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BART is the easiest way to get from the East Bay to the city. It is cheaper than paying for parking if you are traveling alone or with another person. From the East Bay to the city, the fare is about $5 one way. Parking is free at many stations. There are announcement screens on the platforms that tell you where the train is going. It is good to have a Clipper Card. You can load money on it and use the services of seven other Bay Area transit agencies. The trains are clean and usually on time.
To and from the airport
I only used BART once, to go to SFO, but I have to say I was very impressed. I hadn't really expected the trains to be so roomy (plenty of space for baggage) nor quite so clean. The Powell Street station, once I was inside, felt very safe.
There are frequent services on the SFO line throughout the day. Times and info on the website below. It's very easy to buy tickets from the machines in the station entrances (one-way fare from downtown SF to SFO was 8.25 USD in July 2013) and equally easy to take yourself and your bags down to the platforms (escalators).
Platforms are clearly signed and, as long as you take a train which is signed as going to SFO, you really can't go wrong.
- Family Travel
Tips for Using BART From A Local
BART is one of the most efficient and easy to use metro systems in the world. The trains are clean and nearly always run on time.
ARRIVING AT SFO and heading to DOWNTOWN SF- When you get off the plane look for the signs indicating BART or Trains. A monorail that makes stops at all terminals and the car rental will take you to the BART station.
BART offers an extremely quick and economical means of getting to downtown SF. For $ 8.10 you can get down to a station such as Powell or Embarcadero A cab ride could easily cost you $ 40 and a shuttle shared with others $25 or more. BART. trains leave every fifteen to twenty minutes. The ride will take you about thirty minutes. The ticket you purchase from one of the kiosks must be slipped face up into the turn style when entering and the same ticket must be used when leaving the train.
DISCOUNT TICKETS FOR 65 AND OLDER & KIDS 5-12- If you are a senior citizen, 65 or older, or traveling with children it will save you money to buy a special ticket. These tickets at the SFO airport can only be bought at the information booth which is next to the BART entrance/ For $ 9 you are entitled to $ 24 of fares throughout the BART system a savings of over 60%. ID's are not checked for fare purchase but be aware that purchasers of GREEN senior tickets are subject to be asked on board to confirm their age. The fine for traveling with a GREEN ticket and being under 65 is steep.
ADDING TO A FARE- Last week I was in SF for a VT meet when someone offered me for free several BART tickets with small amounts of unused fares on them. Why take home a bunch of BART tickets that you will never use again?
If you board a BART train with not enough fare on your ticket do not try and add money to it when you enter the station. Wait until you are done with your ride and then go to the ADD FARE kiosk. The machine will figure the exact additional fare you need to pay before you exit the turn style.
REMEMBER THE 4, 6, 8 RULE- BART runs from 4 am to 12 pm on weekdays, 6 am to 12 pm on Saturday, and 8 am to midnight on Sundays. So be sure and catch the last train before midnight or you could find yourself with a pretty steep taxi fare.
USE 511.ORG- While there are many apps for your smart phone that offer information on transit services by far the best and recommended on the BART page as the best source of information on how to get around the Bay Area is 511.org. This site will show you how to get to any place in the Bay Area from any location using bus or trains. Regardless of where you are staying it will give you step by step directions to walk to the nearest transit line and find the next bus or train to get you to your destination.
The BART is one of the easiest and best ways of getting into SF from the airport and to the surrounding areas.
The BART system runs on a mileage based forumla. Your starting and ending points will determine your fair. There are vending machines throughout the stations that take cash, coins and some machines take credit and debit cards.
The fare tickets are cards with stored values in them and at the end of your trip, will be deducted upon your exit.
Usually I am picked up at the airport by my friends, but if I am traveling with a companion on a short mileage run, the B.A.R.T. was always our form on getting into downtown San Francisco fast, easy and very cheaply.
Just be mindful that the BART stops service about 12:00am and doesn't resume until about 6:00 a.m. Recently we were forced to pay an exhuborent fare on a taxi to our hotel because our flight was delayed and we arrived to late for the BART.
For more information, schedules, times and prices, visit their website.
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Distant BART Bay Area Destinations
BART has construction plans to extend lines out east as far as Antioch, Brentwood, and Livermore, and south to San Jose via the Fremont line. These extensions will make BART an even better service than it is now. As others have stressed many times, BART is a good deal in terms of American transportation economics. From the end of the Blue Line at the Pleasanton Station, the average automobile will take at least an hour, assuming no traffic jam, and pay a $5- Bay Bridge toll. A Round Trip, per person, BART ticket to the Embarcadero Station in San Francisco is currently (Feb 2012) only $10.80, payable with either cash or credit/debit card. For not a lot more, one can ride all the way to the airport---beating all the airport shuttle prices. The price of parking alone in the city or at the airport will easily persuade visitors that BART is a good deal. The long-term airport parking at the BART parking stations are a particularly good value over private concession parking near the airport. When returning to the East Bay destinations though, be sure to check which train you are on. You may need to transfer at one of the Oakland stations, and in some cases, back track. But, don't worry, you don't have to pay extra if you make a mistake as long as you don't leave the station. The busiest transfer stations are the Balboa Park, Powell Street, MacArthur, and Bay Fair, so choosing another transfer station can be a good idea to avoid passenger congestion. As others have written, be careful of the parking lots at night, but all lots have video surveillance and BART police patrol, and in general, BART is very safe. See my combined transport for recommended routes in the city itself.
