San Francisco Streetcars: History, Riding Tips & Details on the Railway Museum

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Updated: January 29, 2024

San Francisco is proud of its historical transportation options. In addition to our famed cable cars, you will also find vintage San Francisco streetcars.

We currently have one line in operation.

The F Market & Wharves runs from Fisherman's Wharf all the way to the Castro District. It runs along the Embarcadero and down Market Street as it makes its way between these two SF neighborhoods.

There was a second line called the E Embarcadero. It ran between Fisherman's Wharf along the Embarcadero and past Oracle Park. It ended near the Caltrain Station in the South of Market District.

The E line is currently suspended and I'm not sure if/when it will run again.

San Francisco Streetcars

How Are the San Francisco Streetcars Different from Our Cable Cars?

They run on tracks similar to those used by cable cars. However, they are powered by the electrical lines above the cars instead of cables between the tracks below the cars like the cable cars.

They also run about two to three times faster than a cable car.

A red San Francisco street car riding down Market Street

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Brief History of the San Francisco Streetcars

The first line started running in 1892. After the damage from the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, San Francisco streetcars started to replace the cable cars.

Over the years, the city used the lines less and less as faster transportation options became available. Over time, the city started to move the lines underground, and by 1982, they moved the final San Francisco streetcars into the subway.

A yellow and blue street car in San Francisco

In 1983, business leaders, Muni, and Mayor Dianne Feinstein invited historic cars from around the world to run up and down Market Street during the Historic Trolley Festival.

The festival started during a period when our popular cable car tracks were under construction and they were not in use for two years.

The festival renewed interest in them and the effort began to get the F line back above ground.

Several of them now call San Francisco home today. Even though there is just one line, you will find a variety of these vintage vehicles cruising up and down the F line.

They are an important part of the overall SF public transportation system. I recommend riding one while you are here.

Each one is a little different and from various places throughout the world. The cool thing is that you can learn a little about the history of the one you are on during your ride.

Here is an example of the sign you will see inside each one. They are usually toward the front, so make sure you sit in that area if you want to learn more about it.

A sign inside an SF street car talking about its history and origins.

Single Ride Cost for the San Francisco Streetcars

The cost for a single ride for San Francisco Streetcars is:

  • Cash: $3.00
  • Clipper Card: $2.50
  • MuniMobile Prepaid Ticket: $2.50
  • Free for Kids 18 and Under

You have several options for paying for riding on our historic streetcars, including some passes that allow unlimited rides for a certain period of time.

Five Ways to Pay for the San Francisco Streetcars

1. Pay Cash When You Board

The first option is to pay when you get on board. When you enter, you will see a machine that accepts dollars, coins, and paper tickets. Slide in your dollar bills or use coins to pay for your fare. 

This option costs $3 for adults.

If you do not have the correct change, you can add larger dollar bills into the machine. It will not give you cash back. Instead, it will give you a ticket with the leftover amount that you can use the next time you ride any Muni buses, streetcars, or light rail trains.

2. Use the Clipper Card

The Clipper Card is a multi-transit card that allows you to pay for most of the transportation options around the SF Bay Area. 

You can download the Clipper Card App on your phone, add money to it, and then swipe it on the small kiosk at the front or back doors when you enter the F line streetcar.

This option costs $2.50 a ride.

3. Buy a Single Ticket on the MuniMobile App

You can also download the MuniMobile app and buy a single-use ticket. 

When you enter the F Line San Francisco Streetcar, have the app open, swipe it over the small kiosk at the front or the back, and it will read your ticket.

This option costs $2.50.

4. Buy a Passport in the MuniMobile App

If you are visiting for a few days, the passport is one of the best options. The Muni Passports are available to use for 1, 3, or 7 days. 

The costs for the passports are:

  • 1-Day Pass: $13.00
  • 3-Day Pass: $31.00
  • 7-Day Pass:  $41.00

These passports offer unlimited rides for the designated period. It will be activated the first time you swipe your card to ride one of Muni's transit options. It includes the San Francisco streetcars, cable cars, buses, and light rail trains.

I highly recommend this option to all visitors as it will save you a ton of money if you plan to use the historic streetcars or other SF public transit quite a bit during your visit.

5. Buy a Day Pass in the MuniMobile App

You can also buy a day pass in the MuniMobile App. This pass is just $5 and allows you to ride all Muni vehicles (except the cable cars) as much as you want for one day. 

Schedule for the Historic Streetcars

The F Line Streetcar runs daily from 7 am to 10 pm. It runs on the following schedule:

  • Mornings: Every 20 minutes
  • Midday: Every 12 minutes
  • Evenings: Every 15 minutes during the week and every 12 minutes on the weekends
  • Late Night: Every 20 minutes

Five Things to Know Before Riding the Historic Streetcars

The F Line is a unique way to get around San Francisco, but there are a few things to be aware of before you hop aboard.

