As I stare up Powell Street from Fisherman’s Wharf…and up…and up…it becomes clear that the 19th century San Franciscans were desperate. If I had to climb that cliff they call a hill every day I would have keeled over. Or possibly invented some sort of human-powered heavy-duty rope-tow trolley system.
Nowadays, the cable cars aren’t the comfiest public transit option in San Francisco. Plus they’re part of the MUNI system, and all you locals know what that means. But they still beat the crap out of walking up Nob Hill or Powell Street or freakin’ Lombard. (Lombard’s the crooked street–build that way so that cars don’t shoot straight down it and wind up in a big steel pile at the bottom.) Here are 5 Places to Catch a Cable Car, plus basic fare information and a few links.
The seats on the cable cars are the original butt-bruising wooden wonders. BYO stadium cushion for comfortable seating. The “outside” seats come complete with the chills of fog and wind, but they’re the ones with the amazing views. “Inside” seats are protected from the wind. Sort of, mostly. I keep my coat on. On weekends, the cars get crowded and people often have to remain standing and clutch the poles to keep upright.
Famously, a couple of riders can cling to handrails on the sides of the car, essentially riding completely outside of the cable car “on the boards.” I’ll pass on that, thanks. It looks like it might be fun for healthy teenage boys, but I prefer to sit.
It’s really, really loud on the cable cars. Sound-sensitive riders might do better with earplugs.
Cable cars aren’t officially accessible–the 19th century cars don’t have lifts. But rumor has it that operators will help disabled passengers board. Ask for assistance with the steps up and down from the cars, and you’ll probably receive it. Choose one of the route terminus points for the best chance of help.