San Francisco’s historic cable car system is seeing a roller coaster–like drop in people riding “the little cable cars halfway to the stars” — the decline hit 25 percent last year.
According to Municipal Transportation Agency figures, ridership on the 139-year-old system fell to an average of 15,500 a day in fiscal 2016 — down from 20,600 rides a day in 2014.
The 5,100-a-day passenger drop translated into $13 million in lost ticket sales..
And while the numbers are looking better in 2017, with an average of 17,511 passengers a day, the count is still down by more than 3,000 from 2014.
The drop followed Muni’s decision to increase cable car fares to $7 each way — bringing the cost of a round-trip ticket for a family of four to $56.
Muni spokesman Paul Rose said inconsistent service and long waiting lines may be causing people to turn away as well.
“During the busiest times, we might see 200 people waiting in line,” Rose said.
No kidding. On a sunny afternoon in July — the height of the tourist season — we saw a couple of hundred tourists lined up waiting for a ride at the Powell Street turnaround, with seven empty cable cars standing still.
A foreign visitor at the front of the line said she had been waiting for an hour and 10 minutes for a chance to enjoy one of San Francisco’s most popular tourist attractions. And she had no idea what the holdup was.
When we followed up a short time later with Muni headquarters, officials said they weren’t aware of any major incidents blocking service and promised to dispatch an inspector to find out what the backup was all about.
Typically, according to Rose, “If everything is running as it should, we should be able to clear that line in one hour. During extended waits, that time could climb to two hours.
Rose said Muni has been working with the cable car division to improve scheduling.
“A lot of people from across the world come to San Francisco to ride the cable cars, and we want to ensure we are providing the best service possible,” he said at the time.
It’s interesting to note that the cable car ride slump comes as the city’s hotels continue to report record numbers and a hotel occupancy rate of 85 percent.
So, the tourists are here — it’s just that many aren’t riding the city’s top tourist attraction.
Primary points: It wasn’t the first time that California has tried to increase its influence on presidential races by moving up its primary election day — a move Gov. Jerry Brown made official last week. What makes things different this time is that the 2020 ballot may have some high-profile contenders from right here at home.
The most oft-mentioned favorite sons (and daughters) on the Democratic side are U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — both have the name recognition and money to make a serious primary run at the nomination. Even Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom could make a play if he were to win the governor’s race next year.
Of the three, insiders say Harris has the best shot, in part because the March primary would probably coincide with a number of other states — including those in the South with large percentages of African American voters, most of them Democrats.
But while Harris may have the perceived lead, there’s always the prospect of a termed-out Brown making one last shot at the White House.
Whether the early primary will set the ball rolling for a Californian winning the top of the Democratic ticket is still up for debate.
“That may or may not be the case,” said Hoover Institution Fellow Bill Whalen, a Republican. “Other candidates may just decide to sit out California and choose to concentrate on other states where they have a better shot at winning.”
Doggone dog! The wayward pooch that wandered onto the BART tracks near Oakland’s Coliseum Station and tied up Wednesday morning’s commute for nearly an hour didn’t make a lot of friends.
As riders pulled out their phones and tweeted pictures of the confused pooch, BART police who were called into action couldn’t snag the dog.
So the system’s power was shut off, leaving many riders trapped inside train cars.
As the panicked dog took off north, toward Fruitvale Station, cops commandeered a train full of passengers and followed the dog at a slow speed, with an officer poking his head out the cab’s window to make sure they didn’t run over the animal.
The dog, however, just kept going — leading police to dispatch an officer to Fruitvale Station to cut the winded pooch off at the pass.
And indeed, when Sgt. Tanzanika Carter stepped in the dog’s path and began talking to it calmly, the animal approached her. After being leashed and given some water, the young male dog — which didn’t have any identifying tags — was escorted to Oakland’s Animal Care and Control Center.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost said opinions were sharply divided over the dog’s antics.
“Lots of people wanted to adopt the dog, and others wanted us to run it over,” Trost said.
Afterward, however, passenger Samantha Gonzalez may have summed up the feelings of most commuters and the dog when she tweeted: “What a ruff morning.”
San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross appear Sundays, Mondays and Wednesdays. Matier can be seen on the KPIX-TV morning and evening news. He can also be heard on KCBS radio Monday through Friday at 7:50 a.m. and 5:50 p.m. Got a tip? Call (415) 777-8815, or email [email protected] Twitter: @matierandross
Powered by WPeMatico