San Francisco Cable Car
August 30, 2019
| By
Maria Mancuso

San Francisco Things to do: Guide to San Francisco Cable Cars

This latest article in our San Francisco Travel Blog, ‘San Francisco Things to do: Guide to San Francisco Cable Cars,’ gives you tips and history of how Cable Cars helped build San Francisco.

The Cable Cars of San Francisco areas much a part of what makes San Francisco such a special city as the Golden Gate Bridge.  Cable Cars are an important part of the city’s history, pop culture and they are a part of everyday life for residents and visitors alike.

This latest San Francisco Travel Blog article, ‘San Francisco Things to do: Guide to San Francisco Cable Cars,’ presents you with just a brief history of Cable Cars and shares the importance these city iconic modes of transportation have had on our waterfront city.

A Brief History of Cable Cars:
When you think of San Francisco you likely picture one of two icons, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Cable Cars of San Francisco. Cable Cars were first invented by Andrew Smith Hallidie in 1873.  As a lasting symbol of the City of San Francisco, Cable Cars have survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fires and the attempts by some politicians to remove the Cable Cars from service in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

There are 2 types of Cable Cars today; the Powell Street Lines and the California Street Cable Car Line. Both types of Cable Cars look different from one another, but they function nearly identically.

The 2 Powell Street Lines, (Powell-Mason) and Powell-Hyde) use the smaller styled Cable Cars and they operate from one end of the car therefore they require the ‘turntables’ you see at the end of the lines to turn the Cable Car to reverse direction.

The California Street Cable Car Line features 12 larger Cable Cars that have a closed section in the middle of the car and an open seating section at either end of the car.  The California Street Cable Car Line are operated from either end of the car and they can turn around to travel in the other direction with a switch at the end of the line.

 

Cable Cars in San Francisco
Originally, Cable Cars covered nearly the entire city of San Francisco, but now there are just 3 Cable Cars lines.

Ride a Piece of History:

Originally, Cable Cars covered nearly the entire city of San Francisco, but now there are just 3 Cable Cars lines.  These Cable Car Lines are operated and managed by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) – the lines include:

  1. California Street Line which runs from Market Street to Van Ness Avenue via California Street.
  2. Powell-Hyde Line which runs from Hallidie Plaza to Fisherman's Wharf via Powell and Hyde Streets.
  3. Powell-Mason Line which runs from Hallidie Plaza to Fisherman's Wharf via Powell and Mason Streets.

 

Hotel Union Square and Cable Car
The Cable Car Line travels directly in front of Hotel Union Square.

These 3 Cable Car Lines transport residents and visitors to some of the most popular San Francisco neighborhoods, including:

  • Union Square
  • Chinatown
  • North Beach
  • Nob Hill
  • Embarcadero
  • Fisherman’s Wharf

Visitors to San Francisco can purchase a single ride ticket for $7, regardless of the time of day or the age of the rider.  Each of the Cable Car Lines have designated stops along their routes throughout the city.  Look for the designated stop and wait for the Cable Car to come to a full and complete stop and then board the Cable Car.  You will be asked for payment once you are aboard.

Riders can purchase passes for unlimited rides with a SFMTA Visitor Passport.  You can also pay for your Cable Car tickets with the Clipper Card, or via the Muni Mobile App.

Cable Car traveling in San Francisco
These 3 Cable Car Lines transport residents and visitors to some of the most popular San Francisco neighborhoods; Union Square, Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf and others.

San Francisco Cable Cars are stars of many Major Movies and Television Programs, including: 

  • Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)
  • Foul Play (1978)
  • The Rock (1996)
  • In Harm's Way (1965)
  • The Rock (1996)
  • The Birds (1963)
  • Dark Passage (1947)
  • Yours. Mine. Ours. (1968)
  • Dirty Harry (1971)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
  • The Net (1995)

Interesting Facts about Cable Cars:

  • Cable Cars can travel up to 9.5 MPH.
  • Approximately 9.7 million people ride the Cable Cars annually. 
  • Building a cable car is an exacting art that takes several dozen craftsmen 18 to 24 months to completed.
  • The typical Cable Car can carry up to 60 passengers comfortably.
  • It requires a dozen workers up to 24 months to  build a new Cable Car. 

We hope our San Francisco Travel Blog article, ‘San Francisco Things to do: Guide to San Francisco Cable Cars,’ has taught you a few things about how you can enjoy riding these amazing Cable Cars on your next visit to our fine city.  

Visit our San Francisco Visitors Guide for more recommendations and tips for all there is to do, see and experience when you visit San Francisco.

See our latest Special Offers for 'Guaranteed Best Rates' at our Union Square Hotel.