ยป How to use the San Francisco Cable Cars

How to Use the San Francisco Cable Cars: A Comprehensive Guide

San Francisco is known for its iconic cable cars, which have been in operation since the late 1800s. These historic vehicles are not only a popular tourist attraction but also a convenient mode of transportation for locals. However, for first-time visitors, navigating the cable car system can be confusing. In this article, we will provide a comprehensive guide on how to use the San Francisco cable cars.

History of the San Francisco Cable Cars

Before we dive into the details of how to use the cable cars, let’s take a brief look at their history. The San Francisco cable car system was invented in 1873 by Andrew Smith Hallidie, a Scottish immigrant. The first cable car line opened in 1873, and by the 1890s, there were 23 lines in operation. However, the advent of electric streetcars and buses led to the decline of the cable car system, and by 1947, only three lines remained. Today, there are three cable car lines in operation: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street.

How to Use the San Francisco Cable Cars

Now that we have a brief understanding of the history of the cable cars, let’s dive into how to use them. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Know the Routes

The first step in using the cable cars is to know the routes. As mentioned earlier, there are three cable car lines in operation. The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines both start at the Powell and Market Streets turnaround, while the California Street line starts at California and Drumm Streets. Each line has different stops along the way, so it’s essential to know which line to take and where to get off.

Step 2: Purchase a Ticket

Once you know which line to take, the next step is to purchase a ticket. You can buy tickets at the cable car turnaround or at ticket booths located throughout the city. A one-way ticket costs $7, and a day pass costs $14. Keep in mind that exact change is required if you’re paying with cash.

Step 3: Board the Cable Car

When the cable car arrives at the turnaround, wait for the conductor to signal that it’s safe to board. The conductor will collect your fare and give you a ticket. If you have a day pass, show it to the conductor. Once you’re on board, hold on tight! The cable cars can be bumpy, and there are no seat belts.

Step 4: Enjoy the Ride

Sit back and enjoy the ride! The cable cars offer stunning views of the city, and they’re a great way to get around. If you’re taking the Powell-Hyde or Powell-Mason lines, be sure to look out for Lombard Street, the “crookedest street in the world.” If you’re taking the California Street line, you’ll get a great view of the Financial District.

Step 5: Get Off at Your Stop

When you reach your stop, pull the bell cord to signal to the conductor that you want to get off. The conductor will stop the cable car, and you can exit. Be sure to watch your step, as the cable cars can be high off the ground.

Tips for Using the San Francisco Cable Cars

Here are some tips to keep in mind when using the San Francisco cable cars:

  • Get in line early: The cable cars can get crowded, especially during peak tourist season. Get in line early to avoid long waits.
  • Hold on tight: The cable cars can be bumpy, so hold on tight to the handrails.
  • Don’t lean out: It’s tempting to lean out of the cable car to take photos, but it’s not safe. Stay inside the car and take photos through the windows.
  • Be patient: The cable cars can be slow, especially when going uphill. Be patient and enjoy the ride.
  • Be prepared for the weather: San Francisco weather can be unpredictable, so be prepared for rain or wind.


Here are some frequently asked questions about using the San Francisco cable cars:

1. Are the cable cars accessible for people with disabilities?

Unfortunately, the cable cars are not accessible for people with disabilities. However, the city does offer a Paratransit program for eligible riders.

2. Can I bring my bike on the cable car?

No, bikes are not allowed on the cable cars.

3. Can I use my Clipper card on the cable cars?

Yes, you can use your Clipper card to pay for cable car fares.

4. What is the best time of day to ride the cable cars?

The best time of day to ride the cable cars is early in the morning or late at night when there are fewer crowds.

5. Can I take the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf?

Yes, you can take the Powell-Mason or Powell-Hyde line to Fisherman’s Wharf.


The San Francisco cable cars are a unique and historic mode of transportation that offer stunning views of the city. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can easily navigate the cable car system and enjoy a memorable ride. Remember to get in line early, hold on tight, and be patient. Happy riding!

Read more: How to Use the San Francisco Cable Cars – A Comprehensive Guide.

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