SF Cable Cars Grind to Halt

Invaluable tourist attraction replaced with Muni bus shuttles

Problems with the cable that powers San Francisco's iconic cable cars up Nob Hill have shut down the service three times in the last week.

Tourists hoping to pay $5 for a chance to experience living history have instead had to settle for Muni bus shuttles along the route.

A frayed cable disrupted service last Friday, followed by another malfunction Monday, a false alarm Tuesday and finally another shut-down yesterday.

Service on the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines has been suspended indefinitely.

Employees from the Kansas City company that manufactures the cables were airlifted in to help troubleshoot the problems.

"We are concerned about two possibilities - that water is accumulating in the cable channels, or there is a problem with the cable itself," San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Judson True told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The problems haven't affected the California street line, so travelers from around the world can still hang off the runners as San Franciscans have for 135 years.

With the city and the SFMTA facing massive budget deficits, the problems are likely to raise serious questions about the costs and benefits of maintaining the service.

After all, it's hard to quantify exactly how big a draw Andrew Hallidie's 19th century contraption is for tourists, who neither have to put up with Muni service on a regular basis or vote in local elections.

Jackson West loves the unique smell of burnt grease and rubber.

Copyright FREEL - NBC Local Media
Contact Us