How to Ride Cable Cars
What You'll Need
1Plan Your Trip
Pick a Cable Car Line
There are three cable car lines: the Powell-Hyde Line, the Powell-Mason Line and the California Line.
Powell-Hyde & Powell-Mason lines
The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines both begin at Market Street and stop at Union Square. The Powell-Hyde Line ends near Ghiradelli Square, and the Powell-Mason Line ends at Bay Street in Fisherman's Wharf.
California Street Line
The California Street Line runs east-west from Van Ness Avenue to the Financial District. It crosses the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines at California Street/Powell Street in Nob Hill.
Unfortunately, the cable cars are not generally accessible.
Visiting the Cable Car Museum
The Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason lines stop at the Cable Car Museum, and the California Line stop at Mason Street is just three blocks north of the museum. If you plan to visit the museum during the summer, we highly recommend you plan an alternate return trip. Cable cars get very crowded mid-route and you may not be able to get a ride back!
2Find Your Stop
Riders can board at any cable car turntable (the beginning/end of each route) or anywhere this brown and white stop sign is posted. The signs on Powell Street Cable Cars are color coded: the yellow signs will head towards Bay and Taylor streets, and the red signs will head towards Aquatic Park.
Wait for the Cable Car
Cable cars move quietly. Please be cautious, especially at night or in the fog. Stop, look and listen carefully before crossing cable car intersections. Please remember that the green "X" traffic signal is the “go ahead” signal for cable cars, not pedestrians. Listen for a bell ringing—it will be a cable car signaling its arrival.
3Board & Pay
Boarding a Cable Car
Seating on cable cars is very limited. If you can, offer your seat to elderly or disabled riders if your car gets crowded! Riders may stand on the running boards and hang onto the outer poles as the car moves. Riders do so at their own risk. Do not lean out while standing on the running boards. Please be cautious and do not let go of the poles when the car is stopped if you plan to keep riding.
Collapsible strollers are typically not allowed on Cable Cars due to limited space. Ask the operator if there is room for a folded stroller. If the operator determines there is space for the stroller and it fits on the back board, the stroller must be folded and placed on the back board.
Boarding at Mid-line Stops
If you are boarding from a cable car stop and not at the end of a line, please wait on the sidewalk and wave to request the Grip Operator to stop. Wait for the cable car to come to a complete stop before you board. You can enter on either end or side of the car.
- Be visible so the Grip or Conductor can see you.
- Never run in front of a cable car—it may not be able to stop in time!
- Remember, you may only board a cable car if there is enough room!
Paying With Cash
If you're paying your fare with cash or coins, pay the Conductor directly. Cable car tickets cannot be used as transfers to regular Muni buses and streetcars. If you are riding round-trip or plan to transfer to Muni, we recommend purchasing a 1-Day Visitor Passport.
Paying With Clipper® Cash, Monthly & Visitor Passes
All visitor passes, Clipper® cash, and monthly passes are accepted for cable car rides.
4Follow the Crew's Instructions
The Conductor is located toward the rear of the cable car. Conductors are responsible for collecting fares, announcing stops and ensuring passenger safety. When a cable car is descending a hill, the Conductor will operate the rear brakes. Do not stand behind the Grip operator and please keep yellow floor area clear for operators as they need this area clear so that they can operate the brakes of the vehicle.
The driver of a Cable Car is known as the Grip Operator, or "gripman." Grip Operators are located in the front of the car and are responsible for propeling and stopping the 15,500 pound vehicles—that's three times heavier than a pickup truck! They need to move around to do their job, so make sure to give them plenty of room to work.
Cable cars are famous for their bells! There are two bells in every cable car. The Conductor rings a small bell to communicate with the Grip Operator. The Grip Operator rings a large bell to warn pedestrians and other vehicles. You will hear this bell when you're waiting at a stop. Please do not pull the bell cords inside the Cable Car.
Cable cars have special poles on the outside of the car that you can hold onto as you stand. If you choose to ride this way, do not lean outward and pay close attention to the Grip Operator's warnings of potential hazards. If you choose to sit, remember to show courtesy to elderly, disabled customers and pregnant women. If you're traveling with children, make sure they stay close to you. And above all else: hold on tight!
Please wait for the cable car to come to a complete stop before you step off or stand to exit. The Conductor or Grip Person will announce when it is safe to exit. Once you have hopped off, enjoy the rest of your day, and thanks for riding our cable cars!