going to cut down a tree in the Sunset. Naturally I was alarmed since there aren't a lot of trees out here, and this particular one was planted by Mayor James Rolph (aka "Sunny Jim" Rolph).

I'd been doing some research on Rolph because as we all know, this month is in fact the 80th birthday of the N Judah line, which he built (and drove the first train out to Ocean Beach in 1928, so needless to say this was a dose of WTF on the front page of my local paper!

So I decided to use my allegedly "evil" connection to PG&E to find out what was up and let folks know that the N Judah Chronicles would be more than happy to shoot a double barrelled post of WTF at the utility, despite the fact I have a temporary job working with them. (Believe me when I say that's not an easy thing to do).

Continue reading "Good News! They're NOT Going To Kill Sunny Jim Rolph's Tree!" »

September 23, 2008

Blast from the Past: The ORIGINAL Plan to Build a Market St. Tunnel - in 1935!

I have an RSS reader full of wonderful news and blogs, and one that never fails to provide the transit pr0n is The Overhead Wire, which reports on transity goodness from around the country.

Thanks to the good people at TOW, I caught this YouTube video of the first proposal to build a Market Street subway system. It is interesting to watch and see SF as the "City That Knows How," a city that built things and made things happen (as opposed to now, where it's the City That Knows How To Bitch).

It's also interesting to see the argument for bus service (also called "trackless trolleys") which were touted as a way to speed things up. If you've ever been stuck on a herky-jerky janky bus, you know that didn't quite work out as planned.

Anyway, check out the video, and hat tip to The Overhead Wire!

May 16, 2008

Friday Foto Fun: Raiders of the Lost Ark Scene at City Hall

raiders02.jpg I've probably seen the original Raiders of the Lost Ark millions of times, and I don't mean that in a metaphorical way. From the original release in theaters, to cable, to DVD, videotapes, and whatnot, if this movie is ever on, I have to watch at least part of it. One of the more memorable nights I had at the Lone Palm years ago was a discussion led by the bartender about how "sexy" everyone looks in the original film.

What I never realized, though was that in this final scene, they're in City Hall. It never really occurred to me that this is in fact Our City Hall and not somewhere else. I always knew that Treasure Island subbed for the Berlin Airport in the last one, but it just sorta hit me today, "duh that IS City Hall!"

January 22, 2008

Former Mayor Willie Brown's New Job: Science Fiction Writer!

Some of you may have wondered where flamboyant, wealthy, and wacky former Mayor Willie Brown has been doing since he left the Mayor's office. Well aside from being a lawyer for folks, and making the big retainers and fees, he's also decided to take on a new career, writing science fiction. For those of you who are afficiandos of the genre, you really should take a look, as his work rivals some of the major folks in the business.

Now, mind you, Mayor Brown is not writing manga comics, or cyberpunk, or space opera. Instead he's writing stories in the realm of alternate history, and his new book, co-written by sci-fi fan and former Examiner writer P.J. Corkery, is really interesting. It's an alternative history of San Francisco in the 1990s, one in which MUNI was made into a perfect system, primarily under his personal direction. It's an amazing work, well written, and ranks up there with alternative histories by Philip K. Dick or Harry Turtledove.

In this alternate history, the years of budget shenanigans and the transfer of boom times wealth to his friends never happened. MUNI was well run and never cut training, maintenance or raised fares and cut service. The book serves as a "what might have been" type of read, and given the author's knowledge of San Francisco, makes for a fun read since his use of locations is almost as good as Armistead Maupin's in those Tales of the City books. (BTW, the N- Judah makes an appearance in Maupin's latest book, but I digress.)

For anyone wondering how the boom years of the late 90s could have turned out had those in charge been a little more concerned with using taxes for the benefit of the taxpayers, not their well connected friends with money, read Mayor Brown's book. Maybe they'll get J.J. Abrams to do a movie, or get Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica fame to do a miniseries on Sci-Fi channel! And they can film it here!

