In this age of seat belts and air bags, a rickety ride on a much-loved San Francisco cable car is an anachronistic thrill. Indeed, cable cars may not be the most practical means of transportation, but in San Francisco, a cable car ride is a must-do experience when visiting the city.
They clank up and down the city’s steep hills, carrying locals and visitors alike, some seated, some hanging onto leather straps, while standing the outer running boards. You catch a cable car two ways: at the turnaround stops at the beginning and end of the lines, or follow the tracks up a few blocks and do what the locals do: hop on when the car stops, hang on to the pole, and have your $5 fare ready to hand to the brakeman. It’s from out here that the best views of San Francisco unfold.
San Francisco has three cable car lines: California, Powell-Mason, and Powell-Hyde. The California line begins at the foot of Market Street and runs east-west along California Street through Chinatown and Nob Hill. The Powell-Mason line begins at the base of Powell and Market streets, then heads past Union Square. The Powell-Hyde line follows the same route as Powell-Mason until Jackson Street, where it turns down Hyde Street to terminate at Aquatic Park. There are seats for about 30 passengers, but sitters are often outnumbered by passengers clinging to the creaky leather straps.
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