A Toronto PCC in San Francisco?

Christopher Dunn sent me a link to a few pages dealing with historic streetcar operations in San Francisco.  Everyone knows about the cable cars, but there is a large fleet of antique cars including many PCCs.  The PCC fleet is painted in colours of many different transit systems, one of which is Toronto.

You can read about the F-Market historic streetcar route here:  http://www.streetcar.org/mim/streetcars/index.html.

Be sure to follow all the links to different parts of this site to see the fleet and the sheer effort that has gone into making this an integral tourist attraction and part of the transit system. 

Not to be missed is the section on the “E-line”, the new line on the Embarcadero (the place where they tore down the inner city expressway).  Anyone thinking about how we might build on the waterfront and what transit can look like needs to visit this page.

Oh yes — the “Toronto” car (really ex-Minneapolis by way of Newark) is here:


9 thoughts on “A Toronto PCC in San Francisco?

  1. I was in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer as part of a trip to the Chicago area. They bought five PCCs from us, regauged the trucks for standard gauge trackage, and run them on a short circular route through the downtown to the waterfront, which is slowly being redeveloped. Cars are painted in Chicago, Cincinatti, Johnstown PA and Pittsburgh colours, one was kept in the TTC scheme, and all kept their ex-TTC colours, amongst other things.

    The only car in service that day was the one in Johnstown colours. It was very interesting to see the old TTC fare cards up, as well as the “subsidized by the Government of Ontario” decals. (pics)

    The driver was very friendly. I told him I was from Toronto, and he was very interested. He said Howard Moscoe came by a bit earlier that year and checked the operation out. Had the mechanic been in that day, he said I could have had a tour of the carbarn.

    NYC Subway has a good background and pictures.



  2. “Not to be missed is the section on the “E-line”, the new line on the Embarcadero (the place where they tore down the inner city expressway). Anyone thinking about how we might build on the waterfront and what transit can look like needs to visit this page.”

    One Big Difference, While the concept is very nice, the expressway was literally beside the waterfront AND it was double-decked for more ugliness. Most of all it was just a spur that went from the main interstate to the outer downtown area. Removing the barrier did little to destroy infrastructure, but rather increase it with a new LRT line and a brand new thriving waterfront.

    Toronto’s Gardiner on the other hand is NOT beside the lake (except near DVP, which i agree needs to be moved more north) so its not as bad. Furthermore, its blocked by a wall of Condos which are really the new barrier to the lake. Lastly, and most importantly, Gardiner is a main throughfare and NOT a spur. Compare the Eastern Ave Spur from DVP to Richmond/Adelaide to the Embarcadero which, identically wouldnt have a GREAT impact if it was removed. Would San Fransisco remove a main interstate for the same reason? Not a chance!

    It’s time new, unique, Toronto solutions were created for this problem, why not put retail underneath, or some creative solutions. Definitely the rail corridor is a MUCH bigger Barrier to the lake physically then the Gardiner but everyone loves to attack expressway…

    Sorry for being off topic…but i wanted to just wanted to point out the difference between Embarcadero and Gardiner.


  3. Two years ago I was in Phoenix which was then in the process of building an LRT. It is due to open in 2008.

    (See http://www.valleymetro.org/METRO_light_rail/Default.asp)

    At the future downtown terminus there was an old Toronto PCC car – fenced off – still showing all its Toronto colours and “Supported by the Government of Ontario” stickers. I think it is supposed to be part of the new interchange station in some way.


  4. It’s good to see San Fran actually has some transit nostalgia — Toronto has none.

    Why couldn’t Toronto run a historic PCC line, and why didn’t the TTC keep a G train set for charters or nostalgia? This is why I hate the TTC — they’re just too darn practical!


  5. Streetcars are nostalgia in the United States because they don’t exist anymore; EVERY single U.S. city (and every other Canadian one) got rid of their streetcar network more than a generation ago, except for a few tiny remnants for tourists. There is a LRT revival going on in several U.S. cities but none of these are being done in mixed traffic. The TTC can’t be nostalgic about its streetcars because it is too tied up with the practical reality of trying to get this urban anomoly to work.


  6. Some of the new U.S. streetcar systems may be being built in exclusive lanes, but not all – perhaps the most notable example being the Portland streetcar which is largely in mixed traffic.

    A lot of them do seem to serve a largely nostalgic function, though. I recently bought a book on recent streetcar developments in the U.S. from Reconnecting America (reconnectingamerica.org) – an interesting read, though I haven’t had time to get too far into it. It’s got a table in the back, showing ridership, cost, distance etc. stats for “major U.S. streetcar systems”. The ridership stats are quite striking – of the 10 streetcar lines or systems with ridership stats presented, half are at about 1000 riders per day or fewer. At the low end of the scale is Kenosha, whose entire daily ridership (100) could all fit on a single PCC car! By comparison, the TTC’s report on potential bus routes for streetcar conversion cited a threshold of 3,000 passengers per peak hour per direction.


  7. The Portland streetcar ‘system’ is a small operation – only 7 or so vehicles. The Portland light rail system system (known as MAX Light Rail) is far larger – with 64 station on 71.3 km of track.


  8. Hi Stev:-

    Sean M. mentioned the web site nycsubway.org as a source of photos of Kenosha and Toronto PCCs. Well that’s just the tip of the iceberg. This is the best, user friendliest, all round rail and some non rail, as in Brooklyn TCs, sites that I’ve found. My great interest in the Manhattan El system drew me to it initially, but I now look forward to whatever gets put up daily. They’ve even posted the Las Vegas monorail and recently the Wuppertal monorail. These show a great contrast of inappropriate technology, as one LRT advocate called Scarborough’s RT, to all of the useful stuff, like heavy rail NYC subway trains, history, museum collections, experimental stuff and plain jane good old streetcars plying their trade all over the world.

    A man named Peter Ehrlich puts in loads of photos of his hometown, San Francisco, with plenty of shots of the new line on the Embarcadero. He has just returned from a trip to Europe where he had many shots of the new French LRT/streetcar systems plus others. There is a lot in their archives about Milan, a streetcar and LRT city if ever there was one. Looking through some of the site’s photo galleries will open eyes to what could be in Toronto’s future. The opportunities and examples are almost endless.


  9. Philadelphia recently reopened line 15, which is a streetcar line totally operating in mixed traffic, and even operates old PCC cars rather than their newer vehicles they have on their “subway-surface” lines. Another reason why in my opinion Pennsylvania is the most “Canadian” state.


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