How to Ride the Cable Car in San Francisco

San Francisco’s iconic cable cars began operating in 1873 and have been a city staple ever since. They’re so beloved that they were named 1 of only 2 National Historic Streetcar Landmarks in the U.S! Seeing San Francisco by cable car will not only save your legs from hiking San Francisco’s steep hills, but will also help you see this beautiful city in a memorable, unique way.

EditSteps
EditChoosing a Line
Choose the Powell/Mason line to stop near Fisherman’s Wharf. This line starts at Powell Street and winds towards Fisherman’s Wharf. It passes by the base of Lombard Street, also known as “the world’s crookedest street,” so you can look up and see a picture-perfect view of the twisting road. If you take the line all the way to the Wharf, you’ll be surrounded by great restaurants to grab a sit-down meal or a quick snack.[1]
To see a map of the Powell-Mason line, use this link: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/pm-ph_mason-hyde_pdf_0.pdf

Take the Powell/Hyde line to go to Ghirardelli Square or Lombard Street. The Powell/Hyde line begins right near the Powell/Mason line but takes a few different turns. The line ends near Ghirardelli Square, where you can get ice cream and chocolate or go shopping. It passes near the top of Lombard Street, where you can get off to take a look at the famous road or stay on to see a great view of Alcatraz Island.[2]
This line will also end near Fisherman’s Wharf, although the Powell/Mason ends a bit closer.

Use this link to see a map of the Powell/Hyde line: https://www.sfmta.com/maps/powellhyde-cable-car-pdf-map

Hop on the California/Van Ness line to check out the Nob Hill. This line heads through the Financial District to the top of Nob Hill. If you get off here, you can roam through some of the luxury hotels in the area and enjoy beautiful views of the city from their top floors. At other stops, you can enjoy beautiful cathedral architecture, bars, and lots of shops.[3]
Unlike the Powell lines, this car has no turnaround. It will stop at Van Ness Street and simply had back the other way.

You can view a map of the California line here: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/c_california_pdf.pdf

Check the line schedule to see how often cars arrive. The cars operate from about 6:30am-12:30 pm, although the Powell/Hyde line starts at 6:00am. For the most part, cars arrive every 6-10 minutes. On weekends or late at night, they might come every 10-15 minutes. They might run behind schedule on rainy days, since they need longer to slow down on the wet tracks.
For a Powell/Mason line schedule, use this link: https://www.sfmta.com/routes/powellmason-cable-car

For a Powell/Hyde line schedule, see this link: https://www.sfmta.com/routes/powellhyde-cable-car

To see a California/Van Ness line schedule, click here: https://www.sfmta.com/routes/california-cable-car

EditBuying a Ticket
Buy a Visitor Passport if you’re in town for a while. A Visitor Passport gives you unlimited rides on the cable cars as well as on streetcars, Muni busses, and Muni Metro. You can buy the pass for 1, 3, or 7 consecutive days of use. A 1-day pass is $22, a 3-day pass is $33, and a 7-day pass is $44.[4]
You can buy Visitor Passports on the MuniMobile app and at sales locations throughout the city. A map of sales locations is available here: https://www.sfmta.com/where-buy-sfmta-products?field_related_fares_target_id=618

Prices are subject to change.

Get a CityPASS if you want to explore museums too. A CityPASS includes 3 days of unlimited rides on the cable cars, Muni, and Muni Metro. It also comes with an admission ticket to many different tourist attractions, including the Aquarium of the Bay, the Exploratorium, and a Bay cruise. It costs $89, and can be bought online at the CityPASS website: https://www.citypass.com/san-francisco?mv_source=muni&campaign=fares[5]
You can also buy a CityPASS at any of their partner attractions. Visit their website to see what attractions qualify.

Though this option is pricier, it could be worth it if you want to see lots of museums and attractions. At some destinations, you may also be able to skip the line.

Buy a ticket through the MuniMobile app for convenience. Download the app to your smartphone and buy a ticket using a credit card, debit card, or your PayPal account. This is the only way to buy tickets ahead of time and online, so it might be the most convenient for some riders. Simply show the ticket on your phone to the driver when you board.[6]

Use a Clipper Card if you use SF public transportation often. If you live in the Bay Area or if you’ll be there for more than 2 weeks, the most convenient option may be a Clipper Card. You can buy a card for $3 at retailers around the Bay Area or by ordering it online. You can use your Clipper Card for all Bay Area public transportation, including the cable cars, BART, CalTrain, and MUNI.[7]
You can add money to your card online, over the phone, or in person at a retailer.

