Top three questions I get asked as a local who works in the tourism industry, how do I get to the Golden Gate Bridge? Do you have any Alcatraz availability? Can we just jump on the Cable Car?
Shared iconic imagery of the bridge shrouded in fog, the historical accounts of escapes from the inescapable prison island, and the dinging bells of the world’s last remaining, manually operated cable car system.
Hallidie’s first attempt to build the cable-operated streetcar line was greeted with skepticism. On August 1, 1873, he gave the public demonstration of his people mover. By the time cable cars in San Francisco reached their zenith, in the 1880s, as many as eight different lines extending 112 miles, sent cars up Telegraph, Russian, and Nob Hills, out to the Presidio, to Golden gate park, and even as far as the Cliff House at Land’s End. With the onset of electricity in the 1890s, cable cars were gradually replaced with electric streetcars and trolleybuses.
How to ride a Cable Car? You can board at any cable car turntable (the beginning/end of each route) or any of the street designated (brown and white cable car stop sign) boarding zones. Since San Francisco is a bustling mini metropolitan city, it is good practice to wave at the oncoming cable car operator (do not run in front of the cable car!). Wait for the cable car to come to a complete stop. The cost is currently $7.00 for a one-way trip. All visitor muni passes, Clipper cards, monthly passes, MuniMobile, and cash (paid to the conductor in the rear, exact change is necessary). It is at your own risk to stand on the running boards and hang on to the outer poles as the car moves. Hang on tight, the hills and sudden starts or stops can throw you off! Do not stand in the yellow areas, keep these designated areas open for the operators to do their jobs. Wait for the cable car to come to a complete stop before disembarking. Follow these guidelines and tourists will appear to be locals. Yes, the cable car is still a viable mode of public transportation.
I have personally ridden the three remaining cable car lines in San Francisco, they all afford the rider an amazing experience! My favorite is the California Street line. Board @ California Street @ Van Ness Avenue right before sunset. This line will take you east up California Street towards Nob Hill. As the sun sets and you crest over the hill you will get a beautiful, elevated view of San Francisco and the buildings and lanterns of Chinatown lit up. You will pass Grace Cathedral, the Flood Manson, the Fairmont Hotel, and as you descend into the downtown area, you will pass Chinatown, Union Square area, and through the heart of the financial district.
As mentioned in the beginning, the cable cars of San Francisco are an attraction that needs to be experienced.
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