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Cable car bells to ring again sometime before holiday season

Cable cars, one of San Francisco’s most famous and beloved attractions, will begin making their return sometime this fall. It has been nearly a year since the iconic bells were silenced.  

After the pandemic decimated revenue, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency officials decided in April to halt cable car service. However, service was running on a deficit before Covid-19 struck.

Director of Transportation Jeffrey Tumlin announced at Tuesday’s SFMTA board meeting that the cable cars will again be up and running with bells ringing before the holiday season begins. He did not provide a definitive date.

The announcement, greeted with cheers on social media, was only enhanced by news the same day that The City moved into the less restrictive red tier in California’s reopening blueprint.

Tumlin said the agency will focus on restarting just the Powell/Hyde line, which is likely to run eight hours a day, seven days a week. Tumlin added that operators will require retraining and current California Public Utilities Commission certification in order to resume service.

In a Twitter post, Mayor London Breed affirmed her commitment to cable car service, writing:

“Cable cars are a part of the fabric of San Francisco. They draw tourists, they help our economy, and I’m not going to let them just disappear.”

Breed also said during a Tuesday press conference held at Pier 39 that the SFMTA’s historic streetcar service, the F-Market/Wharves (F-Line), will return in May. The line serves Market Street, the Embarcadero, Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Tumlin did warn that the F route will be shortened due to impacts of the Better Market Street project. During construction, the F will only run from the Ferry Building to Fisherman’s Wharf.

The cable car announcement came as a welcome surprise after the agency just last month expressed uncertainty over whether the service would even be restored.

Director of Transit Julie Kirschbaum said it will be a “very big lift” and will require the board’s input to prioritize cable car service and other Muni service routes that have yet to return since the pandemic.

Kirschbaum said she plans to present further staff recommendations to prioritize the return of Muni service at the board’s March 16 meeting.

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