Travel & Day Trips

Is San Francisco Cable Car Free? A Guide to Fares

As a visitor to the picturesque city of San Francisco, riding a historic cable car is likely on your must-do list.

But are these iconic cable cars free? In short, no, San Francisco cable cars are not free for most riders, but there are some exceptions. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you understand the fare system and payment options for the San Francisco cable car.

Fares and Where to Get Tickets

The cable cars are amazing!

Firstly, it’s important to note that you should purchase your cable car fare in advance of boarding the vehicle.

There are specific locations where you must buy your fare ahead of time. Single ride fares can be purchased at various locations throughout the city. Here’s a list.

For all-day travel, consider purchasing a visitor Passport, which provides unlimited access to cable cars and other Muni services. You could take a different Muni train to the cable cars, for example.

Here are the available payment options for cable car fares:

  1. MuniMobile®: The SFMTA’s official ticketing app allows you to buy tickets instantly using a credit/debit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay.
  2. Clipper® Card: This all-in-one transit card works on all major Bay Area transit systems, including Muni.
  3. Clipper® App on Your Phone: Similar to the physical card, this app works on all Bay Area transit systems.
  4. Cash: Make sure to have the exact change when paying with cash. Single ride fares can be purchased at various locations. See the list above.
  5. Online: If buying five or more paper Cable Card tickets, you can purchase them online.

Free Cable Car Rides for Kids

For youth riders, there are some instances where cable car rides are free. Children aged 4 and under can ride for free. San Francisco youth aged 18 and under can also ride for free if they have a Free Muni for Youth Clipper card. Those without the card can apply online.

Please note that cable car tickets are valid for a one-way trip only and are not valid for transferring between cable car lines.

To board cable cars in non-terminal locations or outside of terminal kiosk hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily), you can pay your fare in cash with exact change to the cable car operator.

That means if you plan to jump onto a car in the middle of the street, don’t expect the operator to make change!

Current fares (as of this writing) are as follows:

  • MuniMobile, Clipper®, and Cash (Adult & Youth 5-18): $8.00
  • Senior/Disabled/Medicare (7 a.m. – 9 p.m.): $8.00
  • Senior/Disabled/Medicare (9 p.m. – 7 a.m.): $4.00
  • Youth 4 and under: Free

In conclusion, San Francisco cable cars are not free for most riders, but there are some exceptions and discounts available. Make sure to purchase your fare in advance and have a fantastic time exploring the city on these historic cable cars!

Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is a food and travel photographer and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His photographic work routinely appears in publications including Food and Wine, Conde Nast Traveler, and the New York Times and his writing appears in IEEE Spectrum, SFGate, the Bold Italic and more. Smith holds a degree in Cognitive Science (Neuroscience) and Anthropology from the Johns Hopkins University.

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