January 15, 2008

Righteous Folks Saving Our MUNI Heritiage, Courtesy of Telstar Logistics!

The seriously cool local phenomenon known as Telstar Logistics which combines coolness, local history, and a dose of kick-ass all in one once again alerts us to some awesome investigation on their part.

Already, we've talked about their blasts from the past, but today, Telstar Logistics tells a story about the the good citizens who make our F-line cars rock like no other.

Lighter lit because once again Telstar Logistics rocks - and once again we're alerted to the good citizens who do the things that make Our Fair City the kind of place that we want to live in.

January 12, 2008

A Quick History Lesson : Why The N Turns at Irving and 9th In the First Place...

Several people have asked me why it is the N-Judah makes the infamous left turn onto 9th street in the first place, and doesn't just continue on Irving, OR stay on Judah/Parnassus. Aside from the obvious (it wouldn't be the N-Judah if it was on Irving, it'd be the N-Irving), the reason you have this detour is because it's a relic from the olden days of multiple service providers in San Francisco running rail lines.

Quite awhile back we had a photo of the old 6 Parnassus streetcar and the N on Carl Street. MUNI and the private operators avoided sharing rails whenever possible, hence the split we have to this day, even though the 6 Parnassus ceased to be a rail line decades ago.

Many of the bus routes of today are leftovers from when the Market Street Railway merged with MUNI, and from other smaller providers of transit service, when various companies would attempt to duplicate service. And yet if you try to change anything there's usually someone demanding it all stay the same. That's why the Transit Effectiveness Project is trying to analyze how people actually use and don't use the system, so they can revise it to make things run for today's needs, not for 20+ years ago's needs. Hopefully.

September 6, 2007

A Relic From the Past On The Peninsula

While visiting Burlingame yesterday, I noticed that the backs of the signs attached to the parking meters in the parking lot were none other than recycled signs from the long-extinct Burlingame bus system.

Prior to the merger of all the city bus systems in 1976 which created the hellish system known as SamTrans, Burlingame had its own little bus system and you'd see these signs everywhere indicating a stop.

For years afterwards, there was a lone "ghost stop" on California Drive (ironically not far from the abandoned Interurban lines of the olden days) which remained. Today, the signs have been recycled to indicate extra penalties for parking your car too long in the parking lots downtown.

April 12, 2007

Past Apologies, Current Events, and More!

Well these last few days have been rather dramatic, eh?

"Mason Powell" found this apology from a simliar crisis in 1981, which was posted on shelters, buses, etc. so I posted a copy (which originally appeared in the book "Tours of Discovery" by Anthony Perles) on Flickr for everyone's enjoyment.

I also had the chance to talk to NBC 11 today about the recent MUNI follies. If you're near a TV at 5 or 6pm, and you're interested in seeing me look like a goofball on TV, check it out.

After the interview, I took the N-Judah to the Inner Sunset(where a particularly distressed gentleman finally shook his head in disbelief and shouted "WHERE ARE THE N JUDAHS?!?"). Upon departing the train, I ran into Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi and the Senior Action Network, who were holding a press conference with the SFPD about pedestrian safety on sidewalks. I took a few quick photos, and once they were finished, took the opportunity to ask Sup. Mirkarimi a few questions.

As some of you may recall, during a town hall meeting on MUNI last fall, scramble signals on Irving and 9th and Judah and 9th were promised to help speed up the trains and improve safety for pedestrians and cars. This promise has not only not been kept, but now MUNI is fighting the effort entirely, and Sup. Mirkarimi was clearly ticked off about it.

He told me that another Town Hall Meeting on MUNI is coming - one where you can ask any question you want and they'll be followed up as before. We'll definitely be keeping you posted on that when a date is set!

Keep sending in your comments about your experiences this week, and don't be shy about sending your comments to all the Supervisors who represent the N-Judah line. The Mayor and the Board can't ignore us if we all make enough noise.

UPDATE: Some have suggested that those upset about the recent follies pay a visit to the MTA, MUNI, and assorted local dignitaries on Saturday. Hmm.....

