Cable Cars run in some given streets. Look for its itineraries and on top of the nice ride experience it allows you to do a few shortcuts.
Sometimes due too many tourists it may be too crowded. So, one might need to wait for the next Cable Car to come.
You will see the cable cars throughout the city. I think the novelty is nice for one or two rides, but generally, I found the cars to be incredibly slow and often so crowded that you would either have to get on at an endpoint (after waiting in a long line) or face a long, long wait. However, it was only a couple of bucks and got us from the Wharf to our hotel. I think you must try it to say you rode on one, but would not rely on it for quick transportation.
Not only are they an antique form of transportation, but they are actually useful. There are several lines and come often (check their routes and schedules on-line). Remember to get a transfer pass (ask the driver), they are valid for 3 hours and will work for unlimited rides (works on Muni buses also). If you wonder why there are advertisements in Italian on some of the streetcars, it is because these streetcars actually came from Italy. Various cities across the world donated their streetcars to the city of San Francisco. You could tell where they came from by a sign near the driver.
The San Francisco cable cars have been a part of the city since 1873. There's three cable car lines in operation. The price is $3 for each ride, but if you buy a day pass you'll get free ridies on streetcars, buses, and cable cars for $9.
Most people who come to San Francisco do not know that there are two different cable car systems. One, the usual tourist known one, starts at Union Square, which is in the center of downtown. The second starts at California and Market Street. I take all my out of town friends to the second one as it is always least crowded. Also this second cable car, connects with the tourist know one, Powell street at the top of the hill. Therefore, you can get off at the top, and change to the other one and go down to Fishermans' Wharf.
Also, at the top of the hill you can get off and visit Chinatown. Best part of that is that you are walking downhill.
A BIG TIP: At the beginning--when you are getting ready for the cable car to come for boarders, stand at the point where you will be at the front of the car. That way you can stand or sit on the outside for a better view and for camera shots.
Most of the people who ride the Cable Cars are tourists. Locals don't bother with the expense. They use the bus system, which is pretty good, except it is not a cable car.
While on the car, ask the brakeman about the cable car museum. This museum is free and is along the route of the Powell Car. It is near Chinatown. So you can take a quick look and go have some authentic Chinese cuisine.
Q. How do those cable cars work anyway?
A. Cars grip a moving underground wire rope (cable).
Q. Best cable car line to take?
A. I have 2 favorite lines: (1) Powell / Hyde Street Line - catch it at Aquatic Park or at Powell/Market Street intersection (2) California Street Line - catch it at the Hyatt Embarcadero or at the Van Ness / California intersection.
"No city invites the heart to come to life as San Francisco does. Arrival in San Francisco is an experience in living." William Saroyan
Cable cars are the mode of transport you should consider if you're a dedicated tourist. They provide whimsical moments of fun as you hop off and on along the tracks and give you that olde world charm that our generation seems to have lost. They stop off frequently and near to most major landmarks and are the best way to see the city, without missing it all from a cab or having a heart attack as you attempt the Frisco terrain. One minor problem is over-crowding which can be a problem at popular destinations, but with San Francisco's temperate climate the carriages are breezy and generally comfortable.
very unique to get around SanFran, the Cable Cars and they are powered by cables who run under the tracks, I suppose thats where they got their name from.
you have to ride them its fun and beats walking and running the streets up and down. and not only the tourist rides them, the locals do so too and an oppertunity to get the know them.
learn more about them on their website
Everyone knows San Francisco of course from the cable cars. Next to that SF houses the historical muni trams that run from Fisherman's Wharf all the way to the Castro district.
The cable cars are great, they only have one disadvantage, don't try to get on them at the starting point of the lines as there is a big waiting line of tourists. From Fisherman's Wharf there are two lines running towards the city. The least busy one is the Powel and Mason line, the Powel and Hyde line is a lot busier.
Of course, you have to ride it once hanging from the side of a cable car. Just watch out for parked busses and cars, their mirrors are hard........
