Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The History of San Francisco East Bay's Public Transit System (Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond)

I had a nice chat with an Oakland old-timer today. He grew up in Rockridge in the 1920s and 30s, near where Wendy's and Sabuy Sabuy are now on Broadway. His father hauled gravel from the quarry nearby (on Pleasant Valley next to Safeway and Long's).

Anyway, the old-timer was describing the extensive trolley streetcar system that existed. You could ride straight from Broadway and College all the way down Broadway, past downtown, to the ferries. For 25 cents, you took the ferry across to San Francisco (this was before the Bay Bridge). You could also ride a trolley down College all the way to Bancroft at the foot of the Berkeley campus, and onwards to the Thousand Oaks neighborhood. When he was a mischievous child, he would secretly ride on the streetcar's cowcatcher without the conductor noticing. And if the conductor noticed, what was he going to do? Stop the trolley and chase the kid down?

So here is a 1945 promotional video put out by Key, one of the trolley operators. It's informative and hokey. The footage is wonderful. Who knew that the lower deck of the Bay Bridge was for trolleys? And the East Bay was the first to allow "girls" to drive buses? The rendition of future trolleys makes BART look absolutely geriatric.

East Bay section starts at 5:20 mark in part 1 of the film.

1 comment:

Rich said...

The definitive museum for the genre is the Western Railway Museum, over at Rio Vista Junction. Go when they're running restored streetcars and interurban trains.