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SF seeks to extend historic streetcars to Fort Mason

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Long deferred plan would use existing but defunct tunnel

Sailboats docked in front of Fort Mason Center. Photo by imging

San Francisco’s northern neighborhoods suffer a frustrating dearth of rail transit, but the city has labored for years over a plan to provide at least minor remittance by way of an extension of the F streetcar line from its current Fisherman’s Wharf terminus all the way to Fort Mason.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency recently applied for a $1.1 million federal grant to fund the long deferred rail project.

It turns out the planned Fort Mason destination would be pivotal to securing the cash:

“This grant is one that is dedicated to improving access to national parkland,” [Rick Laubscher of the Market Street Railway non-profit] said, noting, “You’re not competing against a new bicycle lane, or another streetcar for the N-Judah line.”

Instead, San Francisco’s transit agency is competing against proposals like, say, expanding parking lots at the Grand Canyon.

And, really, how many more burros does anyone need to park out there anyway?

According to a Caltrans presentation from 2016, this particular program specifically singles out “non-federal agencies” that “provide access to [...] federal lands, typically national parks, forests,” et cetera. If any potential payday was tailored for Muni, this is it.

Photo by Benny Marty

The extension would use the old Fort Mason Tunnel between Van Ness and the Marina, dug in 1914 but defunct for decades. Note that Clint Eastwood used that tunnel as a shortcut to the Marina in the original Dirty Harry; if it’s good enough for Harry Callahan, why not everyone else too?

The city and transit agency have kicked the proposal around for years, with formal review starting back in 2006. The Final Environmental Impact Statement from 2012 notes:

The lack of a direct transit connection between the hotels in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and Fort Mason Center limits the potential of the center as an event destination [...] Furthermore, the lack of transit to the Center directly contributes to roadway congestion along Marina Boulevard, which is a direct link to the Golden Gate Bridge.

The transit advocacy group Market Street Railway says that an ultimately fruitless suggestion to relocate the ferry to Alcatraz diverted the extension in 2013.