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By Laura McCloskey
Find Your Way Around Noe
Directions: The vehicles below need your help finding their way to their destination. Use a RED crayon to draw the tracks for the J-line streetcar traveling to 30th Street. Use a BLUE crayon to draw the route for the No. 48 bus, traveling to Grand View Avenue. Use a GREEN crayon to draw the route for the bicycle riding to Dolores Street.
From Here to There in Noe Valley
There are a number of ways kids get around Noe Valley in 2006. Many kids walk around the neighborhood. They walk to school and to their friends' homes for play dates. Kids also walk along 24th Street with their parents and friends.
Other kids bike, scoot, skate, and roll their way around Noe Valley. Most kids wear helmets and kneepads to protect them from falls.
Many kids ride the buses in Noe Valley. There are two "crosstown" bus lines that pass through the neighborhood. The 24-Divisadero bus runs south on Castro and Noe streets to 30th Street (and beyond). The block of Noe Street between 26th and Cesar Chavez streets is one of the steepest the electrically-powered 24 bus has to climb.
The 48-Quintara/24th bus runs from Grand View Avenue and through Noe Valley along 24th Street. The Number 35-Eureka, a "community service" line that loops around Eureka Valley, Noe Valley, and Diamond Heights, runs along Eureka and Diamond streets.
There is one Muni Metro line, the J-Church line, which goes through Noe Valley along Church Street. When the J cars come from downtown, they have to go up a steep hill in Dolores Park. In fact, the J-line has the steepest grade of any Muni Metro line in the city.
Nowadays, children 4 and under ride the Muni bus and rail lines for free, while kids 5 to 17 pay 50 cents. The adult fare is $1.50.
Before the Cars and Buses Came to Noe Valley
Two hundred years ago, Noe Valley barely had roads, and it definitely did not have trains, cable cars, or automobiles. The steep hills surrounding our valley made it hard to get around and limited how people traveled from one place to the next. As they still do now, most kids in the 1800s walked to school or down to the corner store. It was probably rare for kids to ride horses or drive their parents' horse and buggy. Because of the high cost of keeping a horse, not all families had them. A few kids may have had bicycles.
Starting in the 1850s, public transportation--a way to move from one place to another with a lot of people--came in the form of rail cars, cable cars, trains, electric streetcars, and buses. Eventually, people in Noe Valley bought automobiles for their personal use. Now, Noe Valley is so crowded with cars and trucks, it is often difficult to find a place to park on the street.
A number of forms of public transportation in Noe Valley have come and gone. In 1887, the Market Street Cable Railway Company installed a rail line on Castro Street between 18th and 26th streets. In those days, the railway company painted the cars on each line a specific color. The Castro cars were painted white--actually, ivory with dark red trim. Cars on Haight Street were red, and on Valencia Street they were blue.
In 1887, the line to Noe Valley had a rail car powered by electricity, but in 1907 the rail cars on Castro were replaced with cable cars, pulled along the tracks by thick wire ropes running underground. Older residents of Noe Valley enjoy talking about the Castro Street cable car, which they called the "Dinky" because it was so small.
By 1939, people thought the cable cars had become old-fashioned, so they asked to have buses instead. In 1941, the rails were replaced with a Number 24 electric bus line.
Fifty years earlier, another type of public transportation had come to Noe Valley. In 1892, the San Francisco and San Mateo Electric Railway began running a train from the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco through the Mission and along the southeastern edges of Noe Valley. Passing near 30th and Chenery streets, the train went through Glen Park and all the way to San Mateo County's Holy Cross Cemetery. The train eventually became part of the San Francisco Municipal Railway, or Muni, which we use to ride around the city today.
Noe Valley also had two electric streetcar lines. The Number 11, also called the 11-Hoffman, ran down 24th Street from Hoffman Avenue to Dolores Street. Next it turned left on Dolores, and then right on 22nd to Mission Street, and from there to downtown. On its return, the 11 came up the hill on 22nd and Chattanooga streets.
The Number 9 trolley went through Noe Valley on 29th Street and made its way to downtown San Francisco via Valencia and Market streets.
What did it cost to take public transportation a hundred years ago? Five cents. You could even take a line all the way out to Ocean Beach for five cents.
How Do These Kids Get Around in Noe Valley?
Four eighth-graders from the James Lick School Newspaper Club let us know how they get from here to there in Noe Valley.
Delilah Sabater says, "I get around Noe Valley by car. My grandfather drives me to school and back home."
Alexia Vallin says, "I get around Noe Valley lots of different ways. When I go to school, my dad usually drives me, but when I'm going somewhere that's close, I usually just walk there."
Sara Baker-Flynn says, "I get around Noe Valley by walking. If I'm going home from school and if it's dark out, I might take the bus."
Kimberly Kraus says, "My way to school is about a half-hour commute. I take the N-Judah from my house, walk up a steep hill, and take the 24 bus."
SPECIAL THANKS to Bill Yenne and his book San Francisco's Noe Valley; Noe Valley Archivist Paul Kantus; Lina, Marna Blanchard, and the Newspaper Club at James Lick Middle School; the Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, www.sfmuseum.org; and San Francisco's Cable Car Museum, www.cablecarmuseum.org.