April 4, 2007

MUNI "Exploring" New and Improved Ways to Pay for Service - But Seems to Forget Some Basics

If you've read the N Judah Chronicles for any length of time, you know that one thing I have consistently advocated for is a more stable source of funding for the service so it just works, instead of having it go down the "no money, cut budget, no money, cut more" toilet bowl.

In both today's Chronicle, and today's Examiner, some new ideas were proposed for discussion, ranging from the usual (increase parking ticket costs, and meters) to the dumb (automatic fare increases, charging for "transfers") to the wild-eyed (selling sodas at rail stations and jacking up random taxes for fun).


Realize, that this comes on the heels of Mayor Newsom's fanciful proposal to eliminate all fares, which gets the excitable folk in town all happy and smiley at the concept. Of course there's no way to pay for it, aside junkie logic about how "collecting the money costs too much." But hey! It made people feel good, right?

And to add to the cavalcade of "good feelings" we had the proposal to cut bus passes for the oppressed 18 to
24 21 year olds, because we "should" - and the "money" will just "appear," right?

Continue reading "MUNI "Exploring" New and Improved Ways to Pay for Service - But Seems to Forget Some Basics" »

March 22, 2007

Blast from the Past Courtesy of Telstar Logistics!

If you've not already checked out the blog/Flickr phenomenon known as Telstar Logistics, you're missing out on a blend of history, photography, and more that's difficult for me to classify and do it justice. Just go there and check it out!

Today, they feature the curious case of a stash of MUNI PCC Streetcars that have ended up sitting in a yard in South Lake Tahoe. In the process, you get a small history lesson about the end of PCC cars in San Francisc, how some ended up sitting in a yard in Northern California, and how some ended up coming back to SF, reincarnated on the F-line.

Best of all you can see old pictures of the now-stranded cars as they looked when they were in service on the N-Judah line. Hooray!

All in all, worth checking out. Hey, it beats working on a sunny day like today, doesn't it?

March 16, 2007

Our First T-Shirt is Now On Sale! Buy Now!

Loyal Readers: Today we introduce our first t-shirt design to help support the N-Judah Chronicles. Mason Powell came up with an interesting design to test out the service provided by the good people at

I'd always wanted to offer some swag for the site, so we decided to test things out with GoodStorm to gauge interest and test out their system..

The design of our first shirt, "The N is Near" (get it?) is courtesy of Mason Powell, an occaisional contributor and our MUNI historian/ photographer here at the site.

We'll have more in the future but for now, try out the service, buy a shirt, and let us know what you think!

Update: Based on feedback from readers we've modified this design since we introduced it on Friday. The updated shirt went online yesterday. Thanks to all so far who've bought a shirt! We appreciate it!

October 27, 2006

Some Retro Fun

Here's an old photo I came across the other day, and it seemed like more fun to share this than gripe about broken doors on the N and people drinking malt liquor on the steps in front of the working ones.

This is the N-Judah and 6-Parnassus (known then as the 6-Haight/Masonic) near Carl and Cole. Today, Burgermeister would be on the left, just outside the frame. The N and 6 once shared tracks on Carl between the Sunset Tunnel and Stanyan, back when rail was king.

Click on the picture to see a larger version.

September 27, 2006

Blast From The Past With The Market Street Railway Employee Magazine

"Mason Powell" was kind enough to provide these scans of some very interesting pages from the old Market Street Railway employee magazine, the "Inside Track" which featured the their own version of Goofus and Gallant, conductors "A. Lert" and "I.M. Tired," among others.

It is an interesting look at how management communicated in a more informal fashion the ideal behavior of employees. Perhaps the next time you are riding MUNI you can decide if your driver is an "A. Lert" or an "I.M. Tired." Click on each thumbnail to enlarge and read each one!

July 26, 2006

SF Examiner Doesn't Forget the Past : It Doesn't Even Know It!

