Web App Tracks Historic Streetcars in Real Time

Good news for those who dig S.F.'s retro Milan or Philadelphia streetcars! A new web app shows you exactly where each one is on Market or Embarcadero Streets.

Some people see Muni’s fleet of historic streetcars as more than just another way to traverse the F and E lines on Market Street and the Embarcadero; those vintage cars are also an authentic step back into the 1920s, 30, or 40s. Now, a couple of vintage streetcar enthusiasts have just launched an extremely handy and fascinating real-time Streetcar Guide that shows where each type of retro streetcar is at any given moment and delves into the unique history of each historic streetcar type.   

The map was not developed by Muni or the SFMTA, but instead by two developers at the nonprofit Market Street Railway, a group of transit history enthusiasts dedicated to helping maintain those historic streetcars. They also make vintage streetcar tchotchkes, like the adorable stickers seen below.

“It tells mobile users not only how far away the next streetcar is from their stop, but also which streetcar it is,” Market Street Railway says in a blog post. While the Streetcar Guide is billed as a mobile app, it works just fine on a desktop computer too, and its mobile use does not require an app.

Any good San Francisco transit nerd knows that streetcars and cable cars are not the same thing, though both are historic restorations. Cable cars are pulled by underground cables, whereas streetcars power themselves on the track, and of course S.F. cable cars cost $7 per ride, while the historic streetcars cost only your standard $2.50 (Clipper on MuniMobile) or $2.75 (cash).

Of course, there are already options to see where buses are on your smartphone. Nextbus and Transit app both offer real-time bus locations and Nextbus already had its own (much clunkier) historic streetcar tracker.  But vintage streetcar buffs will no doubt rail on about the cute, informative, and very user-friendly Streetcar Guide.

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