San Francisco's iconic cable cars rolled back into testing mode on Monday, with a few operators reportedly offering free rides while the cars undergo weeks of testing, to the delight of locals and tourists alike.
Two weeks ahead of a previously announced schedule, the SFMTA began allowing some passengers aboard while testing of the city's cable-car system started on Monday, with anyone allowed to hop on board free of charge until things get back to full service in September. That's actually a nice deal for locals who normally don't want to deal with the tourists and $8 fares.
Mayor London Breed had previously negotiated an earlier restart for the cable cars with SFMTA Director Jeffrey Tumlin, announcing last month that the trolleys would be free to ride for the whole month of August. Full service is set to resume by September.
"We want people to have great experiences in San Francisco and nothing says San Francisco like a cable car ride, rolling up and down the hills," she said.
The only unexpected change is that some passengers were being allowed onboard right as the testing begins — according to the official announcement, the cable cars are supposed to be rolling for a couple of weeks in July with no one on board. The earlier announcement said passengers would primarily be welcomed on the Powell-Hyde line for free in August once passenger testing begins.
As KPIX reports, at least one family of tourists down by the California line near the foot of Market Street were pleasantly surprised to be able to get a ride up the hill on Monday.
North Beach resident William Kouzi tells KPIX, "I’ve been counting the days," and he, too, was surprised that an operator let him take a ride on Monday. "I was asking them [when they would be returning to public service] and they were so kind. They said — ‘Come on since you live here.’ It’s been amazing."
The SFMTA site still lists the cable cars as not in service, and a tweet on Monday warned that while that cable cars might be seen in motion, "we are unable to accept passengers at this time while we conduct inspections & testing." The tweet referred back to the June 15 blog post that laid out that initial schedule.
But, it sounds like if you catch one at the right place with the right operator, they may let you snag a ride. But that's, you know, off the books.
Photo courtesy of the SFMTA