Riding the cable cars in SF

Jul 31st, 2004, 11:25 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 551
Riding the cable cars in SF

We will be in SF in mid-Sept and one of the things we look forward to doing is riding the cable cars. I have read through many posts and some people indicate it is very hard to get on the cars, especially in some areas. We will be in SF from Wednesday afternoon until around noon on Friday. Is it easier to ride the cars before and after rush hour? We are staying at Columbus Motor Inn. Where is the closest place to catch the cable car? Some of the posts I read say to hop on and off the cars and explore the neighborhoods, but I wonder how difficult it will be to get back on? Others suggest riding them from one end of the line to the other. I have ordered a map from MUNI so I hope this will help me better understand the routes of each line and where the stops are.

I think I read recently that each ride is $3 - can somebody tell me if that is correct? If so, I'm we would be better off to buy a pass, assuming we would be able to get off and on several times. I believe a 1 day pass is $9 and a 3 day pass is $15.

Thanks for any suggestions! Looking forward to a wonderful trip to SF.
mlm59 is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 01:02 PM
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Call the Columbus Motor Inn and ask them about the info on the trolleys.
They could probably tell you what you need to know or would be able to direct you to someone who could.
tcapp is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 01:55 PM
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Cable cars are a definite must ride - the only mobile historical landmark in the country.

The California line is the least crowded and easiest to hop on and off. The Powell lines are more crowded because they go from downtown to the Fisherman's Wharf area. During peak times, it's pretty much impossible to board anywhere except the turn arounds at the end of the line - with people waiting in line for sometimes over an hour to get on. They are a huge tourist attraction. Weekday mornings are probably your best bet for an uncrowded ride. At that time of the day, you might be able to easily hop on and off.

I would suggest getting a transit pass which will allow you unlimited rides on cable cars, buses, lightrail, and streetcars. This way you can take public transit all over town and not worry about it. Check out www.sfmuni.com for details on price and where to buy your passes.

Cable cars aren't really affected by rush hour because they are more of a tourist attraction than a mode of transportation for people in SF. They used to be used more for transportation when there were more cable car lines, but now there are only 3 and they mostly serve the tourists.
J_Correa is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 03:00 PM
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I would get the transit pass. Last Sept we bought a three days pass (I don't think it was more than $10 a person or less). You can ride just about everything with that, we took a bus one day to Golden Gate Park and to the Exploratorium and it was fairly easy to figure out. We took quite a few cable car rides so it was worth the pass! Not sure where your hotel is but they had a booth where you can buy passes right near the cable car stop near Ghiradelli Square.
lenleigh is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 03:08 PM
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The muni pass is a must. There are no transfers on the cable cars. Once you get off, without the pass, you have to pay again to get back on another line.

We had a great time riding the cars, even though we had to wait in some long lines.
Budman is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 03:49 PM
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mikemo is offline  
Jul 31st, 2004, 06:12 PM
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The Powell/Mason turnaround at Bay & Taylor is right around the cormer from the Columbus Motor Inn. I was in SF last week. The wait, weekday mornings, was about 1/2 hour at the Powell/Hyde turnaround at Hyde & Beach. But, what a lovely place to wait!

They do not fill each car to capacity, so there is a bit of room for folks to hop on along the route. Don't try waiting at the second or third stop to skip the line, though, as this will fool no one.

My recommendation would be to endure the line and ride the entire route at the beginning of the day and use the buses and streetcars (the "F" line is fabulous) for getting around and exploring the neighborhoods. If you download the MUNI map from the website, you can crop and print, fold up and carry in your pocket. It is an excellent street map as well.

I would agree that the California line is nearly never busy.

After 8PM or so, there are no crowds on the Powell lines and you can ride them back and forth as many times as you like with no waits. We did this last Saturday night, and it was awesome!

The three-day passport is $15. You will be able to get on and off several times each day, but you may have to wait a while at the busiest times.
djkbooks is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2004, 03:35 PM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 19,419
It's a very smart thing to do - to order a MUNI map - the only map which has bus lines clearly marked.

The end stop of one of the cable car lines is on California @ Van Ness, it may be within walking distance from your hotel. Never seen a line there. Take it all the way to Embarcadero market on Saturday. Or to ferry to Sausalito on any day.
FainaAgain is offline  
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