I'd been told that SF's cablecars were usually crowded and thus difficult to get on. I was expecting that to be the case, especially as i visited in July (plenty of visitors). But I observed how they worked on my first day (my hotel was near Powell Street) and on my second day I rode the whole length of all three lines, and several shorter lengths of line as well. This is what I did:
1. I bought a one-day MUNI pass from Walgreen's for 14USD. Given that one trip on a cable car costs 6USD, a pass is very good value (it covers buses and the subway too).
2. I rode the whole line early in the morning. I noticed that Powell/Mason and Powell/Hyde cars became full by around 0900 (9am) and stayed full until around 1900 (7pm).
3. I never waited in line at the terminus (where I saw long, long queues by 10am). I just walked up to the next cross-street stop. I was always able to get on, whether hanging from a pole, sitting on a seat inside or outside or standing inside. I was told that at the busiest times every third car is sent up empty anyway...just so people *can* get on at cross-streets...and that seemed to be what happened.
4. The California line is much, much less busy than the Powell/Hyde and Powell/Mason lines (which both go to Fisherman's Wharf) and includes some pretty impressive hills. You should have no problem boarding a car at either terminus on this line.
So there we go. I ..middle-aged, solo female....rode all three lines several times during the course of one day. And if you do what I did, I bet you can too! :-)
The Muni website below has very useful info.
PS Don't even think of using cable cars to get yourself to or from your hotel. There just isn't enough room for bags. Find another form of transport.
Take a fabled and famous cable car around SF, espeically when the weather is nice. The cable cars are open cars that allow you a fantastic experience while enjoying some of San Francisco's most amazing views!!
On my first ever experience with the cable cars we were on our way to Fisherman's Wharf when we got stuck in some horrible traffic, we had to hop off and walk the rest of our way.
Most recently Ferni and I hopped on the cable car as Ferni had never been on the cable car, so it was a nice way for us to explore some of the city. We purchased a MUNI pass to allow us the whole Muni system all day for one low price. We paid $13 each and we were able to get on the cable cars a few times as well as use of the rest of the MUNI system.
Price for the cable cars are a bit steep, $5 per ride, or if you purchase a day pass, you can ride them all day long.
There are many ways to purchase a ride at The City's world famous Cable Cars, you can just hop aboard along the designated pass and buy a ticket at the conductor, the cost is $ 6 one way ($ 5 for seniors and kids 5 to 17 years old and free for kids 4 and below. Or line up at the designated endpoints of the Cable Cars like in Market Street or at Beach Street. 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.I
f you will be staying longer in the City, your best bet is to buy the multi day passes which are available for one day ($ 13), Three Days ($ 20) and Seven Day Passes ($ 26) which is good for unlimited rides not only on SF Muni Cable Cars but also other SF Muni modes of transport like the Buses, the F Line Trolley and the electric powered buses that chugs all around the city.
If you will be staying longer than 1 month in the city, Do what the locals do and buy the Monthly Fast Passes which are good for 30 days of unlimited rides on all SF Muni Transport. The cable cars begin operating around 6:00 in the morning and continue until about 12:30 at night. While there is a printed schedule available from MUNI the cable cars generally run about every 10 minutes.
Sorry but the BART is not included in the Passes.
Ah yes, those cable cars that have made San Francisco famous. Once threatened with extinction they have been retained as a mechanical dinosaur from the past and don't the visitors just love them.
Of course, no local in his right mind would think about using them because the queues are long, waiting times are more likely to be in half hours than minutes and they're always packed and they don't go all that fast; and I wasn't even there during peak tourist season.
Still, they have a romantic air about them and it's one of the must-do's when you're in the city.
However, if it's getting from point A to point B that you want to do, try some other mode.
vintage electric rail vehicles serving the City’s main artery, Market Street, and its grand waterfront boulevard, The Embarcadero--linking San Francisco’s most popular visitor attraction, Fisherman’s Wharf, with its commercial, financial, and retail centers, and several residential neighborhoods along the route.
You can't go to San Francisco and not take a cable car ride, that would be ludicrous. They are historical, a great way to see the city and its architecture and if you buy a 3 day pass or a 7 day pass, very economical. We had a great time on them and took the cable cars almost everywhere.
