-A bank of green LED lights placed in the roof of the streetcar station shelter, causing them to softly light up when the streetcar pulls in, stay on as it picks up passengers, and dim as it pulls away.

For my Art on Market Street 2009/10 project I proposed to set up a system of communication with the historic streetcars on the F-Market and Wharves line, allowing them to communicate with the F-line shelters on Market Street. The system will be located on Market Street: so will be placed in each shelter between Main and Drumm St. and 16th and Noe, in total 18 shelters. The system will be operating during F-line hours from Dusk to Dawn.

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Project Description

“From Glasgow’s Grey Train, Stockholm’s haunted Tunnelbanan system and the Phantom Train of Nintendo’s Final Fantasy, trains have served as metaphors for the secret lives of cities, and as signs for the public imagination regarding their spiritual lives and that of their transportation system.”

The project: titled “Night Train arrives in Emerald City” was written for the city of San Francisco in 2009. It is a meditation on public transit in the City, along with a play on the image of the ghost train found in many genres of popular culture as the transportation means of choice for spirits. From Glasgow’s Grey Train, Stockholm’s hauntedTunnelbanan system and the Phantom Train of Nintendo’s Final Fantasy, trains have served as metaphors for the secret lives of cities, and as signs for the public imagination regarding their spiritual lives and that of their transportation system. As the F-line makes it’s way up Market Street the shelters will, one by one, light up to welcome the vessel. The addition of the lights as the rail cars pull into the stops is to glorify the travel of city dwellers: and to comment on the magical properties of such travel. The city dwellers take on the role of spirits: and the rail car functions as an exotic vessel cast in the role of taking the travelers from one enchanted part of the city to another.

“Night Train” adds to the sensory aspect of train travel. Trains are famous for their rumbling on the tracks and the vibrations they cause. The act of waiting for a train involves keen listening for the tell-tale sounds of steel wheels on tracks, and peering into the distance for the signature front lights. “Night Train” celebrates the anticipatory mood as it adds another sensory element to the awaited arrival of the train. Further, “Night Train” can be seen as an intervention to common lighting landscape on Market Street: this area is dominated by yellow-orange lighting due to the common use of high-pressure sodium light sources in public areas, and lights are commonly seen through the mist and fog of the city. “Night Train” introduces a competing color dynamic into the commercial and municipal landscape on Market Street. As it spans Market Street from one far end to the other, it comprehensively weaves the otherwise chaotic lighting landscape into one thread, slowly emerging and unwinding each day.

Technical Notes

The system consists of the following: a communication device is placed at each shelter that responds to the arrival of the streetcar. This communication will likely be provided by a barcode reader reading a sticker placed on each railcar. The device then controls a bank of green LED lights placed in the roof of the station shelter, causing them to softly light up when the streetcar pulls in, stay on as the car picks up passengers, and dim as the car pulls away. The impression for the viewer will be that the shelter lights up to welcome the arrival of the train, and dims as the train departs. For viewers along Market the piece will appear as a pulse of light making it’s way along Market Street: some viewers will be able to see this occur 7 blocks away.

Unless grid power can be supplied at the shelters I plan on having power supplied by 12V batteries, possibly recharged by solar panels. Nearly all equipment at shelters will be placed within the dome of the shelter roof. A Plexiglas panel that will provide protection from elements and vandalism will shield the lights and equipment. The LED’s are a very directional light source and will be facing down. While bathing persons in the shelter with light, the lights will not affect drivers or other traffic. Any equipment chosen for the system would be installed with the understanding it could not in any way affect traffic or comfort of shelters. The F-line rail cars themselves they will likely be wholly untouched and unaffected save a sticker placed at their right hand front for the barcode reader to detect.

The 4 stops along the F-line that do not have shelters would have their own lighting, likely provided by green LED lighting strips mounted on the shelter “islands” at pedestrian ground level. Their behavior would be the same: they light up when the streetcar pulls in, stay on as the car picks up passengers, and dim as the car pulls away.