Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tips for Riding San Francisco's Cable Cars

San Francisco's cable cars are one of the city's signature attractions. Invented in 1873, cable cars have traveled up and down San Francisco's hills ever since, except for two years in the 1980s when the system was closed for repairs.

Three lines remain in San Francisco: Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason, and California Street. Tourists flock to ride the cable cars resulting in hour-long waits at the cable car turnarounds. Here are some tips to help you avoid the long waits:

Ride the California Street line. If you just want to ride a cable car and don't care about the views or don't need to go to either Union Square or Fisherman's Wharf, ride the California Street line. There are almost never lines to board the cars at the ends of the line at California Street & Van Ness Avenue and California & Market Streets. Many visitors find themselves at the foot of Market Street, near the Ferry Building, so can easily get to the Market Street end of the California Street line. If you want to go to Fisherman's Wharf or Union Square from this end, take the California Street Line to Powell Street and transfer to one of the two Powell Street lines. You will have to pay the $5 fee on both cars unless you buy a Muni Pass ($11/one day, $18/three days, $24/three days).

Ride the Powell Street lines before 9:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. The Powell-Hyde line runs from Powell and Market Streets to Aquatic Park, near the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square. This is the most popular line as it passes by the top of "The Crookedest Street in the World," Lombard Street. Long waits are not uncommon at the ends of the line. By traveling early in the day or in the evening, you may avoid a long wait.

The Powell-Mason line travels from Powell and Market Streets to Taylor and Bay Streets, near Fisherman's Wharf. This line too has long waits, so try to ride the car in the early morning or evening.

Take the Powell-Mason line from Fisherman's Wharf to Union Square. If you want to travel from Fisherman's Wharf back to Union Square, the wait for the Powell-Mason cable car at Taylor and Bay Streets is usually shorter than the wait for the Powell-Hyde cable car at Aquatic Park.

Board the Powell Street lines away from the ends of the lines. There is frequently a long wait to board the cable cars at Powell and Market Streets. Sometimes you can squeeze on the cars by just walking a few blocks up Powell Street. The further you get away from the ends of the lines, the easier it is to squeeze on a car. Many riders disembark at California and Powell Streets, Hyde and Lombard Streets (Crooked Street), and the Cable Car Museum at Washington and Mason Streets, so these are good spots to board a cable car.

I hope this information helps you to enjoy your ride on the only cable cars in an American city. If you want to take a private San Francisco tour that includes a ride on a cable car, please call me at (866) 326-4237 (toll free) or e-mail me by clicking here.

No comments: