SAN FRANCISCO - When most visitors come to San Francisco there are few things almost everyone wants to see — the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman's Wharf, and the city's iconic cable cars.
After more than a year, cable cars are once again climbing up and down San Francisco's hills. The cars are back on the rails but aren't carrying any passengers for now.
Muni says there was no way to remain socially distant while riding or operating the more than century-old vehicles, so they spent much of the pandemic in storage. Operators say they're happy to have the cable cars back on the rails.
"It feels great to be back. Yes, it feels like we belong here. It's nice," said cable care operator José Membreño. "We're all excited."
Muni says the operators, cable cars, and cable system all need to be checked out, recertified, and tested before allowing passengers to ride. So for now, the cars are only running for training and testing purposes. But that didn't stop potential passengers from looking for a ride. Mark and Kathy Hilbert from North Carolina saw the cable cars and hoped to hop on.
"About 16 years ago we were here and we rode them and it was so much fun," said Kathy Hilbert. "We were hoping to ride them this time too."
Only to be informed that although the cable cars are running, they're not ready to resume service.
"We asked if we could ride and they said they're just testing them right now. But, they'll open in August," she said.
Cable care operators say they've been explaining that to passengers constantly since testing began. Operators say customer service, keeping the riders informed is all part of the job, and they can't wait to start carrying loads of passengers back and forth to the city's tourist hot spots.
"The merchants show the appreciation, "said Membreño. "Like when we ride through the Wharf, they're happy to see the cable cars full of people, you know. And on this side, it's the same thing. It's very nice."
The cable cars will be running tests for the rest of July, then in the first week of August the cable cars will reopen to the public. They won't be on a regular schedule, but it will be free at first. The public will be part of the whole testing process as operators get used to handling passengers and fully loaded cable cars again. Early full regular paid service gets back underway in the fall.