San Francisco, CA

Hopping On A Historic Cable Car

I love the feeling of creating and sharing, even though I am not a particularly creative type. Either to make a simple regular dinner for 2 by using whatever I have in the refrigerator or to write a couple of paragraphs about a buzz in my silly mind makes me realize that I create with my own will. As a matter of fact, we all do!

What indulges us in the process of producing things, sometimes small yet meaningful? To me, it’s sharing! It’s to present your creations, no matter they are physical objectives, experiences, information or any type, to your significant others, friends, followers, the society and get feedback to improve, then to continue making, creating or producing with love…Would it make a huge difference to the world? Maybe, maybe not. But it surely brings joy and benefits to both the givers and the takers. It is a wonderful feeling and you will be surprised at what follows because these two roles are usually played by one person.

Anyways, that’s the little buzz in my head lately. I enjoy it and I hope you do too.

I have been doing a substantial amount of preparation work for something new. It’s going to be fun! Before starting the actual creating process and share with you about the results, let me take you to hop on one of the San Francisco cable cars first. Hold tight onto the pole and enjoy the lovely city view via this historic heavy vehicle.


Han’s mom and aunt were visiting us in San Francisco last week. Last time I saw both of them was a year ago in Taiwan. When we asked them what they would like to do in San Francisco, the answer was firm and clear – “Ride a cable car!” Later I learned that they actually came to SF 20 years ago but somehow didn’t get a chance to take a ride on a cable car. Wait! How many years have the cable cars been running?? Let’s find out.

The Story of San Francisco Cable Car

If you don’t see the steepness of some streets here with your own eyes, it’s hard for you to believe the cable car story. It’s the history of the city’s only moving historic landmarks.

140 years ago, Andrew Smith Hallidie witnessed some wagon horses falling down from Jackson Street to death due to its steepness. He got inspired by the unbelievable scene and partnered with the engineer William Eppelsheimer to build the cable car system. By 1890, there were 23 cable car lines operating in the city to help people get around. However, the system didn’t last very long since more efficient and cost-effective electric street cars were invented at the end of the 19th century, plus the earthquake in 1906 destroyed most of the city’s infrastructures.

Starting from 1912, only 3 cable car lines remained running till now because the routes are way too hilly for electric streetcars to navigate. It certainly becomes one of the most famous tourist attractions in San Francisco but keep in mind that it’s also a transportation method for locals, especially during non-peak season.

Cable Car Route, Schedule and Map

Powell/Hyde Line, Powell/Mason Line and California Line are the only three available cable car lines. The first two are the main lines which start off at Powell and Market heading towards to the famous destination of Fisherman’s Wharf. Visit SFMTA to find detailed cable car routes and stops.

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The cable cars normally run about every 10 minutes from 6 in the morning till 12:30 at night. Single way fare is $6.00 and the ticket can be purchased at the ticket booths that are located at the end of the lines or directly on the car from the car operator or attendant. There are also day pass, MUNI and Cable Car 7 day pass and the SF transportation pass called Clipper Card available for taking the cable cars.

Our Cable Car Ride – Powell/Mason Line

Hopping on a cable car near Union Square (Powell and Market Street) where the Powell/Mason line begins and going all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf for lunch was the plan. However, when we saw the line for cable car at Union Square, we decided to take a taxi to the destination and ride a cable car back considering that one cable car can only hold up 65 people. Didn’t really want to wait.

People waiting at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market St.

Union Square Turnaround

We paid 12 bucks for the taxi ride including tips. Farewise, 4 people taking a taxi from Powell/Mason line’s one terminal to the other is cheaper than taking the cable car. But you do not want to miss riding a cable car to experience the unbelievable hilliness in San Francisco. It’s like riding a roller coaster on the ground.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman Wharf

We knew what we were going to take the folks to eat before we left the house. It’s Darren’s Cafe! Our best buddy in life Lyman took us there after being the witness at our wedding ceremony in SF City Hall. This place offers great Pho! It’s only a few minutes walk from Bay and Taylor St. where the terminal station of cable car Powell/Mason Line is.

Our assumption was right. Absolutely no need to stand in line for taking the cable car back to downtown from Bay and Taylor St. Station.

Bay and Taylor St

Holding tight on the pole and hanging for a better view of the city

on the cable car

A Few Tips

  • Listen to the cable car operator, also known as the gripman for safety if you want to hang on to the special pole. 
  • The cable car moves by gripping an underground cable, so do not stand too close to the gripman as he needs enough space to operate the car by controlling the grip.
  • You are allowed to sit on the inside seats, sit on the outside seats which face to the streets, stand in the inside section, stand in the front and back section, also stand at the footstep area on either side of the car. Do not block other people’s way of getting on and off the car.
  • It gets chilly as the car runs up and down those road hills, so bring a windbreaker if you want to hold on to the poles.stopsign
  • You can get off at any station of the cable car routes but you should let the operator know in advance.
  • You don’t necessarily have to get on a cable car at the terminals. As a matter of fact, you are allowed to get on at any station along the routes. Simply wait at the stop where it has the cable car stop sign (see the sample on the right) and the cable car will stop for you. Make sure you wait for the car being completely stopped before climbing on.

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Our recommendation is that you have got to hop on to a San Francisco cable car at least for once as it’s the only available system of this kind left in the world!

Talk to you soon!

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