There are 3 lines. The Powell-Hyde line which takes you from the Powell St. turntable to Fisherman's Wharf. The Powell-Mason line which takes you from the Powell St. turntable to Lombard St. and ends at Jefferson St. right outside of Ghiradelli Square. And the California line which takes you through Chinatown and to and from the Embarcadero. Expect long lines at the Powell St. turntable but not at all the other turntables.
You can purchase tickets at booths located in front of each cable car turntable at the end of the lines. Make sure to pick up a Bay City guide book at the booth for discounts on sites and restaurants.
Tickets prices are as follows:
Children (4 years old and under) ride free.
20.00USD-Adult single ride 10 ticket booklet.
13.00USD-1 day pass
20.00USD-3 day pass
These passes are good for unlimited travel on the cable cars and are also valid for the MUNI system which are the buses and trams.
60.00USD for adults
15.00USD for youths (5-17 years old) and seniors (65+).
These passes are good for a month of unlimited travel on the cable cars and are also valid for the MUNI system.
39.00USD-Children (5-12 years old)
City passes are valid for 7 days unlimited travel on the cable cars and the MUNI system. They also offer discounts and free admissions to many sites.
San Francisco is famous for its cable cars which go up and down the hills. They are great fun to travel on and is certainly a must do part of anybodies first time in the city. We certainly had a good time on them.
We bought a three day MUNI passport before we got on one of the cable cars as this saved us time, money and hassle in getting on and off.
If you want to get from A to B in a hurry then maybe there not the quickest, but for a fun way to save your legs on a short journey then they're great.
If you go to Powell Street or Hyde then you San watch as the drivers turn the cars around manually on the end line turntables. The queues to get onto the cars at these two terminals can be huge and you may have to wait for over an hour before finally getting a place.
Cable cars first came into public service in 1873. I used them quite a lot as they were a good way to get round the city & fun to ride.
Today there are three cable car routes in operation. Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde both start at the turntable at Powell and Market streets. The Powell-Mason line goes to Bay Street at Fisherman's Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line goes to Aquatic Park near to Ghirardelli Square. The California Street line runs from the Financial District through Chinatown to Van Ness Avenue.
The cable cars run seven days a week. Tickets can be purchased at tunarounds or from the conductor. Pre-paid passes are also accepted. You can board at either end of the route or at various stops on the way.
A tourist trap I know but what is the point of travelling without doing some (most?) of the traps. We lined up for about 20 mins to board the Hyde and Powell Cable Car but saw a much longer line at other points during our stay.
It was a slow mode of transport but worth doing whilst in San Francisco and our pass covered us all that day and also the rest of the muni system.
My guidebook said over and over and over that you simply must ride a cable car while in San Francisco. So on the day when we had a MUNI pass we went to take the Powell & Hyde cable car from Fisherman's Wharf and the line snaked around the corner and down the street. We were a little pressed for time so we went to the start of the Powell & Mason lines a few blocks away and while the line was a bit more manageable, the speed at which they load the cars isn't exactly lightening fast. So when they called out that there was a car just going to Chinatown we hopped ahead of the queue and got on that one, luckily there was one right behind us going all the way to Market Street that we hopped on in Chinatown. Later that evening, the queues were shorter and we took another one back to our hotel.
It is a fun thing to do, just don't expect to use it for regular transportation as the queues can be extremely long. Each ride is $5 but if you have a MUNI pass it's included on that and you could ride as many as you want while you have the pass. If you catch it at one of the end points, you can watch as they still manually turn the cars around
I'm putting this tip in the Transportation category, but it could just as well go in the Things to do one because riding the San Francisco cable car is a really fun and unique experience! We rode the Powell-Hyde line, which runs between the Powell/Market turntable and the Fisherman's Wharf area. Even though we got to the turntable early in the morning there was still a pretty long line-up, but it moved fairly fast and time went by quickly by watching the gripmen and conductors turn the cable car around at the end of the line by pushing it on the turntable. There also was a really good street musician entertaining us with such classics as Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" :o) We managed to score a great spot on the cable car: we were standing up at the front, holding on to a pole - the view was incredible and it was so much fun!
