You probably already know about the San Francisco Cable Cars. They cost $3.00 a ride and are famous for carrying passengers over the steep Nob and Russian hills. Another historic way to get around the city of San Francisco is to take an F-line streetcar. For $1.25, you’ll be riding a vintage electric street car. The F-line streetcars were purchased from cities around the world, so you may get on a car that was originally in service in Milan, Moscow, Philadelphia, New York or Cincinnati.
The electric streetcars first appeared in San Francisco in 1892. After the 1906 earthquake and fire, they began replacing cable cars as San Francisco’s main transit system (except for the really steep hills) because cable cars were slower and more difficult to maintain. Cable cars run by grabbing onto a constantly moving cable under the street, while streetcars have an overhead pole that connects to a single power wire.
At one time Market Street had four sets of streetcar tracks (two for the Municipal Railway and two for its privately-owned competitor). The last Market Street streetcar lines were closed in 1982 when the subway system was installed, moving the tracks for the remaining streetcar lines underground and replacing the historic cars with modern ones. For the next five years, a festival was held that celebrated the historic streetcars. During the festival, the streetcars were run on the old Market Street tracks. The success of the streetcar festival prompted the development of a permanent historic streetcar line and the F-line was permanently reopened in 1995.
The F-line runs from the Castro down Market Street past the San Francisco Civic Center and around the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. You can hop off at the San Francisco Ferry Building on a Tuesday or Saturday afternoon and enjoy the Farmer’s Market. If you’re visiting San Francisco, be sure to include an F-line streetcar ride in your itinerary. It’s perfect for getting between some of the most common tourist attractions and you’ll find the ride worth every nickel of the fare.