Chances are you’ve seen a television show, movie, postcard or some type of San Francisco memorabilia emblazoned with the city’s iconic cable car or trolley. So of course, to fully experience San Francisco’s charm, you should hop on board. San Francisco’s cable car system is the last of its kind in the United States, given the title of a National Historic Landmark in 1964. The cable car was conceived after Andrew Smith Hallidie, an immigrant from England, witnessed an accident involving a horse-drawn buggy trying to climb a steep San Francisco hill and failing. His father had a patent for wire rope in England and he used that to design a transportation system that relied on just that. Thus, cable cars were born in the late 1800s.
Though cable cars are seldom used by locals (due in part to their small travel network and high fare), tourists flock to them in droves. More than nine million visitors ride cable cars each year, and according to recent travellers, it’s easy to see why. Tourists had a blast riding the cable cars up and down San Francisco’s vibrant streets. Many say the way to get the most out of your cable car experience is to ride hanging out of the vehicle. Even though some said they encountered long lines to board, the majority of visitors believe the wait to be worth the experience. Though if you’re not one for long lines, some say to board at one of the stops along the line instead of at the beginning.
You can catch the cable cars from a few spots around town, including the famous Powell-Hyde Line at Powell and Market streets, which passes the twisty Lombard Street and the equally popular Russian Hill neighbourhood. Relative to other forms of transportation, cable cars are a bit expensive at $7 for a one-way ride, so some travellers suggest buying a one-day pass for $23 (also good for unlimited rides on Muni, Muni Metro and streetcars). Visitors can also purchase three-day and seven-day passes, which cost $34 and $45, respectively. To save even more money on one-, three-, and seven-day passes, purchase your passes via the transportation agency’s app, MuniMobile. Via the mobile app, one-day passes cost $12, three-day passes cost $29, and seven-day passes cost $39. For more information on routes and stops, visit the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s
|The following information is here to help you have the best experience possible riding San Francisco’s cable cars, the city’s only moving historic landmarks.
Fares: Cable car conductors will accept the following:
Check the where to buy SFMTA products page for locations where passes are sold. NOTE: Transfers from Muni buses and Metro Lines are not accepted on the cable cars. Fares may be subject to change without notice here.
Cable cars run seven days a week with special schedules on weekends. For a complete updated listing of all cable car stops and time tables, visit www.sfmta.com.
Basically, there are three cable car routes in operation, and it helps to know their respective destinations. At Powell and Market streets, there is a cable car turntable which serves as the beginning stop for two lines, the Powell-Mason and Powell- Hyde lines. The Powell-Mason line begins at the Powell/ Market turntable, and the line runs from there up and over Nob Hill and down to Bay Street at Fisherman’s Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line also begins at the Powell Market turntable and runs over Nob and Russian hills before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square. Both these lines end near Fisherman’s Wharf, but at different areas, and the routes are significantly different. Paying close attention to the signs on the cable cars will help you distinguish where in Fisherman’s Wharf you will find yourself.
The signs on Powell street cable cars are color coded. The yellow signs will head towards Bay and Taylor streets, and the red signs will head towards Aquatic Park. The California Street line runs East-West from the Financial District, through Chinatown, over Nob Hill and stops at Van Ness Avenue. Since all the cars on this line have the same routes, the signs are painted directly on the car.
Riders can board at any cable car turntable (the beginning/end of each route) or anywhere this brown and white stop sign is posted. These signs contain information such as: