Saturday, November 24, 2012

Trains, Buses and Cable Cars

San Francisco's public transit is completely charming and a little bit discombobulating.  There are streetcars above ground, Muni trains below and above ground, BART trains below ground, 2 cable cars lines and a large network of buses.  I enjoyed learning my way around the city via public transit and was really impressed with the system, after I oriented myself to the numerous options. I rarely had to wait more than a few minutes for my desired form of transit and could easily find transit to take me to any part of the city I wanted to visit.  Their system includes some neat tools that make it more efficient, like maps that track where the trains are, labels on the platforms showing you were the doors will open and announcements letting you know how the long the arriving train will be so you know just where to stand to get on it.

The system is diverse in terms of the types of transit and also in terms of the aesthetics within each type.  The trains do not have a uniform appearance. The train cars are often from other parts of the world and have kept the original signage in them.  My favorite was this F train from Italy.  There were uscitas instead of exits!

I never got over how beautiful the public transit is in San Francisco.

Sometimes the bikes, buses, cars, trains and taxis all share the same road.  It is impressive that all of these forms of transit can co-exist rather seamlessly.

And, of course, a trip to San Francisco isn't complete until you have crossed paths with a cable car or two.

Cable cars aren't often used by locals for public transit since they are costly, slow and on very limited routes.  Since the pass I bought included them, I did take a ride on one.  I am glad I did because it was not what I had expected!

The gripman plays an essential role in utilizing the cables that run under the streets and propel the cars forward.  For some reason I had anticipated cables above the cars, but hadn't realized it is the cables below the ground that are the power behind this form of transit.

I only rode the cars once and so the etiquette wasn't clear to me.  It seemed like you were supposed to wait for the car to stop before you jumped off, but that wasn't what I observed.  What I observed was people jumping off while it was moving and into a lane of traffic.  Again, I was amazed that more people aren't falling victim to the chaotic roadways of SF.

The line I road involved a manual turnaround point.  The train car moves on to a turntable and a person pushes the disc around to switch the train direction.  If you are interested in how the cable cars work, there is a ton of information on the Cable Car Museum's website.

Overall, a double thumbs up to San Francisco's Municipal Transit System.  It served its purpose AND charmed me to no end!

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