An iconic symbol of San Francisco, the Cable Car is truly unique in today’s world. Its the last manually operated cable car system in the world, so tourist from all over the globe flock to cable car stops around the city to take a ride on a piece of history. At one time there were a total of 23 cable car lines across the city, but only 3 remain today. Whether you are visiting the city or live in the San Francisco Bay Area, taking a ride on a cable car is a fun activity for people of any age.
The San Francisco Cable Cars were listed as a National Historic Monument, along with other popular San Francisco attractions like Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason, Ghirardelli Square, the USS Hornet Museum and more. The idea to create a cable car system to the city began back in 1869, originally introduced by Andrew Smith Hallidie. The idea was put into motion and led to the debut of the first cable car route in 1873, the Clay Street Hill Railroad. The first run was on August 2, 1873 and by September 1, the line began regular service. The concept expanded rapidly in the late 1800s, with all 23 cable car lines being developed by 1890. Despite the initial success of the lines, advances in technology eventually eroded away the efficacy of the mode of transportation. The introduction of electric street cars and eventually the invention of the automobile gradually caused many of the lines to shut down. By 1947, there were only 3 lines remaining, the ones that are currently operating today.
Today, the cable cars are still used by some for commuting purposes, but the majority of riders are visitors who want to experience a piece of history. The three lines that run daily are the California Cable Car, the Powell/Hyde Cable Car. One of the lines runs from Market & California, ending at Van Ness Ave, while two different lines start near Union Square at Market & Powell, continuing on to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Cable Car Tickets
To take a ride on the cable car, you must purchase tickets in advance from the SFMTA website or use the official MuniMobile App, a Clipper Card or pay cash.