This morning's papers are full of news about our MUNI. They're starting to do test runs of the T-Third Line, which is due to open on weekends January 2007, and for full service later in 2007. There's the fallout from the Spare The Air Days (both positive and negative), and the inevitable call for free rides every day, all day.

All interesting, to be sure, but what stuck out today was this peculiar editorial in the billionaire out of towner owned Examiner suggesting that privatizing MUNI would make the system run better.

Umm...yeah. Right. That will improve things. I look at the oh so brilliant innovation and customer service of big monopolies like AT&T, Comcast, and the like.

After dealing with customer service by way of New Bangalore when I have a billing problem, and put up with mediocre, overpriced service that profits a handful of execs, you'll pardon me if I don't sign up for privatizing a service that inherently can't make money without cutting off service to a vast number of neighborhoods and people.

But that's not the point. What's most surprising is that a paper that was once a part of San Francisco History and a former flagship paper for the infamous Hearst Corporation, can't seem to remember San Francsico's own long history of competing streetcar lines. Nor does it seem to remember that consolidation of these many systems into one devoted to the public interest, not personal profit, was necessary for the city to be served properly.

And, it seems the out-of-town editorial writers didn't read any of SPUR's analyses which point out that much of the inefficiency of today's MUNI is left over from duplication of service left over from the old systems, which need to be addressed.

If someone can show me a city where they have a privatized system that serves the entire public equally and cheaply, hey, sign me up. But when a private, chain owned paper that's supposedly been a part of the City for the last 100+ years can't even remember some basic facts of San Francisco history, well, perhaps that's just one more reason we shouldn't rely on large, out of town interests to work in the public interest.

April 17, 2006

Free Rides on Muni for Earthquake Day

Hey San Franciscans (and visitors too) - tomorrow, April 18th, you can ride Muni for FREE! Since there will be all sorts of big events for Earthquake Day, Muni has announced that all buses and Munis are free so you don't have to drive to anything.

Communters beware that there will be some delays, and some stops will be relocated so beware. And enjoy the parade and festivities too!

January 19, 2006

Another Blast from the Past: Wise Words from SPUR!

If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend checking out the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association website. They have all sorts of good information and some very in-depth studies on how to improve Muni. I've added a link on the link list to the right to their section on transit issues.

However, what was most interesting was a snipped of a statement on Muni made by SPUR which had some very pertinent points about Muni. You can read it in its entirety here, scanned in from a book on Muni entitled "The People's Railway: the History of the Municipal Railway of San Francisco" by Anthony Perles.

Here's a sample:

"Second, everyone must recognize that transit is an essential public service just like schools, streets, and fire protection. In this context, referring to a 'deficit' is nonsense; no transit system in the nation supports itself from the farebox. If you ever hear a politician refer begrudgingly to the 'Muni deficit,' he will have failed the test

Third, the Mayor and Supervisors must adopt a a strictly enforced 'transit first' policy. Even if Muni is fully budgeted and if management proves itself extremely capable, service will still be poor because of transit's inability to escape congestion caused by autos, double-parked trucks and construction. New legislation is needed to establish a transit street system, giving transit top priority in any conflict."

Now what's most interesting is that this was written in 1973. Yet you could make this (and other arguments SPUR made in 1973) today, and it would be as relevant to the ongoing Muni situation.

I think it is a chance to give SPUR its props for having some incredible foresight over 30 years ago. But it is also a time for us as citizens to ask why it is we let our elected officials get away with rhetoric and hot air, and why we as citizens feel it's ok to accept mediocrity, instead of the best. Remember, we can bitch about Muni and those doofus gummint folks, but in the end, they're our responsibility, and it's up to us to kick 'em in the butt until they get it right.

Otherwise I'll never be able to get home from Kennedy's on time!

January 13, 2006

Blast from the Past with Muni

I read with some amusement (and some horror) at the Municide Blog's experiences with the 48. If you haven't already checked it out, it's got photos, annotations and a map. It's definitely a tale of urban woe.

