San Francisco is one of the few places in the world where people can ride on a national historic landmark. The cable cars are the world's last manually operated cable car system, a tramway whose cars are pulled along by cables embedded in the street.
These right-out-of-the-Smithsonian cable cars were named a national historic landmark in 1964. Refurbished and equipped with new tracks, cables, turnarounds and cable propulsion machinery, they operate much as they did on Aug. 2, 1873 when Andrew S. Hallidie guided the first car down the Clay Street grade.
General Visitor Info
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) runs three cable car lines. The three cable lines are:
Powell-Hyde (Running from Hallidie Plaza to Fisherman's Wharf via Powell and Hyde Streets.)
Powell-Mason (Running from Hallidie Plaza to Fisherman's Wharf via Powell and Mason Streets.)
California Street (Running from Market Street to Van Ness Avenue via California Street.)
Once upon a time, cable car lines serviced the entire city. Today, only three lines remain, but they can take you to some of San Francisco's most popular neighborhoods.
Get more information on the neighborhoods here.
How to Ride
Visitors must purchase a ticket to ride the cable cars. A single ride costs $7, no matter your age or the time of day. You can pay with exact change or via the MuniMobile app or a Clipper card. You can purchase unlimited rides with a SFMTA visitor passport, which are available at our Visitor Information Centers.
There are designated cable car stops along each route. Line up and wait for the cable car to approach and come to a full stop. Be aware of your surroundings as you step from the curb; cable cars share the road with cars and buses. Listen to the cable car operator's instructions for where you may sit or stand. Payment will be collected after you board.
For more information about getting around San Francisco, click here.
You can find out about the history of San Francisco's cable cars—and even see the enormous mechanisms that keep the system running—at the San Francisco Cable Car Museum (1201 Mason St.). This fun attraction is open every day of the year (except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day) and is always free.
Did You Know?
- 9.7 million people ride the cable cars each year.
- Building a cable car is an exacting art that takes several dozen craftsmen 18 to 24 months to complete.
- Streetcars are different from cable cars
- World War II opened up cable car jobs for African-Americans and women. Maya Angelou was a cable car conductor.
- Muni holds a cable car ringing competition every year.
Movies that feature the cable cars include:
- The Rock (1996)
- Memiors of an Invisible Man (1992)
- Foul Play (1978)
- In Harm's Way (1965)
- The Birds (1963)