  1. These are historic cars, so they do move slowly. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, I would recommend a different transit option.
  2. The ride is a little jerky. Because of their age, they do jerk a little, and it's not the smoothest ride. 
  3. The steps are steep. The steps are a little steeper than those on our buses. Just make sure to hold onto the handrail when you board if you need a little extra stability.
  4. The seats are small. Each seat is designed to be for two people, so when it's crowded, you will really get to know your neighbor. Make sure to bring as little as possible with you when you ride so everyone has room to sit.
  5. They are handicap accessible. Certain stops offer handicap-accessible access.

San Francisco Streetcar: F Line, Market & Wharves Stops

The main route for the San Francisco streetcars is the F Market & Wharves line. This line runs between the Castro and Fisherman's Wharf Districts via Market Street and Union Square.

There are 20 stops on this route. Here are some of the most important stops on the F Market & Wharves line. They are listed in order from Fisherman's Wharf to the Castro District.

Fisherman's Wharf

Several stops service the Fisherman's Wharf District.

Top options include Embarcadero & Stockton Street, Jefferson & Powell, Jefferson & Taylor (this will drop you in the heart of the district), and Jones & Beach (this is where the drivers take a break so it's considered both the first and last stop).

Pier 39

The Embarcadero & Stockton is the best stop if you want to visit Pier 39. It drops you off right in front of this San Francisco attraction. You will use this stop when you are riding the historic streetcar service on your way to Fisherman's Wharf. 

Alcatraz Landing/Pier 33

The best stop for Alcatraz Landing/Pier 33 is at Embarcadero & Bay Streets. Once you exit, walk across the Embarcadero to the waterfront to find the ferries to Alcatraz.


The Embarcadero & Green Street stop drops you off at the Exploratorium on Piers 15 and 17.

Ferry Building

If you plan to head to the Ferry Building, you'll want to get off at the Embarcadero and Ferry Building stop. It's right across the street from the Ferry Building.

Embarcadero BART Stop

The Market & Drumm Streets stop will get you to the entrance of the Embarcadero BART stop, where you can head to the East Bay, Peninsula, or SFO.


The Market & Kearny stop is where you will find several SF museums. It's the top option for the SF MOMA, the Museum of African Diaspora, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, and Yerba Buena Gardens.

Moscone Center

For the Moscone Center, your best stop is at Market & Kearny.

Union Square

For Union Square, I recommend getting off at the stop at Market & Stockton. Once you hop off, walk up Stockton two blocks to Union Square.

Cable Car Lines

To take the cable cars, get off at Market Street and 5th Street. This is the stop where you can pick up the cable cars between Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

Golden Gate Theater

Are you seeing a show? The Market & Taylor Streets stop will drop you right in front of the Golden Gate Theater for Broadway shows.

Orpheum Theater

The Market & Hyde Streets stop will drop you right in front of the Orpheum Theater where more Broadway shows are on stage all year long.

Civic Center

The Market & Larkin Streets is also a great stop for the Civic Center District. This is where you will find City Hall and the SF Asian Art Museum as well as dozens of great festivals every year.

You will also find the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium at this stop.

Hayes Valley

The Market & Gough stop is where you can hop off the streetcar to check out Hayes Valley. You will find great restaurants and shopping here.

Castro District

The final stop is in the Castro and is at 17th and Castro Streets. This also drops you off in the heart of this colorful district.

E Embarcadero (Service is Currently Suspended)

The E Embarcadero route runs between Fisherman's Wharf and the Caltrain Station. It offers the same stops as the F above from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry Building. It stays on the Embarcadero and offers stops at the following places as well.

Pier 24 Photography Museum: Embarcadero & Harrison Street, this will drop you across the street from the free Pier 24 Photography Museum.

Oracle Park: King & 2nd, this is a large stop and is right across the street from Oracle Park where the SF Giants Baseball team plays.

Caltrain Station: King & 4th, this is the stop closest to the Caltrain Station which will take you south through the Peninsula and all the way to San Jose.

Railway Museum

If you want to learn more about the San Francisco streetcars, head to the Railway Museum. It's free and tells the story of all the San Francisco streetcars currently running on the F line in the city.

The San Francisco Railway MuseumOne of the exhibits inside the museum

This SF museum includes a full-size replica platform where kids can play conductor. The museum also houses historic films, photographs and other SF transportation artifacts.

You will find the museum at the Steuart Street F-line stop. Just look for the sign below or ask the conductor to tell you when you reach your stop.

The sign outside the SF Railway Museum

The Railway Museum is open from 12 pm to 5 pm from Tuesday - Saturday. It is closed on Sunday and Monday.

While you are there, ask the attendant if you can see the screen showing the current location of all the streetcars. You will see a little picture of each one moving around the city on the screen. It's a small thing, but kind of cool to see.

Historic Street Cars in SF

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

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