To see where you can purchase a Clipper Card, take a look at this map: https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/map.do

You can order a Clipper Card online here: https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/getTranslink.do

Pay the driver in cash for a single trip. A single ride for both adults and children costs $7. Seniors and disabled riders can pay $3. You can give your money to the cable car’s conductor as you board.[8]
You can also purchase a single ride ticket at ticket booths around the Powell and Market Street turnaround, as well as the Hyde and Beach turnaround.

Remember to bring small bills along, as change is often not available.

This might be the easiest option if you’re only taking one trip on the cable car.

EditHopping On Board
Get to the turnaround before 9:00am during summer tourist season. The cable cars can get extremely crowded during peak tourist season in the summer, and riders that board at the main turnaround stops often wait in long lines before they can get on. To avoid this, get to the turnaround before the big crowds show up and see the city in an early, more intimate setting.[9]

Board at a turnaround to enjoy the full route. The cable car turnarounds, also known as turntables, are at the beginning and end of each route. Boarding here will get you the best value for your money, since you’ll be able to enjoy the full route instead of joining midway through the ride.[10]
Only the Powell lines use a turnaround, because they only have one grip end to hold the cable with. The California line has a cable grip on either side, so it can simply reverse and head back down the route. You can still board at the end or beginning of the line, but you won’t get to see the cars being turned.

The turnaround for both Powell lines is at the intersection of Powell and Market Street, near Union Square.

Get on in the middle of the route for a shorter wait time. Look for a cable car stop, which will be indicated with a brown and white sign that says “MUNI Cable Car Stop” and provides the line information. The car will stop for you, so you don’t need to wave it down. You’ll have to pay the full fare and will have to get off at the end of the route, no matter how late you got on.[11]
There will be less of a line at a stop than at a turnaround, but you might have a hard time finding a seat during tourist season since most other passengers are already on board.

Have your ticket or fare out to show the attendant. Once you’re on board, take a seat or find your standing area. Get out your ticket or get ready to pay your fare, as an attendant will be coming around to collect them.[12]

Don’t try to bring your bike on board. Neither full-size bicycles or folding bikes are allowed on the cable cars. If you need to transport them, look into other Muni routes–they’re allowed on all Muni busses.[13]

EditChoosing a Seat
Sit in the interior for the most comfortable ride. Once on board, you can sit in the outside or inside seats, or stand in the back or on either side. The interior seats will be the warmest and most comfortable, but you won’t have as good of a view as the outer seats or standing areas.[14]

Stand and hold one of the outer poles if you feel adventurous. Hold tight to the pole and take a firm, stable stance on the footboard. Keep your feet and arms tucked up against you and watch the road to avoid any accidents. You’ll be a bit exposed here, but you’ll have a great view and get to enjoy the classic cable car experience.[15]
To get the very best views, stand on the running board at the front of the car.

Sit on the side facing the bay for the best views. In the Powell cable cars, sit or stand on the right side when you’re leaving downtown, or on the left side as you’re leaving Fisherman’s Wharf. This will give you the best views of the Bay as you trundle up and down the hills.[16]

Hang on tight and keep your bags nearby. The cars can get a bit jerky, which might cause your to trip or your bags to slide. Hold your bags in your lap or between your legs. If you’re standing, keep a firm grip on the pole and keep yourself balanced by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.[17]

Hold your service animal in your lap in the interior of the car. If you can’t keep your service animal in your lap, make sure it’s as far out of the aisle as possible. If you must ride in the exterior area of the car, you’ll have to keep your animal on your lap for their safety.[18]

EditTransferring Lines and Disembarking
Tell the driver your stop if it’s a slow day. As you board the bus, let them know what stop you’re getting off at. You can also walk up to them as you near the stop, but try to do so while the car isn’t moving. Cable car drivers typically pull over at every stop, and they will always stop if it’s tourist season or the bus is crowded. If the car isn’t very full, though, it’s best to tell them your stop to make sure they’ll pull over when it’s time.[19]
If you must get up while the car is moving, walk slowly and carefully. Hold on to the seats and poles for balance as you pass.

