Framework

Capturing the world through photography, video and multimedia

The Golden Gate Bridge lives up to its name as it glistens in the evening light.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Tourists snap photos while regulars hold on for the ride on one of the cable cars in San Francisco.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Two cable cars pass each other as they traverse the steep hills of San Francisco.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Visitors to the Cable Car Museum in San Francisco watch the big heavy metal wheels in the powerhouse while they turn and pull the cables that power the entire cable car system,

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A cable car climbs Hyde Street in San Francisco with the Hyde Street Pier and Fisherman's Wharf in the background .

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Lobsters are stacked at one of the open air markets on Fisherman's Wharf.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

A sailboat passes Alcatraz in San Francisco bay.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Cars zig-zag down the sharp turns past the landscaped bushes on San Francisco's crooked, curvy Lombard Street.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

The cable cars are an iconic part of the San Francisco landscape with most of the 7 million annual riders being tourists.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Chinatown in San Francisco is alive with brilliant wall murals depicting history and culture.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Cable cars share the road with pedestrians, tour buses and every other form of transportation on Powell Street in San Francisco.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Grace Cathedral located on San Francisco's Nob Hill provides a quiet place to get away from the noise of the city.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Cable car conductor John Sirles gives his riders a rolling history of the city of San Francisco while watching the back of the car while it traverses Powell Street.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Riders wait at the Friedel Klussman Memorial Turnaround in San Francisco where the Powell and Hyde Street cable cars are turned and reloaded.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

Framed by wires from the Golden Gate Bridge, the San Francisco skyline shimmers in the evening just after sunset .

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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Postcards from the West | San Francisco's famed cable cars

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Postcards from the West | San Francisco’s famed cable cars

By Christopher Reynolds

The oohing and ahhing over the world’s only remaining manually operated big-city cable car system will begin shortly. But first, let’s admit a few things:

That rats congregate near the cable car turntable by Ghirardelli Square. That panhandlers still plague the gritty turntable at Powell and Market streets. That $6 a ride would be one of the worst public transit bargains in the West, if these cars were really about public transit. That some conductors and gripmen are as rude as the hills are steep. That for prompt cross-town travel in daylight hours, the Powell Street lines are about as practical as a Ferris wheel.

Yet as many a San Franciscan can tell you, the heart wants what the heart wants. And our tourist hearts want cable cars. The ringing bell. The wind in our hair. The first sight of Alcatraz as we crest Russian Hill. The heavy scent of lubricated machinery navigating a 15% grade. The humming street and nervously grinning first-timers. I know now that this three-line system costs about $30 million per year more than it earns, but that old Rice-A-Roni jingle just keeps playing in my head.

And so, to sort these feelings and facts, photographer Mark Boster and I are riding every line, morning, noon and night.

Now it’s a busy June morning at Powell and Market, and we’re in line to board. In the first five minutes of our 20-minute wait, we meet six panhandlers and a busker serenading families with that old Ramones favorite “Beat on the Brat.” Then we board, and the car lurches ahead. Union Square flashes past on the right, the Westin St. Francis Hotel on the left. Giddy tourists clutch their kids, abandon their personal space to stand knee-to-knee with a sitting stranger, snap self-portraits and wave at the sidewalk hordes. A woman from out of town tries to convince the conductor that he has undercharged her.

Full story: San Francisco’s famed cable cars

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