While most Piedmont homeowners are used to commuting to San Francisco and Oakland by car or BART, the early 1900's offered an efficient trip as well. Begun in 1903, utilizing 4 car trains, the Key System collected passengers from all over the East Bay and took them to ferry piers in Berkeley, and later Oakland, for their final passage by water to San Francisco.

The term "Key System" came from the concept of the image of a key with three loops at the top, a shaft for the key which was the system's pier, and the teeth of the key was seen as the various ferry berths at the end of these piers. The three loops were the cities of Berkeley, Oakland and Piedmont.

 Below is a picture of the early station at 41st Street and Piedmont Avenue.  Note the two large keys on either side of the entrance, (representing the Key System) and the train waiting at the station. 

c pic

It is an interesting challenge to find the old route as it went through Piedmont.  It was known as Route C-Piedmont, and went via 40th Street and Piedmont Avenue alongside Pleasant Valley and Arroyo Avenues, and between York Drive and Ricardo Avenue, ending at Oakland Avenue.  It is really quite surpising as to its former path. As you track it by car, you can see how many new homes were added as the line was discontinued in the late 1950s, and can visualize how many Piedmont homeowners were served by this system. 

This amazing system is now replaced by buses, but still called the "C" Transbay line.  Every morning,  express buses pick up present day passengers, and take them directly to downtown San Francisco.  Perhaps faster, but maybe not as charming.



Posted by Bruce Wagg on


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