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Thursday, May 7, 2009

So, the Disabled Cable Car Has Been Replaced With a Bus (Again). Do You Still Need to Fork Over $5 To Ride It?

Posted By on Thu, May 7, 2009 at 5:30 AM

click to enlarge Call the bus! A disabled cable car is towed up California Street.
  • Call the bus! A disabled cable car is towed up California Street.
Imagine the disappointment: You trek to San Francisco from Paris or Prior Lake or parts unknown hoping to ride on our city's iconic cable cars. And yet, upon reaching your destination, you discover that the cable cars are on the fritz -- you'll have to settle for a ride up the hill in a noisy old Muni bus.

You wanted to leave your heart in San Francisco. Instead, someone has left something wholly other on the seat next to you.

The notion of replacing the cable cars with a bus -- something of the equivalent of hanging an "out of order" sign on an amusement park's star roller coaster and directing patrons to the teacup ride -- prompts several questions.

First of all, does riding a "cable car bus" up the hill cost $5 each way -- and will Gavin Newsom stroll by incognito to nab allegedly embezzling operators?

The answer, thankfully, is "no" -- though we'd love to see what Newsom looks like when he's trying to blend in with a crowd. Muni spokeswoman Kristen Holland confirms that when you ride the bus, you pay bus rates -- period.

That brings up another question -- how many people ride the cable car bus? Unlike nearly every other Muni line, riding the cable car is almost exclusively an end in and of itself. If nearly 7,000 people ride the California cable car line a day, how many bother to jump on those buses?

Muni's answer via Holland -- we have no idea. Really? You can't even give the drivers one of those little hand-counters that museum docents carry around? Because, when it comes to ridership on a boutique line like the cable cars, is it really worth spending time and money setting up a substitute bus line that nobody feels a need to use?

Apparently it is. Notes Holland: "It is the policy of the SFMTA that after 20 minutes of service disruption on a trolley bus or rail line, that motor bus shuttles are deployed to that line to cover the disrupted service. This is the policy throughout the Muni system."

So if you've got a hankering to take a romantic ride up the hill in the back of a Muni bus -- and the cable car keeps going out of service -- well, lucky you. We bet you'll even have the bus nearly to yourself.

Photo   |   Jim Herd

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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