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History in Motion

Looking Back 40 Years Through New Photos from 1979

Thursday, January 9, 2020

As we open up a new year, the SFMTA Photo Archive is looking back 40 years to 1979.  Recently we launched a new scanning and archiving project to preserve more of our historic photographs for the future. After recently completing a major project to scan, catalog and publish online our collections from 1903-1978, we are now focusing on the period between 1979 and 2005. 

Many thousands of photos were taken during this time period and after some thorough analysis of what’s in the file, the scanning process has begun. We thought we’d share a few of our favorite images from this period.

two people with pantograph inside repair shop

In this March 1 shot, two mechanics work on the pantograph from a Boeing-Vetrol Light Rail Vehicle inside the newly built Muni Metro Center. Known today as Green Division (after Muni GM Curtis E. Green) this facility was built to house and service Muni's first fleet of modern streetcars. The Boeings were designed and built to meet the needs of both San Francisco's and Boston's transit systems, which are similar in that they operate on surface streets as well as in sections of subway. 

bus and people outside SF City Hall

In the late '70s, Muni was exploring more options for providing expanded service, including larger “articulated” buses. In this, March 9 image, the 60-foot long demonstration bus built by Hungarian manufacturer Ikarus was on display outside City Hall before doing some tests around the city. Muni did not ultimately purchase any Ikarus buses but many transit providers across Europe used them throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

crowd of people with muni streetcars outside west portal station

April 2, 1979 marked a special day for Muni with the opening of the new West Portal Station pictured here. Hundreds turned out for the ribbon-cutting by then Mayor Dianne Feinstein as well as the mini-parade of Muni streetcars including historic Car 1, the brand new Boeing LRV seen here, and a few old Muni work cars in the mix. The opening of the station came after several years of construction to demolish the original tunnel facade, excavate a portion of the tunnel itself, and build a new station to accommodate new high-level boarding platforms. 

person wearing muni uniform standing next to bus with ad reading "poetry in motion on Muni, have a look!" on side of bus

Last on our list of newly scanned shots is from a roll shot on April 18 of the rollout of a new creative program featuring local poetry inside Muni buses. Much like our present day Muni Art program, which combines visual art and poetry, this initiative was launched to promote public engagement with the arts and to boost a more positive rider experience. 

We hope you enjoyed this sampling of newly scanned shots, stay tuned on Instagram for even more from this era and see older historic shots on the SFMTA Photo Archive website.