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Municipal transport in San Francisco – Part 2: Trolley buses

December 2011


San Francisco’s trolley buses are probably among the last of a fading breed of bus transport still employing electricity to service various routes in that city. With a cousin driving our vehicles along McAllister Street, I was able to take photos of the overhead cables from which the trolley buses are able to pick-up electricity to power their motors.

Overhead cables seem to be everywhere including the streets around the San Francisco City Hall located at the Civic Center. This is a photo of the intersection of McAllister and Polk Street.

Another view of City Hall with cables running above McAllister. Notice the cables connected to transverse wires that are in turn connected to the light poles.

Where buses turn, cables may also be found above. This is the junction of McAllister and Van Ness Avenue. That’s the Herbst Theater building on the left, which houses the Museum of Performance and Design, and the California Public Utilities Commission on the right. Those are two buses, one trolley and the other natural gas-powered in the middle of the photo.

A close-up from the preceding photo shows the trolley bus with its long pantograph. The bus on the right runs on natural gas and is a low emission vehicle.

A closer view of the overhead cables show how they are connected to the poles along the roadside.

That’s a bus headed for the Transbay terminal. At front is a bicycle rack and the worm logo of Muni.

In the streets of San Francisco, one thing’s for sure – if you see those overhead cables along a road, you know that the trolley buses run along that street. Most major streets in San Francisco are served by public transport, providing excellent mobility for its citizens. They say you can usually take or get off a bus within a block of your destination. If you have to walk, the walk is usually at a leisurely pace and generally in a safe environment. You’ll probably only encounter difficulties walking when you’re in the hilly areas like Nob Hill and Russian Hill where the streets can get quite steep. Still, the walk’s usually well worth it not just because of the exercise but also because of the view and the small neighborhood shops and restaurants along your way.


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