Taken with Transportation Podcast: Celebrating Culture and Community on a Cable Car

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

People standing and kneeling on and in front of a stationary cable car and on the tracks.SFMTA staffers celebrate the launch ride of the 2023 Filipino American History Cable Car.

Specially decorated cable cars climb the hills of San Francisco throughout the year in honor of different communities, cultures and history months. These cars help us celebrate the diversity of our staff and of the city as a whole, and the latest episode of Taken with Transportation, “Celebrating Culture and Community on a Cable Car,” takes you on board. 

The program is the brainchild of SFMTA Cable Car Division Manager Fred Butler, who came up with the idea in early 2022. “We’d normally decorate a car for the Lunar New Year, and I sat back and was like, ‘We should do something for every type of person that’s here at the agency’,” Butler says. “And seeing that February was, you know, Black History Month, I said, ‘Let’s do a Black History car’.” 

Butler worked with the agency’s Office of Racial Equity and Belonging on the idea, and the two 2022 Black History Month cable cars were so popular, we now run more than half a dozen heritage, culture and history cable cars for a month each. 

Photos and paper decorations inside a cable car.Inside one of the inaugural Black History Month cable cars in 2022.

In the episode, host Melissa Culross hops on board the Filipino American History Cable Car and the Native American Heritage Cable Car, alongside agency staffers and SFMTA Board of Directors member Lydia So. 

“This event is amazing,” Director So says.” It kind of brings everyone together, and being part of the AAPI community, I love that we elevate everybody’s voices.” 

Maisha Tawasha, who works in the agency’s peer assistance program, rides all the heritage and culture cable cars when they launch. “I feel it’s just important to represent all the different racial groups that make up the SFMTA,” she says. “The more we can celebrate each other, then it’s just best for everybody.” 

The first run of each heritage and culture cable car is for staff and special guests only, and then the public rides for the month that the car is decorated. You can find “Celebrating Culture and Community on a Cable Car” and all the episodes of Taken with Transportation on our podcast page (SFMTA.com/Podcast).