Glitch disrupts cable car line

An electrical malfunction shut down the California cable car line for two hours Wednesday morning, marking at least the fourth time in the last six weeks that equipment problems disrupted service on San Francisco’s iconic moving landmarks.

Muni maintenance workers first reported a problem with the California line, which brings passengers from Drumm Street to Van Ness Avenue, at 6:04 a.m., Muni officials said. Service was restored by 8 a.m.

The cable car lines bring in more than $22.4 million for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency — accounting for roughly 16 percent of total transit fare revenue — and the perennially cash-strapped department can ill afford to have its top tourist draw out of commission, but Muni officials say the 140-year-old lines are not in need of a major overhaul.

Although the SFTMA does not keep official statistics on service disruptions, each year there are roughly 50 strand alarms — warnings that cable wires are damaged — that cause at least momentary stoppages. Other setbacks, such as electrical malfunctions and mechanical problems, have shut down service on the cable cars this year, with the delays ranging from a few hours to an entire day.

SFMTA spokesman Judson True pointed to several performance standards that indicate the cable cars’ reliability. Cable cars delivered on more than 97 percent of their scheduled service hours during the past year, and the fleet logged an average of more than 5,300 miles between mechanical breakdowns.

True said the department is constantly working to improve those numbers.

“Our goal is to minimize service disruptions on these rolling historic landmarks,” True said. “But for a moving national landmark, the cable car service works remarkably well.”

When the cable cars do go out of service for extended periods, Muni replaces them with bus shuttles. However, that’s hardly the same experience for most tourists.

The SFMTA’s three cable car lines carry an average of 19,041 passengers each weekday. On Saturday that number increases to 21,943 and on Sunday the total is 19,300.

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

Bay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Organizer Jas Florentino, left, explains the figures which represent 350 kidnapped Africans first sold as slaves in the United States in 1619 in sculptor Dana King’s “Monumental Reckoning.” The installation is in the space of the former Francis Scott Key monument in Golden Gate Park. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What a reparations program would look like in The City

‘If there’s any place we can do it, it’s San Francisco’

Officer Joel Babbs at a protest outside the Hall of Justice in 2017 (Bay City News file photo)
The strange and troubling story of Joel Babbs: What it tells us about the SFPD

The bizarre and troubling career of a whistle-blowing San Francisco police officer… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a COVID-19 update at the City College of San Francisco mass vaccination site in April. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Gavin Newsom under COVID: The governor dishes on his pandemic life

By Emily Hoeven CalMatters It was strange, after 15 months of watching… Continue reading

People fish at a dock at Islais Creek Park on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Islais Creek tells us about rising sea levels in San Francisco

Islais Creek is an unassuming waterway along San Francisco’s eastern industrial shoreline,… Continue reading

Deputy public defender Chris Garcia outside the Hall of Justice on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
As pandemic wanes, SF public defender hopes clients will get ‘their day in court’

Like other attorneys in San Francisco, Deputy Public Defender Chris Garcia has… Continue reading

Most Read