Contest: San Francisco With a $5 Cable Car Fare

by Walter Rice


Powell and California
Even the "pole hangers" pay $5 for the privilege to grab onto a pole! Powell cable No. 9 is crossing the California Street cable line; if one of our pole hangers had transferred from a California Street cable car the total cost of the journey would be $10! A return cable car trip would be another $10; not too good for a family of four.

No. 9, which entered service new in 2000, is in a green and white paint scheme similar to the colors of one of the former Powell Street cable car operators -- the Market Street Railway. When the City purchased the Market Street Railway in 1944 the fare, which included a free city-wide transfer, was 7-cents. Since 1944 cable car fares have increased over 71-times, whereas the regular streetcar and bus fares only 21-times. Walter Rice Collection

On September 1, 2005 because of San Francisco's deficit problems most Muni fares were raised. The basic cash fare (with a free transfer) was increased from $1.25 to $1.50, a 20% rise; whereas the basic cable car fare (no transfer privileges) went to $5 from $3, a two-thirds rise. Differential higher cable car fares did not exist until April 1982, when they were implemented as a result of a vote by the electorate. Voters were told the extra revenues were needed to pay for the system-wide cable car rebuilding that did occur between September 1982 and June 1984.

This fare policy has been controversial, most notably since the implementation of the current $5 fare. Therefore, it was decided to obtain views on this important issue and to use as a vehicle a method designed by Friedel Klussmann the "Cable Car Lady". When the city-owned Powell Street cable cars were threatened in 1947, Friedel Klussmann evolved a contest centering on the unfinished question: "San Francisco without cable cars would be like ...?"

In our new contest, entrants were asked to complete this question: San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city...

Thanks to the twenty-three people who submitted forty-one entries (In the order in which they were submitted):
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city learning about elasticity of demand. - Nick Kibre
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that's still my home, but I haven't been on a cable car since. - Nick Kibre
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to victimize its tourists - Val Golding
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that really 'welcomes visitors.' - Peter Weiglin
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city with no conscience or soul. - John Nevin
San Francisco with a $5 Cable Car fare is a city that charges tourists more so that grandma on a fixed income can get to the doctor. - Donald
San Francisco with a $5 Cable Car fare and full cable cars is a city that clearly is not charging more than the Cable Car market will pay. - Donald
San Francisco with a $5 Cable Car fare is a city that has much more important public transit issues to worry about than a $5 Cable Car fare? - Donald
San Francisco with a $5 cable care fare is a city that will REALLY take you for a ride! - Frank Kelley
San Francisco without cable cars would be like a cable car without a Rice-A-Roni ad. - Scott Gerken
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to charge a market priced amount for a limited public resource. - Hank Hodes
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that is extorting the tourists - Zack W
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city denying residents use of the lines - Zack W
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city where the fares rise higher than the cablecars. - David Pendleton
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city bent on committing Seppuku. - WILLIAM TOURNAY
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to maximize revenues and minimize rideship. - Jim Walker
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that does NOT know how to market a great potential. - Jim Walker
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city full of $5 hookers, except for who's getting screwed. - John Nevin
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city just like Las Vegas, but without the panache'. - Mike Nickerson
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city where even the Board of Supervisors think revenue steroids are OK. - Mike Nickerson
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city where out-of-towners get taxation without representation. - Mike Nickerson
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city where "Greed" is not just the title of an Erich Von Stroheim movie (set in San Francisco). - Mike Nickerson
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that no longer cares - Mike Nickerson
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that has lost its heart - Terry N Taylor
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that has lost sight of what has helped make it great - Terry N Taylor
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to keep the average citizen who are living on or near the cable cars from affording to ride them. - Terry N Taylor
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that is unfair! - Terry N Taylor
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city which might as well not have cable cars, for all the good they do the residents. - Terry N Taylor
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that does not know which side its bread is buttered on (tourism and attracting upscale new businesses and residents). - davidjue
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city with inverted priorities. - arnold bedak
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to spell T-O-U-R-I-S-T T-R-A-P! - Alan Follett
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city where little cable cars make one trip to the stars! - Jim Griffin
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to rip off visitors - Nick U'Ren
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to turn a good part of the transit system into a Disneyland ride - CHARLES SEIMS
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to alienate people who live in that part of town and would like to use the cable cars for regular transportation (which is what they are supposed to be for) - JohnCento
San Francisco with a $5 cable car fare is a city that knows how to please the cable car haters (there are still some around -- who do you think originated the idea of the rip off fare?) - JohnCento

It was interesting to see that about 4 entries were in favor of the $5 fare, about 35 were opposed to it, and about 2 were neutral.

Thanks to the three judges: Emiliano Echevarria, Val Lupiz, and Gordon Miller for devoting thought and effort to making a good choice.

Winners:

Cal Cable cover When Steam cover

Grand Prize:

"...that really 'welcomes visitors.'" - Peter Weiglin

Peter will receive one copy each of San Francisco's California Street Cable Car; Celebrating a Century and a Quarter of Service, by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria, Harold E. Cox Publisher and a copy of When Steam Ran on the Streets of San Francisco, by the same authors, Harold E. Cox Publisher.

First Place:

"...where little cable cars make one trip to the stars!. " - Ted Burkett

Ted will receive San Francisco's California Street Cable Car; Celebrating a Century and a Quarter of Service.

Second Place:

"...where the fares rise higher than the cable cars." - David Pendleton

David will receive When Steam Ran on the Streets of San Francisco

Honorable Mention (chosen by Walter Rice):

"...learning about elasticity of demand." - Nick Kibre

A note from Walter Rice: As an economics professor of Managerial Economics my bias came forward. After the judges had rendered their independent decisions, I felt this entry merited a reward. Muni assumed the demand in the range of a price increase from $3 to $5 is relatively inelastic. That is the percentage increase in price will be greater than the percentage decrease in ridership. Revenues therefore will increase. Data proves Muni is correct.

When the Market Street Railway increased its fare to 7-cents and Muni along with Cal Cable held to 5-cents the impact on the Market Street Railway was highly elastic. Ridership decreased on the Market by a percentage greater than the fare increase percentage. Thus, the Marketís total receipts fell. In many areas of the City 5-cent rides from competitors were easily available. Muniís ridership boomed -- surpassing in 1939 its pre-Depression 1929 levels. With the extra revenue Muni purchased the five "magic carpets."

Walter Rice, PhD



See the original contest page.

Contest dash sign
Val Lupiz created this dash sign to announce the contest. All rights reserved.

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