Many thought the old-fashioned streetcars assigned to Geary looked more and more antiquated, almost like the cable cars on Powell.
Certainly that belief was shared by many merchants on Geary Boulevard, the wide section of the thoroughfare running westward from Masonic Avenue through the Richmond. They were lobbying City Hall for a ‘Great Wide Way’, replacing streetcars with buses … and more parking for automobiles.
Planners who were eying the part of Geary between the Richmond and Downtown echoed this pro-auto sentiment. The Western Addition had been a vibrant community of Victorian homes before World War II. The section along Geary was populated mainly by Japanese-Americans. When World War II started, they were infamously hauled away to internment camps. African-American newcomers, who had come west to work in war industries, largely took their place. By the mid-1950s, there was talk of ripping down the Victorians along that part of Geary to gouge out a broad expressway to get automobiles downtown more quickly.
What Might Have Been - Geary, a 2008 update of a story from the Market Street Railway’s newsletter in 2002.
This pretty much encapsulates the bad transport decisions of the 1940s and ’50s in the US: replacing streetcar (tram) tracks with widened roads served by buses (always subservient to private cars), a willingness (some would say eagerness) to demolishing houses in minority neighbourhoods in favour of freeways, and merchants demanding more parking.
At least the latter two arguments tend to have fallen out of favour, but business still seem to complain about parking all the time.
In the end the B Geary survived until the late 1950s, but the desired expressway was built in the early 1960s. Current plans for a “bus rapid transit” scheme seem to be as far away as they were in 2008.