Muni to Spend $1.9 Million on Renovating SF’s First Street Car


What’s the price of preserving history? If you’re Muni, it’s a cool $1.9 million to renovate the city’s first street car, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The San Francisco Street Car #1, the only surviving vehicle of its kind in the city, will undergo renovations in preparation for Muni’s centennial celebration in 2012.

Sure, the streetcar has definite historical significance. According to the Chronicle report:

“Streetcar No. 1 has historical significance,” said Rick Laubscher, president of Market Street Railway, Muni’s nonprofit preservation partner. “This is not only San Francisco’s first publicly owned streetcar, but it’s also America’s first.”

The celebrated double-ended streetcar, built by the W.L. Holman Car Co. of San Francisco, began service on Dec. 28, 1912, running on the now defunct A-Geary line that ran from Geary Boulevard and 39th Avenue in the Richmond District to Kearny and Market streets downtown.

Celebrants showed up to watch the mayor guide the first municipal streetcar down the street – another reminder of San Francisco’s can-do spirit that emerged from the rubble of the devastating earthquake and fire six years earlier.

But seriously, $1.9 million? I thought we had a budget crisis or something.


  • This isn’t the only car up for restoration. Five more PCC streetcars are currently up for bids and should be done by 2011.

  • WWT – how much are those streetcars going to cost us?

  • I have no idea at the moment, but all I know is that the five streetcars up for restoration are double-enders, except one is a single-ender, PCC 1040, which was the last PCC built in the U.S. Two of the double-enders are fire-damaged, and one of them is still configured one-way I think…but still operable.

  • Car 1 is being restored with funding set aside for capitol projects and cannot be used for funding operations. A lot of the transit funding that comes in gets dedicated to capitol projects, it’s valuable because it ensures that even in a deficit there is still work being done to make sure there will be a working fleet a few years from now.

    For a full restoration, $1.9M is not that much. Transit costs a lot. A brand new, modern light-rail vehicle costs more than $3.5M and just for door and stair repairs alone on the Breda trains used in the subway, the SFMTA has requested $15M out of the recently passed stimulus act. As it stands now, Muni is really struggling to keep enough streetcars on the F-Line because of the delays getting additional cars restored already and we’re likely to see more bus substitutions before any cars return restored.

  • I’m sorry but I don’t see how spending $1.9M on an old streetcar will “make sure there will be a working fleet a few years from now”. Spending the $1.9M on the real Muni fleet would work better towards that goal.

    I’m sick and tired of my tax and fare dollars funding the hobby of train enthusiasts when our buses are literally falling apart. On that note I take offense at the statement that $1.9M “is not that much”. To you, maybe. It’s an awful lot of money that could be used better to actually improve service.

    As someone who rides Muni every day, I don’t give a damn about Car 1. I do give a damn about cleaner and safer buses that are on time.

  • Actually, the point is that that particular money CAN’T be used for “something else.” Market Street Railway’s money for capital improvements is not interchangeable with Muni’s operations money. Market Street Railway is a nonprofit preservation agent and curator, not really a city agency. Think of it like a museum that also has a functional purpose.

    True, it’s the city contract process that jacked the price up beyond what a private museum would pay to renovate it, but it’s not worth getting your panties in a twist about how else the money could have been spent (no matter how tempting that is. I too would love to see the useless Culture Bus cancelled and that money funneled directly into fleet maintenance but it doesn’t work that way.)

    It’s interesting that Muni Diaries posts so often about service on the F-line but apparently considers the line a frivolous expense. The F-line is entirely made up of restored streetcars. Just because the price tag for this one became a news item doesn’t mean all the other cars on the line didn’t cost the city similar money. Capital infrastructure costs money to acquire and maintain; why is this still a fresh wound for people?.

    If you don’t want your taxes going to public transportation or history and culture, there are plenty of counties in America that don’t have any.

  • To be clear, we at Market Street Railway are not funding the restoration of Car no. 1. In the bigger picture of thing though, I think it is worth noting there were many other acquisitions and restorations which have not cost Muni or the tax-payers anything because our members and donors stepped in.

    I don’t know that the price is all that jacked up from what it would be for a museum to do privately, at least not if the museum were restoring it to full working order in compliance with all state and federal safety and accessibility standards required to make it street legal and stand up to being in use every single day. I was just looking at a breakdown today on the costs to overhaul part of our bus fleet ($251,000/per bus to get maybe an extra 5 years out of them) and when you start getting down to what individual parts cost it looks in line with what I’d expect industrial strength versions of car parts ($9,161 for a transmission, $2,190 for the suspension, $204 for a door motor, etc.) would cost.

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