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Iconic cable cars roll back into action

San Francisco inched a little closer to being whole with the return of its iconic cable cars. After more than a year of service suspension due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it was a delightfully familiar scene Monday at the Powell Street turnaround as people lined up to ride the cars once again.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is allowing passengers to ride the cable cars free of charge during the system’s testing phase through the month. Powell-Hyde, Powell-Mason and California lines are all in operation during the soft launch.

Officials said this was the longest shutdown of cable service since 1982 when crews worked to reconstruct the entire system. It took nearly 21 months to complete that project.

Jerold Chinn/SFBay A line of passengers wait to board a cable car on Powell Street in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, August 2, 2021.

Mayor London Breed joined transit officials Monday morning to welcome the cable cars back.

Breed said:

“When people come to visit our city, they come downtown here in Union Square. They go to Pier 39 and the Ferry Building. They visit the crooked road on Lombard Street. They visit the Palace of Fine Arts. But no trip to San Francisco is complete without a ride on our cable car.”

During the testing phase, city officials warned that the SFMTA is still working out details and service will not follow any specific schedule, which could lead to irregular wait times. The mayor said:

“Be patient, be understanding. This is a process.”

The agency is soliciting public feedback during the service testing phase.

When service officially returns in September, passengers will again have to pay fares, which will run $8 for adult and child single rides and $4 for seniors, disabled persons and individuals with Medicare.

The current plan is to run the cars between 7:00 a.m. and about 10:00 p.m. when it fare service returns next month.

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