Cable Car History
The cable car was introduced to San Francisco on August 2, 1873. Wire-cable manufacturer Andrew Hallidie conceived the idea after witnessing an accident in which a horse-drawn carriage faltered and rolled backward downhill dragging the horses behind it.
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 building on steep hills which until this time was thought to be impossible.
Throughout the 1890s, eight transit companies operated 600 cars which covered 21 cable car routes and a total of 52.8 miles. Cable cars remained the primary mode of transportation for over 30 years, until the 1906 earthquake and the fires that destroyed most of the cable car system. As the City rebuilt, few lines were restored; a municipal railway replaced most lines.
Cable cars aren't just for tourists! They are an integral part of the City's public transit system. San Francisco’s beloved cable cars are the only vehicles of their kind still in operation and are designated National Landmarks.
The Cable Car Lines
There are three cable car lines in operation, route names appear on the front, back and roof of each car:
Powell-Mason Line (Yellow signs on car)
Begins at Market Street turnaround, ends at Fisherman's Wharf East End (Bay/Taylor Street turnaround)
Stops: Downtown (Market Street), Union Square, Nob Hill, Chinatown, Cable Car Barn & Museum, North Beach, Fishermanʼs Wharf (Bay Street)
Powell-Hyde Line (Red signs on car)
Begins at Market Street turnaround, ends at Fisherman's Wharf West End (Hyde Street turnaround - near Ghirardelli Square)
Stops: Downtown (Market Street), Union Square, Nob Hill, Chinatown, Cable Car Barn & Museum, Russian Hill, Lombard Street (crookedest street), Fishermanʼs Wharf (west end), Ghrirardelli Squarem Maritime Museum and Aquatic Park
Tips for Riding A Cable Car
- You can board a cable car at any stop IF space permits. Itʼs notnecessary to wait in line at the beginning of the route.
- Maroon and white signs mark stops. If there is no sign, a yellow band is painted between the rails. Observe the Do Not Board in This Area signs.
- When getting on mid-route, wait on the sidewalk and wave to alert the gripman to stop.
- Board on either side when the car has stopped.
- If a car is full wait for the next one.
- Keep clear of the the gripman.
- When you wish to exit wait for the cable car to stop.
- If you miss your stop, wait for the next; cable cars stop at almost every corner on their route.
- Cable cars are generally not accessible.
- Cable cars operate seven days a week from 6:30am until 12:30am.
- The fare is $7 (no transfers issued or accepted) or use your MUNI Passport or Clipper Card.
- Purchase your ticket from the conductor on board where exact change is requested.