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History in Motion

Fresh Views of 1978 San Francisco

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The SFMTA Photo Archive online has just released a new set of archival images from the late 1970s. Taken by the Muni photography staff, these 1978 images were recently digitized and many have never before been seen online. 1978 was a tumultuous year in American history— and in particular for San Francisco— but these images show that it was not all bad news in the late 1970s.

Among the highlights, the inaugural run of the first light rail vehicle in the Muni Metro subway was a big achievement for San Francisco’s Transit First policy.

people standing next to Muni light rail vehicle in subway station
Public Utilities Commissioners H. Welton Flynn, left, and Claire Piltcher, center, kick off the inaugural run of the first Muni Boeing train in the Muni Metro subway in January of 1978.

Although a popular publicity event that included a photo opportunity with Mayor George Moscone driving a Boeing train through the subway, this first 1978 Market Street subway train run was largely ceremonial. Muni’s earliest light rail trains did not go into service until the spring of 1979, and even then there was only partial operation on a K Ingleside shuttle from West Portal to Balboa Park. The full operation of the Muni Metro subway and surface light rail system began in February of 1980.

shop personnel holding sign up against cable car
Muni Cable Car Division shop staff pose with California line cable car for the 100th anniversary of California Street cable cars.

The year 1978 also marked the 100-year anniversary of the California Street cable car line, which had originally been part of the California Street Cable Railroad Company established in 1878. Muni’s Cable Car Division made sure to celebrate the centennial anniversary with Cable Car 60, a California line original built in 1907. By 1978, this cable car had already undergone extensive restoration during the 1960s, and had been renumbered from 16 to 60.

family walking on sidewalk
A street view on Mission Street near 23rd Street, photographed for the Mayor’s storefront Initiative.

Additionally, in 1978, Muni undertook a brief photography campaign on behalf of Mayor Moscone’s ‘Storefront Project.’ Although the specific details of this project are lost to time, these photographs have been preserved and show everyday views of life on the streets of San Francisco, including pedestrians on Mission Street, a grocer in the Haight, and a hardware store in the Bayview.

Check out these great photos and many more from 1978 San Francisco at the SFMTA Photo Archive website. The full historic image collection available online now spans 75 years from 1903 to 1978. If you’re still looking for more, get a daily dose of San Francisco photos by following us on Instagram.