Most tourists know of the one cable car line called Powell Street. It goes from Union Square to Fisherman's Wharf. However, there is an easier line to use, mostly without lines of tourists. The California Street line starts at Market and California streets and goes up and over the hill. The Bart station nearby is Embarcadero.
Best bet is to take this line and get off at the top of the hill, transfer over to the Powell Street line and go on down to Fisherman's Wharf. You have to be a little aggressive to squeeze on, but just be polite and go for it. Be sure and keep your paper ticket for your transfer.
There are two workers on the cable car, the brakeman--cable grabbing person, and the person who gets your cash.
Try to board the front where the seats are outside. You can also stand and hang onto a post. One caution--when you go by the other cars going in the other direction, watch out for your possible rear end collision. :-)
Take the Cable Car from Fishermans Wharf to the city.
The Powell-Mason line begins at Bay Street at Fisherman's Wharf , and the line runs from there up and over Nob Hill and down to the Powell/ Market turntable.
Tickets can be purchased at turnarounds or from the conductor as you board.
COST.....$3.00 each way per adult or $9.00 for an all day pass
The CABLE CAR was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873 and the idea was conceived by wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie.
The first cable car to descend down Clay Street on Nob Hill was an immediate success. Besides creating a vital link in San Francisco's public transportation system, the cable car opened the door for buildings on steep hills, which until this time was thought to be impossible.
San Francisco's beloved cable cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation.
The massive brick building located at the junction of Mason and Washington Streets is San Francisco's only surviving cable car barn. Although the building's main function is as a powerhouse and barn, it also houses a small museum which offers insight into the inner workings of the cable car system as well as historical tidbits regarding cable cars. On the upper level there is a balcony which offers a view of the huge wheels over which the continuous loops of cables are revolving. It's quite an impressive sight, especially when you realize that the entire cable car system is run from here (the signs above the huge wheels read "California" "Mason" "Hyde" "Powel", the only remaining cable car lines). The museum's exhibits include the Car No 8, the only survivor of San Francisco's first cable car line, which began operation in 1873. The museum also includes explanatory displays, historical tools and photos. Downstairs you can take another look at the "sheave" (wheel) room where the thick steel cables enter the building before being routed up to the main sheaves.
The cable cars are very typical in San Francisco and a nice and inexpensive way of seing the city. You can go almost everywhere in San Francisco on them.
There are three lines, the Powell-Mason and the Powell-Hyde , which end both near Fisherman's Wharf, though in different areas, and the California Street line that runs from the Financial district through Chinatown.
A ticket costs $3.00 each way while there are whole day passes for $9.00 or 3 day passes for $15.00.
It's easy to find a cable car in Union Square. From there, you can take a ride down to Ghiradelli Square/Fisherman's Wharf area. On the way you will pass the ever winding Lombard Street. Fares are $2.50/adult one way. You can purchase a ticket once you board, or by walking down to the end of the trolley line where they turn round. It's usually easier to board a block or two up from the original boarding site, as it's less of a wait.
Cable cars are icons of San Francisco, and one of the main reasons I visited the city anyway! It was great to see them and but also to ride some of them along the hills. The first ones operated at the end of 19th century at the top of Nob Hill. Although, they are slow, small and noisy and definitely less reliable there are still three routes that run in the SF. The most famous spot among the tourists is definitely at the corner Market and Powell streets. It’s the place where you can watch the cable car turntable. Two routes start from here (Powell>Mason and Powell>Hyde) but they are always packed with tourists, take a ride and enjoy some hair raising turns. We enjoyed much more the one at California Street that runs through Nob Hill just because it is used mainly from locals (you don’t see that much though and there aren’t any turns to get excited with).
The single ticket costs $5 and can can be purchased at turnarounds or from the conductor as you board. I think the price is extremely high but we didn’t pay anything because we used the CityPass. The cable car can be almost empty (pic 3) in California line (pic 1) or fully packed in Powel lines (pic 2) with people standing on the door (pic 4)
Don’t miss also some light rail cars, the historic trolleys (pic 5), especially the F line, it is slow and packed with passengers but it’s worth to do the ride just once and see the picturesque itinerary. It’s a great way to approach Fisherman Wharf , going down the Market street turn left at the Embarcadero till it reach the Fisherman’s Wharf. These vintage cars are very old but it’s worth to see one, especially those with the wooden interior, the ticket is the normal one you use for buses anyway.
This is the fun thing to do in downtown San Francisco - hop on the Cable Car and going downhill towards Fisherman's Wharf.
I recommend the ride from Stocton Station at China Town down to Hyde Station at Beach Street, Fistherman's wharf.
There are 3 major cable car lines
1) Powell-Hyde Line
2) Powell Mason Line
3) California Street Line
So hope on and hope off the cable car like in the movies and television dramas. You can hear the bell ringing as the cable car has the right of way.
Give walking those hills a rest and hop on a cable car. The trick? Don't get on at one of the ends, hop on at a stop on one of the streets along the route. The tickets usually cost $3-$5 and can be bought onboard, but our conductors didn't care and told us and other riders not to worry about paying. I don't know if this is a regular occurance, but give it a try and see if it works for you.
We got on at Lombard St and rode through China Town and the Italian District before stopping at the end of the line downtown. We got to see a lot of the downtown area in about fifteen minutes.
Cable cars are considered one of the San Francisco signatures. This public transportation system was invented in 1873 and was designed to deal with the city's steep slopes. Presently there's only three lines left (Powell-Mason, Powell-Hyde, and California Street). The concept is quite simple. Under the city streets there's looped cable which is powered from the central powerhouse. When the cable car gripman operates the handle the grip grabs the cable and the cable car is pulled along by the moving cable. Hop in and enjoy the ride.
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