A cable car on the Powell-Hyde line ascends Russian Hill at Hyde and Chestnut streets. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

SF cable cars to stop running briefly for historic overhaul

Starting on a not-ominous-sounding Friday the 13th (of September), bus service will begin near cable car turnarounds.

San Francisco tourists and transit loving locals may be mighty dour, next month: Muni will stop running cable cars along its three lines for 10 days, and will run buses in their place.

Starting on a not-ominous-sounding Friday the 13th (of September), bus service will begin near cable car turnarounds at 5:30 a.m.

Regular bus fares will apply, according to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The move is part of SFMTA’s gearbox rehabilitation project, with agency staff specifically overhauling the Hyde Street cable car gearbox. But the cable running through the Hyde Street gearbox is the “master cable” for all cable cars leaving and entering the Cable Car Bar on Mason Street, SFMTA wrote in a statement, necessitating all three cable car lines stop operations for 10 days.

SFMTA’s Cable Car Gearbox Rehabilitation Project begain in 2017 and has seen various cable car lines taken out of service for short periods while work is done to overhaul the gearboxes. The last time such a historic overhaul took place was 1984, under the direction of then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein.

It’s no easy task — each gearbox is the size of a small car and weighs roughly 20 tons. Those gearboxes spin the 30-foot tall “sheaves”or wheels, that pull the 12-miles of steel cables under San Francisco to lift the iconic wooden transit vehicles up city hills.

In 2017 the rehab project was estimated to cost roughly $6 million.


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