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San Francisco celebrates reopening with announcement of August cable car return

Come early August, San Francisco’s iconic cable cars will be running again after being parked for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. To commemorate the service return, cable car rides will be free of charge until September, city and transit officials announced Tuesday at the Powell and Hyde streets cable car turnaround.

Jeffrey Tumlin, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s director of transportation, invited the public  test out the cable car system in August, adding:

“Normally we would fill the cable cars with sandbags in order to actually test the weight but actual people are a far better test of making sure that we can work out all the systems, get customer service down, get our headways down.”

Scot Tucker / SFBay.ca Mayor London N. Breed speaks at a press conference regarding San Francisco’s reopening plans and updates on the return of cable cars at the cable car turnaround at the intersection of Hyde and Beach Streets in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (Scot Tucker / SFBay.ca)

Warning that cable car service start off in test mode and that service will not be perfect, Tumlin said:

“It’s going to be a little rough, but it’s going to be awesome and we’re so excited to actually be offering this and that Mayor Breed forced us to get a little creative and a little innovative.”

The service return is ahead of schedule, with transit officials previously expecting cable cars wouldn’t make a comeback until sometime nearer the holiday season. The agency had expressed concern with retraining efforts, California Public Utilities Commission certification and system testing requirements.

While Mayor London Breed wanted the cable cars back in action before August, she said she’s happy visitors and residents can still catch a free ride before the end of summer.

Scot Tucker / SFBay.ca Mayor London N. Breed speaks at a press conference regarding San Francisco’s reopening plans and updates on the return of cable cars at the cable car turnaround at the intersection of Hyde and Beach Streets in San Francisco, Calif., on Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (Scot Tucker / SFBay.ca)

The SFMTA plans to restart cable cars for revenue service in September, first with the Powell-Hyde line and then the Powell-Mason and California lines will follow shortly thereafter. The transit agency plans to run service from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The mayor also boasted Tuesday about The City’s reopening in line with the state’s dropping of the color-coded tier system, and lifting of Covid-19 mandates, including indoor capacity limits, most face mask rules and social distancing requirements. 

Breed said:

“Can you believe that we are finally at a place where I was able to get out of the car without putting on my mask?”

She touted The City’s high vaccination rate, which contributes to its low infection and death rates, among the lowest in the Bay Area and nationwide. The Department of Public Health reports that 80 percent of residents 12 and older have received at least one dose of the vaccine while 70 percent in the same group have completed a vaccine series.

Breed said The City has to cause to celebrate Tuesday’s big reopening, adding:

“Let’s live again. Let’s enjoy life again. Let’s enjoy the freedom of finally seeing faces again in person.”

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