“We’re trying to really harmonize that because you’ve had the off-street parking garage operation and then we’ve had the off-street metered parking operation and then we had the garage operation. Now all of that is under one umbrella under me.
“The one thing about off-street parking [is that it’s] largely for the commercial districts turning over parking spots so people can get in, go do their shopping or do some business and get back in their car and take off. So it’s kind of limited.
“And the garage is really supposed to be the more long-term parking. So with that in mind, all of that has to be balanced and harmonized.”
SFpark also gives Muni the opportunity to have variable pricing on parking at its meters and in its garages based upon demand, which Ford sees as a revenue generator and an added bonus on top of getting cars off the street, reducing emissions and cutting down on congestion.
San Francisco is an odd mix. On one hand, you have the height of new technology with its SFpark initiative, and yet it has its classic cable cars, which have been running on the same technology for nearly a century.
“It’s noticeably San Francisco, notably San Francisco, and the thought is it’s part of the city’s image. In fact it’s the No. 1 tourist attraction in the city. They’re not going anywhere and they’re going to be here forever. And they are part of our operation,” Ford says.
“Some people look at them as a tourist attraction, but a great deal of our folks — regular citizens — use it everyday. And they know how to use it and how to avoid some of the crowds and the tourists — how to use it to their benefit.
“In the morning they take it in. They know pretty much during midday or in the afternoons there is a great deal of tourist ridership there, so they will take either the bus or the streetcars to go back home and change their trip.”
One other transit option unique to San Francisco is its Market Street Railway, or as Muni knows it, the F-Line. This streetcar line was once considered a novelty effort, but it survived to the present day through the efforts of a nonprofit group, the Market Street Railway, to preserve it. Now that organization helps not only with funding, but also maintaining vehicles and procuring new classic PCC cars.
“We’ve got Milan, cars from Italy. We’ve got cars from Japan. You name it. Some of this rolling stock, I think we’ve got a Swedish car. We’ve got an English boat car,” Ford says with a smile a mile wide.
“A lot of former Muni employees are involved with Market Street Railway. They’re very in tune with the practicalities of our operation, so they try to keep it simple and not any more complicated than it needs to be.
“Right now we’re looking at expanding it to the E-Line,” Ford says, “The F line goes down towards Fisherman’s Wharf. The E line will go down toward the ball field in the other direction.
“That work is being done now. The planning work and the study work to do that and to purchase more cars.”
Uniquely San Francisco
A lot of transit systems are intermodal. Few of them can claim to have a fleet that spans back 100 years.
“It is an interesting mix,” Ford says.
“It has its challenges with it in terms of training and parts — training on the maintenance side and training operations side, parts particularly with the historic streetcars.
“In terms of our cable [car] operation, we’re one-of-a-kind in some of the parts there. Purchasing of the cable as well as the traction power sedation operates those cables.”
Ford says the F-Line vehicles, the historic streetcars, have a lot of rehabilitation done on them. A good portion of that rehabilitation work is done in-house, including a recently finished car that actually ran 50 years ago, which will be debuted at this year’s American Public Transportation Association Rail Conference.
On the cable car side, all of the work is done in-house, including all of the forging, brass and carpentry work.
“These are craftsmen using dies and fittings from almost a hundred or so years ago. The patterns and the forging. They are unbelievable craftsmen there,” Ford says.