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December 14, 2018 2:26pm
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Ride San Francisco’s Iconic Cable Cars

Use the Last-of-its-Kind System and Experience San Francisco

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Visitors in Sausalito are almost close enough to hear the clanging bells across the water and many have to take a trip across the bay specifically to take a ride on the San Francisco cable cars.

In a city that is full of icons, from Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge to Coit Tower and others, there is no single image that spells out San Francisco’s identity more clearly than the cable cars that have been a fixture for more than 100 years. A trip to San Francisco can hardly be called complete without a ride on a genuine cable car, so get out and pick your route for a ride on this one-of-a-kind transportation system.

The History of San Francisco’s Cable Cars

Begun in 1873 as the Clay Street Hill Railroad, the San Francisco cable cars have been in service to locals and visitors ever since. The unique design that enabled the cars to maintain control involved a series of grips that helped mechanically solve the issue of weight and hills. This term, “Grips”, became well known and soon became the nickname for the operators of the cars – a term still in use today.

For a time, cable cars were an efficient and modern way to transport people around San Francisco, and the concept caught on in other locales as well. Eventually, with the advent of electric railcars and other modes of transportation, the cable cars began to decline. Over a series of adjustments and changes in transportation authorities, the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (MUNI) eventually took over operation of the cars, renovated and retrofitted the entire system, and reopened for public use.

Cable Cars in Today’s San Francisco

MUNI operates the cable cars in San Francisco as a part of its integrated transit system that includes electric buses, electric railcars, a subway system, and the cable cars themselves. With regular service along several routes, the cable cars actually do serve a modest number of local commuters in addition to the large tourist base that uses the cars as an experience while in the city. The inexpensive cars ferry passengers around the city, with the California St. route remaining one of the scenic favorites.

The San Francisco cable cars are the only operating transportation system listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are the only operating permanent cable car system in the world today.

Riding the Rails

Of the three main cable car lines, two of them, the Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines, run from the Union Square area and out to the water’s edge. Visitors looking for a scenic way to travel from Fishermans Wharf or Aquatic Park can use these lines to reach the shopping areas and downtown centers.

The third line, the California St. line, runs east to wets and traverses through the historic neighborhoods of Chinatown and Russian Hill and through the Financial District until terminating near the Embarcadero.

Whatever your goals and plans when you come from Sausalito over to San Francisco, take a few moments and ride this historic transportation line and see the city in a new light.

Cable Car Information:

San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (MUNI)
Routes, schedules, timetables, and more.
Fares: 7:00am-9:00pm $6/ride
Before 7:00am and after 9:00pm $3/ride cash or $6/ride e-cash, senior card, or RTC ID

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Photos copyright by Jay Graham Photographer
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