Though San Francisco is a pleasure to walk around, there is an extensive mass transit system for those lacking the fitness to do it all on foot or for the longer hauls that would take too much time. BART is more or less a commuter train that runs to the suburbs and conveniently to the SF International Airport. This twenty minute run costs just $4.95 one way and runs three times an hour in peak hours. You can get tickets at automated machines before you board. You can also get out to Berkeley for a couple bucks. MUNI is a more extensive system of buses and trams that really get you into the meat of the city. It costs just $1.50 and you get a transfer for between 90 minutes and three hours depending on the generosity of the driver. The cable cars have become a bit of a tourist trap unfortunately. They are an amazing piece of time warp travel and everyone that visits has to ride one once. You can also visit the Cable Car Museum for free and it’s well worth your time. To ride one, it cost $5.00 per segment! If you think you’ll use them even just twice, buy the day pass for $10.00 and enjoy. There are numerous mass transit passes but unfortunately none of the affordable ones include the Cable Cars so I didn’t find them worthwhile. If you’re going to walk most places, which is easy enough to do, it’s better to just buy a bus ticket for when you need it as that is how you’ll get to the more remote areas of the city.
"To be where little cable cars, climb halfway to the stars....."
The cable cars are probably one of the number one tourist stops in San Francisco. As a result the lines can be very long! There are three Cable Car lines. Two originate at Powell and Market. One goes to the park near Ghiradelli Square (Hyde). The other veers off and winds up closer to Fisherman's Wharf (Bay). These are the most popular because they are what you think of when you wind steeply up hill and veer madly to the left and right. You're likely to wait upwards of an hour or two just to board. (While you can board anywhere along the cable car line, good luck getting a place to hang on to!)
Here's a secret. If you just want the experience of riding one of these cars, take the California Street line. You can board at the Embarcadero, right in front of the Hyatt Regency and ride all the way to Van Ness Avenue. You'll go up over Nob Hill, past China Town and the Bank of America Buildings, right by Glide Memorial Church, Past the Mayor's residence, and some of the more magificent buildings in the City. And you won't have to stand in line!
Cable cars are fun but they're expensive ( $3 US dollars one way) They're fun once you've done it but then it gets old. If you want to skip the touristy part of watching them turn the cars around then I suggest you wait one or two stops up from the 'turn around' and jump on there. This will save you an hour wait on line. I used to live 5 blocks from the turn around and found myself too lazy or tired to walk uphill back to my apartment, so I'd wait a block up from the 'main attraction' and hop on the car with no wait (and free too because I have a BART pass) :)
The cable cars are a true pleasure. They are convenient (especially when you need to go up a hill) and it is enjoyable to stand on the outside of it while you ride. Even if it's out of your way, make sure to go to the end of one of the lines to watch a turnaround - there's one fairly close to Fisherman's Wharf so you could always walk to it.
Cable cars are a big part of San Francisco's history and are much loved by the city. For these reasons, the cable cars remain in operation. Another reason why the cable cars keep operating is because every San Francisco tourist rides them at some point and pays a fare to do so, a fare that is more than twice the fare for the buses or streetcars.
Cable cars actually belong under things to do tips and not transportation because people ride them for something to do and not to get somewhere. The cable cars actually run to different destinations, but do so at such a slow pace that they can't really be considered a means of transportation. But, riding a cable car is one of those things you must do while in San Francisco.
The cable cars are so beloved that they have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. The sight of a car slowly ascending a steep hill with tourists clinging to the handrails and dangling precariously from the sides is another of the famous San Francisco sights to see. For those that are really, really interested in cable cars, there is a museum devoted to them, and its free. See Off the Beaten Path tips for more details.
Right outside the lobby of my favorite hotel (Hyatt Regency)
at the confluence / intersection of Market, Drumm & California is where California street originates and the California St. cable car starts its climb up to and over Nob Hill.
Costs about $3 for a ticket.
Heading west up California it intersects up on Nob hill by Chinatown with the North/South Powell Street cable car that runs from Market St./ Union Square down to the North bay / Ghiradelli / Fisherman's wharf.
Almost always packed, painfully slow, but very pleasing.
C'mon, we're tourists in the best city in America, you have to ride the cable cars. It's fun & it beats walking all the way up the hill.