Wait for the car to come to a complete stop before exiting carefully. Check the street as you get out, making sure there are no cars nearby. Stop, listen, and check both ways before you cross the cable car intersection. Remember that the green “X” signal on a cable car traffic light is telling cable cars to go, not pedestrians![20]

Disembark at the Powell stop to easily transfer. If you want to try more than one line, it’s easiest to do so on the Powell lines at either turnaround. If you’re boarding the other line, you’ll need to buy a new ticket.[21]
You can also transfer to other forms of public transportation at the Powell and Market Street turnaround. For a full list of possible transfers, look at the Powell line map: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/pm-ph_mason-hyde_pdf_0.pdf

Take a bus or walk if you’re transferring to or from the California line. There are bus lines servicing almost all of the stops along the California line. Take a look at them beforehand to see when you should get on or off, and ask the cable car operator if you have any questions.
You can see a map of the California line with transfers here: https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/c_california_pdf.pdf

Enjoy the sights of San Francisco! This city on the Bay is one of the most unique in the world, and seeing it by cable car is one of the most interesting ways to do it! Look out the windows, hold tight to the rails, and enjoy your cable car adventure.

EditTips
If you’re in San Francisco in July, you may be able to catch the annual cable car bell ringing contests in Union Square. The cable car gripmen compete to see who can ring their bells in the most interesting, creative rhythms, drawing a big crowd of locals and tourists alike.

To learn more about the San Francisco cable cars, head to the Cable Car Museum, on the corner of Mason St. and Washington St. in San Francisco. Admission is free, and you’ll be able to see some historic cable cars and watch the actual engines work as they pull the cars up and down the hills.

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EditQuick Summary
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Today in History for 14th March 2019

Historical Events

1903 – 1st national bird reservation established in Sebastian, Florida
1908 – Stanley Cup, Montreal Arena, Westmount, Quebec: Montreal Wanderers beat Toronto Professionals, 6-4
1960 – Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia) sets NBA playoff record of 53 points
1971 – Barbra Streisand appears on “The Burt Bacharach Special” on CBS TV
1993 – Meg Mallon wins LPGA Ping/Welch’s Golf Championship
2013 – 25 people are killed and 50 are wounded by a series of car bombings in Baghdad, Iraq

More Historical Events »

Famous Birthdays

1790 – Ludwig Emil Grimm, German painter and engraver, born in Hanau, Germany (d. 1863)
1906 – Ulvi Cemal Erkin, composer
1916 – Horton Foote, American author, playwright and screenwriter
1930 – Ray Flockton, cricketer (prolific NSW batsman of 50’s)
1933 – Quincy Jones Jr, American composer and singer (We Are The World), born in Chicago, Illinois
1947 – Jimmy O’Rourke, rocker

More Famous Birthdays »

Famous Deaths

968 – Matilda of Ringelheim, German Queen (c. 895)
1801 – Christian Friedrich Penzel, German musician and composer, dies at 63
1903 – Johannes H Weissenbruch, Dutch landscape painter, dies at 88
1933 – Balto, husky dog who brought back the antitoxin in 1925
1976 – Busby Berkeley, US choreographer/dir (Strike Up the Band), dies at 80
1991 – Howard Ashman, song writer (Under the Sea), dies of AIDs at 40

More Famous Deaths »

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How to Decorate a Sofa Table Behind a Couch

Sofa tables are a great way to utilize space in a living room. When decorating your sofa table, remember that you want the table to be as practical as possible. Make space to store your remotes and favorite books. Include a few lamps on the table to create a warm and inviting space. When assembling your accessories, try to create a balance of height and color across the table. Have fun decorating your table, and remember to express your personal style as much as possible and include items that are meaningful to you!

EditSteps
EditChoosing Accessories
Add a lamp or 2 to create a warm atmosphere on your couch. Lighting is one of the most effective ways to create a pleasant atmosphere in a space. Position a lamp on one side of the table to create a striking look, or place lamps on either side of the table to make a symmetrical look. Choose light bulbs that have yellow tones instead of blue tones to create a warmer atmosphere.[1]
Choose lamps that fit with your personal style and match the colors in the rest of your room.

Make sure the lamps are proportional to the size of your sofa table so they look good together.

Purchase boxes or dishes to store remotes. Most homes have at least a few remotes, and you can keep them all in one handy place on your sofa table. If you have lots of remotes, a box is a good way to keep them all in one place. If you only have 1 or 2 remotes, a shallow dish is an aesthetically pleasing way to store the remotes.[2]
If you have lots of remotes that you don’t use often, store them in the drawer if your sofa table has one or somewhere out of sight. Only place the remotes you use most days on the sofa table. Keeping the sofa table uncluttered will make it look much more elegant.

