Career of a Lifetime: From Childhood Cable Car Rider to Cable Car Grip

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

A cable car operator standing in front of a cable car.

Grip Jose Macasocol with Cable Car 12 at the Cable Car Barn in Nob Hill.

Some people might assume that only tourists ride cable cars, but we know that locals use them, too. In fact, the easiest way for young Jose Macasocol to get to Spring Valley Elementary School in the late 90s was by cable car. 

“It was more convenient because the buses were always full,” the now 33-year-old cable car operator, or grip, explained. “The cable cars sometimes were crowded, too, but they ran so frequently.”

Macasocol has memories of riding the iconic cars with his parents when he was as young as four or five years old. But he didn’t plan back then to become a grip when he grew up. A mid-college career change eventually led him to Muni. And now, you could say that he’s come full circle.  

Growing up on cable cars

Macasocol was born and raised in the Nob Hill neighborhood. His mother also was born in San Francisco, and his grandmother immigrated to the city from Taiwan. Both women rode cable cars all the time, even before Macasocol was born. Once he started riding, Macasocol didn’t just take the cable car to elementary school. He took it at least part of the way to class in both middle school and high school. And he rode on weekends.

“I used to take cable cars to Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square and Union Square to meet up with friends,” Macasocol said. “It was definitely a nice way to get around.” 

An aspiring policeman becomes a Muni operator

Macasocol studied criminal justice at City College of San Francisco. He wanted to be a police officer but changed his mind while still in school. After college, Macasocol worked at the Omni Hotel, at a gift shop and for a vitamin company. He wasn’t sure what might come next until he applied to work for Muni.

“I became a Muni operator in 2014 and started at the Presidio Division because I wanted to drive the 1 California bus,” he said. “It’s my favorite line aside from the cable cars.” 

Macasocol then learned to operate different types of Muni vehicles and drove the F Market historic street cars for almost two years. In 2021, he transferred to the Cable Car Division. 

A cable car operator stands in a cable car.

Grip Jose Macasocol on board Cable Car 12 at the Cable Car Barn.

Once a young passenger, now a grip

Cable car gripping is not easy. The grip operates the lever that grabs hold of the cable to propel the car. It takes strength, coordination and attention. Macasocol once noticed a rider who was leaning too far out and was in danger of being hit by another cable car running in the opposite direction. He had to reach over and pull the man back into his car. 

But Macasocol is happy in the job. On top of the physical demands, gripping has helped him develop his customer service skills. Plus, the 150-year-old cable car system is beloved. 

“Cable cars bring people to San Francisco,” he said. “People from all over the country and the world are excited to ride the cable cars.”

Our cable cars are National Historical Monuments that, like the Golden Gate Bridge, have come to represent San Francisco. By working as grip, Macasocol is able to serve his lifelong home in a unique and special way. He also still rides the cars to this day. 

And even though being a cable car grip wasn’t Macasocol’s first choice for his career, it makes sense, given how much time he has spent on the cars. “If someone told me when I was a kid that I’d end up doing this for a living,” he said, “I wouldn’t have been surprised.” 

To learn more about cable cars, including their history and how to buy tickets, visit our cable cars webpage (

To learn how to become a Muni operator, visit our Muni operator career webpage (