As anyone impatiently waiting for the N Judah knows, streetcars are the exception rather than the rule in modern San Francisco.
But of course, it wasn’t always this way. Local designer Chris Arvin mapped out San Francisco’s streetcar lines (not to be confused with cable cars, although the mistake is almost obligatory) in three radically different decades: 1940, 1960, and, peering into the mists of time, 2020.
The seeming annihilation of rails in the city over just two decades starting in 1940 is startling. By the time we catch up to season one of Mad Men, only the five J-N lines remained, as they would more or less unchanged for decades.
Buses replaced most of the others, and some of the city’s most venerable workhorse routes, like the 14 Mission and 38 Geary, began their lives on rails instead of wheels, albeit often with different numbering.
But while the maps are a diversion of only a few seconds, the real treat is the long strip of historical photos of old Muni and pre-Muni vehicles and routes that comes with it. (In a statement quoted on Hoodline, Arvin notes his fascination with historic San Francisco photography.)
Indeed, the SFMTA archive overflows with hundreds of timeless moments stretching back to very roots of mass transit in the city. Gander at a few of our favorites before checking out Arvin’s.