Include candles or diffusers to add decoration and scent. Add nice smells to your living room to make the area feel inviting and luxurious. Choose a decorative candle that fits the color scheme of your lounge and has a pleasant scent. Use multiple candles to create a trendy look, but be cautious of combining too many scents as this can become overwhelming. [3]
If you have small children or rowdy pets, candles on sofa tables are best for decorative purposes rather than for functionality. Sofa tables often get bumped making them an unsafe place for open flames, so stick to battery-operated candles instead.

Purchase candles and diffusers from homeware stores.

Potpourri makes great decoration as well as making your home smell great!

Add a plant to the table if you want to create a fresh atmosphere. Plants help to improve the air quality in a room and can heighten people’s sense of wellbeing. If you want your plants to be a focal point of the table, choose a large plant with thick leaves. If you want the plants to be a small feature, choose a delicate plant with small, thin leaves.[4]
A rubber fig is a beautiful indoor plant with thick leaves. If you want a more delicate option, the maidenhair fern is a lovely option.

If you struggle to keep plants alive, consider choosing an artificial plant or a cactus.

Choose a flowering pot plant if you want to add color to the table.

Check to see if the plants are poisonous to pets before putting them in your home.

Stack a few of your favorite books or magazines in a tidy pile. Sofa tables work best if they are practical. If you love to read, include a few books on your sofa table so that they are within easy reach for reading. Stack the books so that the table doesn’t look cluttered.[5]
Place a book with a nice cover on the top of the stack.

Choose books that are similar in size so that the stack doesn’t fall over.

If you don’t like reading, consider having a few interesting coffee table books on the table for guests to browse through.

Pick a few favorite ornaments to add a personal touch to the table. Less is more when it comes to sofa tables. Keeping the space uncluttered will make the area feel peaceful. However, a few meaningful items will make the table feel more personal and less stark. Choose a few ornaments that are meaningful to you and match the colors in your living room.[6]
If there is a stack of books on your table, consider placing a small ornament on top of the stack. This will add multiple layers to the space.

A pinecone, a small figurine, or a small clock are all good options.

Switch out the ornaments each season to keep your decor looking fresh.

Place stools or chairs around the table if there is room. If your sofa table and couch are in the middle of the room, a good way to maximize the utility of the table is to add seating. This enables the table to be used as a dining table as well as allows you to pull out extra chairs when you have guests. Choose chairs that aren’t too chunky so that they don’t distract from the table. Place the chairs behind the table rather than at the side of the table.[7]
If you think that chairs will make the room look too cluttered, consider purchasing ottomans instead. These can be pushed under the table when they aren’t be used.

Generally, 2 or 3 chairs will fit comfortably under most sofa tables.

Add decorative baskets or store extra items under the table if it has a bottom shelf.

EditConsidering Design Principles
Add height to your sofa table if you have high ceilings. The side table will look most effective if the height of the objects on the table are proportionate to the height of the room. If you have low ceilings, keep the decorations on the table fairly low. If the ceilings are high, pick taller objects to display on the table.[8]
Consider stacking objects to create height. For example, place an ornament on top of a magazine box.

Lamps, vases, and plants are simple ways to add height to the table.

Balance the height of objects on the table. Create an aesthetically pleasing space distributing your decorations across the table in a symmetrical manner. The objects don’t have to be the same in order to create symmetry. Simply look for objects that are similar heights.[9]
For example, if you have a tall plant on one side of the table, place a tall candle or lamp at the other end of the table.

Space apart the tall items so they aren’t all together.

Distribute color evenly across the table. Avoid using bright blue at one end of the table and lime green at the other end of the table. Instead, use similar colors at each end to create symmetry. This can be achieved through small splashes of color.[10]
For example, have an orange sculpture at one end of the table and a photograph of an orange sunset at the other end of the table.

Use one brightly colored decoration to draw attention to it.

Choose a large conversational object to be the focal point of the table. Spaces work best when there is a focal point in the middle. Sofa tables are often used when hosting guests so consider choosing items that will generate conversation. Interesting books and items that you purchased when traveling are good options.[11]
The focal point is a good way to integrate color into the table, especially if the rest of the decorations are neutral colors. Choose an item that complements the color of the walls and couches. Don’t be afraid to pick a bold or bright color.

EditTips
You don’t need to fill the table completely. Just using a few items can make a huge impact.

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