San Francisco’s Sky Tram ran from 1955 to 1966. And you had to walk back up a hill after you reached your destination.
San Francisco is a metropolitan area brimming with transit activists and fanatics. Talk to any denizen of the seven-by-seven for more than three minutes, and (aside from waxing tragic on the city’s dizzying rent prices) they’ll likely mention their favorite SFMTA Muni routes. Or BART railway track. Or, as of late, their go-to car-free corridor.
What can I say: We’re a city populated by residents who, more or less, believe that accessible, affordable public transportation and pedestrian walkways should be considered human rights. (A sentiment that has parallels with notions that affordable housing and connections to the internet must also be considered inalienable rights.) And San Francisco’s been on a decades-long crusade in exploring those concepts, building and running all types of transit lines to see what might have a reasonable fit.
The city’s Sky Tram that once ran from Cliff House to across the Sutro Baths basin, eventually ending at Point Lobos, was more for display than utility; it could only carry twenty-five people at any one time and served more viewsheds than pragmatic stopping points. But damn, was it pretty cool — dare we say even niftier than the Salesforce Park’s now-running gondola.
According to OpenSFHistory, the Sky Tram opened on May 3, 1955, with riders paying a quarter each to take the ride (which was conducted at a glacial pace) to a Point Lobos promontory that had been outfitted with two human-made waterfalls. Mind you: This was not an amusement park attraction by any means. It was, frankly, a slow-moving Safeway cart strung up on steel cables that took bipedal apes a few hundred feet above the ground.
The entire trip took just four minutes to complete. Oh! And you had to walk back, too. Suffice it to say it wasn’t handicapped accessible, either.
The digital archive noted that “fog, wind, and perhaps general boredom” inevitably led to the Sky Tram being shut down about eleven years after it was opened. In May of 1966, the quirky and wonderfully unnecessary elevated trolley took its final trip; the “station” was kept intact until 2000 by the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for its visitor’s center, where people could explore one of SF’s most impractical bits of transportation ever installed.
For a more cinematic walk down memory lane, watch the video below by cinematographer and cameraman Ron Biagini that’s been uploaded to YouTube.
Groovy! But now… let’s work on expanding SFMTA’s free ridership programs, shall we