San Francisco’s iconic cable cars will stop running for 10 days starting Friday to undergo repairs.

Photo by AP Photo/Eric Risberg

San Francisco’s iconic cable cars will stop running for 10 days starting Friday, September 13, while they undergo the final repairs in a three-year restoration project of the gearboxes that propel the world-famous system up the city’s notoriously steep hills.

Shuttle buses will run along the three cable car routes where the historic cars typically travel at a steady 9.5 miles per hour, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency said Wednesday.

The agency says it needs to get the manually operated cable cars off the streets to rehabilitate the gearboxes that power the system that started in the 1890s. The gearboxes spin the 30-foot tall wheels that pull the 12 miles of steel cables under San Francisco to lift the city’s 40 cable cars up steep hills.

The shutdown is sure to disappoint some of the tourists visiting the city next week. Long lines typically snake around several sites where riders can hop on, despite each car’s capacity of 60 people. The city says 7.5 million passengers ride the cable cars each year.

A sign on California Street alerts riders of an upcoming cable car shutdown.

Photo by AP Photo/Eric Risberg

“We thought it was really lovely—part of the experience,” of San Francisco, said Adrienne Hollifield, 68, of Black Mountain, North Carolina, just after she and two relatives stepped off a cable car. “We walked all the way up, but coming back on that, that will be a real problem, I think.” Her cousin, Bruce Goldberg, 65, of Hawaii’s Big Island, said Hollifield and her sister-in-law Libby Smith had the cars on the must-do list for the trip.

“Oh yeah, yeah, they insisted. I’m like the tour guide, because I used to live here, but they said, ‘We’ve got to go on the cable cars,’” he said.

“I kind of know that occasionally stuff happens on the cable cars and they’ve got to deal with it, because they’re really old technology,” Goldberg said. “They’re all run from a pulley in, like, one place. They were talking about redoing that system for many years.”

The work is part of a $6 million upgrade project that started in 2017 to repair the four heavy equipment gearboxes that have been in service since 1984. The fourth gearbox controls the Hyde Line, the master cable that controls all cable cars going in and out of the cable car barn. Without it operating, cable cars can’t enter or return from service.

San Francisco’s cable cars were named a National Historic Landmark in 1964 by the U.S. Interior Department’s National Park Service. The cost is $6 for each ride or $14 for an all-day pass. Seniors and the disabled pay $3.

>> Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to San Francisco

Juliet Williams Juliet A. Williams is Professor of Gender Studies and Chair of the UCLA Social Science Interdepartmental Program. She holds a B.A. in Government from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University. Professor Williams’ research and teaching specializations include feminist theory, masculinities studies, gender and the law, gender and education, and feminist cultural studies. Her most recent book is The Separation Solution?: Single-Sex Education and the New Politics of Gender Equality (University of California Press, 2016). She is contributing co-editor of Public Affairs: Politics in the Age of Sex Scandals, and her scholarly articles have appeared in journals including Signs, Gender & Society, Law & Society Review, Harvard Journal of Law & Gender, and Political Research Quarterly. Currently she is working on a multi-year project exploring the concept of gender neutrality in U.S. law, the media and activism.

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