Since we only rode the cable car once, we paid the fare ($5) directly to the conductor, but if you get a Muni daily or weekly pass, it allows you to ride the cable car as many times as you want.
A tourist's trip to Sanfo won't be complete without taking at least 1 cable car ride. It costs $5/person/ride as compared to less than$1 for bus routes. But hey, I dont have the time to check out bus routes and the cable car stops right infront of my hotel along Powell Street.
The gripman (cable car driver) even remembered us when we rode again the following day. We took same buggy for dinner the previous night.
You'll hear the familiar klang-klang-ting-ti-ting of each buggy but it really depends on the creativity of the gripman.
San Francisco Cable Cars are one of the biggest attractions in the city. A lot has been said about it, so I`ll just stick to some useful information.
HISTORY: To learn more about cable cars you can go to Cable Car Museum on 1201 Mason at Washington Street.
LINES: There are 3 routs you can take to ride SF cable car.
- California Line which runs on California Street all the way from Drumm to Van Ness;
- Powell-Mason Line which runs on Powell and then Mason Streets;
- Powell-Hyde Line which runs on Powell and then Hyde Street passing the crookedest Lombard Street on its right. Its the most popular line.
HOURS: 6am to 1am.
FREQUENCY: About 3 times an hour during the peak times.
BOARDING: If you want to ride the Powell-Hyde Line from the very beginning, go to Powell at Market Street. It`s hard to miss - there are always crowds of people waiting for their turn and watching how the car is rotated. If you do not care where to catch it, then any intersection with rails on it will do (that will be Powell, Mason and Hyde Streets accordingly). Just wait for car and hop on it when it stops.
PRICE: $5 per person. There are no return tickets. Every time you hop on a car, you have to pay. There is a way to save some money if you plan on riding more than twice - buying a Passport (1-Day Passport will cost you $11; 3-Days Passport will be $15 and 7-Days Passport will empty your wallet for $24). These Passports will also give you an unlimited access to all MUNI transportation within the city as well as discounted entrances to some of the SF attractions.
BUYING TICKETS: From the conductor or at the Visitor`s Information office at Powell/Market.
CAPACITY: About 60 people.
This might be downright sacrilege to write, but the San Francisco Cable Cars are one of the biggest ripoffs in the city. All trips are $5 no matter how far your journey...one block or the length of the route. The longest route is perhaps 2 miles and takes about 15-20 minute to ride end to end. You probably want to ride just once to say you did it, bit the Cable Car is not how you want to get from place to place in the city. The only good deal with the Cable Cars is their inclusion in the Monthly, 7-Day, and 3-Day Muni passes.
If you just want to get around town the Muni covers much, much more of the city and regular fares are just $1.50. The BART is another great option, but only runs up and down Market Street in San Francisco and is a little more expensive.
The Cable Cars are famous for a reason... this is the last remaining permanent, manually operated cable car system in the world, and began full operation in 1873 on Clay Street. The cable cars operate by gripping a steel cable loop that constantly runs between the tracks below the surface of the street at a steady 9.5 MPH, ideal for transiting the city's steep, often wet hills. The 1906 earthquake brought a major decline to the industry as many lines were replaced with electric streetcars, except the steepest routes. There are three of perhaps 15 original cable car routes still in existence: California Street, Powell-Hyde, and Powell-Mason lines, with the California Street line being the oldest still in existence, first opening in 1878.
Yes, I have ridden the cable cars once. I was one of the lucky 40 percent who get a free trip by jumping on in the middle of the route rather than at the end of a line. Wonder why these babies are always packed? This is the fifth largest tourist attraction in San Francisco after the Golden Gate Bridge, Fishermans Wharf, Chinatown, and Union Square.
Part of experiencing the unique flavor of S.F. is using the old school method of getting around by using the trolley's and cable cars. The trolley's are the most famous way of getting around the city and also is the funnest. They maneuver through the steep streets with surprising speed and although they may not look it, they are very safe and reliable. If your looking to just ride the trolley for the experience rather than as your main way of getting around the best thing would be to catch the Powell Trolley that start at the beginning of Powell Street right outside of the BART station. You can buy roundtrip tickets there and its impossible to miss!