What's funny is that my brother recently sent me a copy of a letter to Muni from 1930 that details the same thing. Here's a reprint of the letter's text:

Get this. I live on Jones and Union Streets, and when I want to get to work on time, I have to walk two blocks to Mason and get on the Market Street cable car, transfer at 5th and Market, in order to get to 8th and Brannan.

This morning I had a sore food, so I took a chance on the "E" car, which stops in front of our house. I left the house at 12 minutes to 8 and at 8 o'clock I was still standing there. I hopped down to Mason and just then three "E" cars rounded the corner, all in a bunch, and God knows a person can only use one at a a time. You can't tell me this just happens once in a while. It is the custom and anything else would be "once in a while." You sure have a lot of inspectors, writing figures in little books. It seems as if some of them were put to work running cars, there wold be better service, as all their inspecting doesn't seem to do any good, since conditions remain the same. I certainly am curious to know what all those figures are going to be used for, when they are finally accumulated.

When I take an "E" car and transfer to an "H", with less walking, it takes me 45 minutes to get to work. On the Market Street lines, I can get down in 25 minutes, so pick the seeds out of that.

Very Truly Yours,


An interesting letter. Written on the letter are some notes indicating a possible answer as to why this had happened, owing to a delay in the "wholesale district" that day.

Anyway, a fun little piece of Muni history...certainly not all of it is bad, and some of it can be quite interesting and fun. But in light of Municide's recent post, as well as the slap back they got from Muni, I thought it might be fun to post nonetheless.

Muni Letter Photo scanned in from the book "Tours of Discovery"
by Anthony Perles

September 8, 2005

Who or What is the N-Judah Named After, Anyway?

Someone asked me the other day why the "N-Judah" was called the "N-Judah" and not something else. Some confuse the letters with the name of the system - for example, the railway system is Chicago is often called the "L" or "El" - but that is an abbreviation of "Elevated" (since these are elevated rail systems).

Anyway, what was the question? Right, the "N-Judah".

If you look at a map of the Muni System, the rail car lines are the J-Church, the K-Ingleside , the L-Taraval, the M-Ocean View and of course, the N-Judah. The letters are left over from when there were not just a few rail lines, but actually a LOT more, all operated in groups by different private companies. There once was an A-line, a B-line, and so on. Only the ones rolling remain in service. Hence the letters.

But what about "Judah?" The name comes from Judah Street, in San Francisco's Sunset District, where the line runs until it turns on to Irving (which, as you pass UCSF becomes Carl, even though you're on the same street) and on into downtown and beyond.

That's part of the answer, here's the fun part: the name of the street itself is named after Theodore Judah, who was the engineer who first conceived of the idea of a transcontinental railway. Often called "Crazy Judah" by his contemporaries, he nonetheless pursued his dream of one railroad system bringing the nation together. A short bio fills in some details, most notably that he did not live to see completion of the line due to yellow fever.

Bear in mind that San Francisco, and California for years were dominated by railroad tycoons - in fact many of the state's political insititutions were formed to fight against the domination of life by these guys. When you hear names locally like Crocker (once a bank), Huntington (as in Huntington Beach, Park Hotel in SF, and more) Stanford (as in University!) and more, you're hearing the names of the people who were dominant in contemporary life in the 1800s and the turn of the century.

Now you know - impress your friends at the bar sometime with your rapier like wit and knowledge of city history!

PS: And for an extra dose of trivia, take a look at this interesting review of San Francisco's "Carville" - an area on the west side of the city where people built housing out of abandonted cable cars after the 1906 quake. Some of these houses are still in use, although after 100 years they have been covered up with modern day flourishes.

There are also a few homes left that are left over from the many small houses built in Golden Gate Park to house people after the quake. Once their lots had been cleared, many peopel hitched up a horse team, and towed a couple of the small cabins back to their lot, and started over.


Drop us a line and share your tales of MUNI woe, City life, and more with your fellow citizens and MUNI riders!

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