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There train system is not as extensive as in other cities. It mainly is in the downtown/ business area. It does not really go to the tourist or residential areas. One line the F does go to Fishermans Wharf. As a tourist you probably will have little use for it. For business travelers staying in the downtown area you may find it more suitable.
Bay Area Rapid Transit.
The BART is one of those many world wide subway systems that does not run all night. This is always the one thing that upsets me most when I travel. But it is a decent system that they do try to expand. I don't know the latest but I can tell you that there were/are plans to complete the loop. You can travel all the way out to Danville or down to the Milpitas area. Both airports are now connected. And most lines will get you into and out of the city.
B.A.R.T-The only way to get to and from SFO
Why pay 40USD or 50USD to get to San Francisco by taxi when it will cost you much less by taking B.A.R.T or the Bay Area Rapid Transit system. You'll get there in less than half an hour and don't worry because the trains are spacious enough for your luggage. Trains do run frequently so there is no issue there. B.A.R.T travels all over the Bay area and can get you to wherever you are going.
Take the air train from whichever terminal you arrive in to the B.A.R.T station. You'll have to buy your ticket from a machine (there are no clerks you can buy your ticket from). There are price listings with the station names that show you what to pay above the machine. I paid 8.10USD per person from SFO to the Powell St. station. A return ticket cost me 16.20USD per person
You must stamp your tickets both when entering and leaving the B.A.R.T station.
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Park Your Car and Ride the B.A.R.T.
San Francisco was not as much of a pain in the you know what to drive around as most big cities but it was bad enough. Fortunately, there is a great alternative. the Bay Area Rapid Transit System (B.A.R.T.) is clean, fast and coinvenient (even though they had a breakdown on one of our trips). We rode it several times including with three young kids. They had a ball and so did I. Much less stressful than driving, cheap enough, and there was a BART Stop near our motel. I even met a nice cute girl (who was way too young for me) on one ride.
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Way to Go
If you only plan to be in San Francisco proper then use the public transportation. The subway system is convenient when you consider that you have B.A.R.T. and Muni combined. Better than a car rental but don't expect this to be a cheap way to go.
B.A.R.T. has just enough depots. The bummer is that it doesn't loop around the whole San Francisco Bay Area. You can use CalTrain via a transfer.
Be ready to see or be approached by a number of homeless individuals. Most of them have the common sense to respect peoples' personal space. There are some that won't. Just keep on walking if you have any issues. You'll be fine.
Avoid the traffic. Use B.A.R.T. and walk a little bit too.
- Budget Travel
Cheap, fast and easy
As my corny title page implies, we did indeed leave (and arrive) by BART. This light rail system is by far your quickest and most economical way between downtown and San Francisco International. Depending on what terminal you arrive at, the station is just a few minutes walk or a short ride on AirTrain, the airport's free shuttle system. Here is a map with SFO BART station location:
Traveling from the airport, buy your ticket with cash or credit card from an automated machine at the station for (at time of this writing) $8.10 pp, one way, to stations in downtown area. Once you have your ticket, insert it in a turnstyle to access the platform and retrieve your ticket when it pops it out again - you'll need this again to exit the station at your desired location! Find the platform for the Pittsburg/Baypoint inbound line or one labeled "To San Francisco" - it should be clearly marked or ask one of the helpful people at a station kiosk. The platforms serve multiple lines so listen for audio announcements for when your specific train will be arriving. There should be others waiting for the same train so again, ask if you're not sure you have the right one.
Trains run every 15-20 minutes and it'll take about 30-35 minutes to reach one of several stations in the downtown area. When arriving at your station, exit through the turnstyles by inserting your ticket (it'll keep it this time) and take elevator, stairs or escalator to street level. If going to SFO airport from downtown, reverse the above process using Pittsburg/Baypoint/SFO outbound line. You can also access the Oakland airport via BART.
Station lists, timetables, fare finder to all BART locations in the bay area and other info can be found on BART website (below).
Still confused? Here's a nice article describing more detail on using BART (note: fares are outdated):
One little negative: trains do not run 24/7 so if you have a very early or very late flight, you'll need to use a different form of transportation.
- Budget Travel
from the airport to downtown
San Francisco in 20km north of the SFO airport. Here’s your options:
1)take a taxi and pay a fortune
2)rent a car, get mad with the traffic and pay a fortune for a parking
3)use the shuttle bus
4)Take the BART train, which is the best option. The station is near the international terminal or take the free AirTrain first which connect all the terminals till you reach BART and take the 30’ ride to SF downtown.
BART(Bay Area Rapid Transit) is actually the subway of San Francisco but it won’t help you much inside the city. There are four different lines and most of the stations are located at the east side of the Bay. We used the yellow line from the airport to reach San Francisco downtown (an easy 30’ ride) and that’s what most of the travelers do. There are 4 train per hour (.09, .24, .39, .54), the first train departs from SFO at 4.09am and the last one 11.54pm. The first train from Powel Station to the Airport is at 6.34am and the last one 12.33am.
I didn’t see anyone selling tickets in a booth at the airport so we used the vending machine. Getting our ticket was kind of confusing but the staff at the station explained everything. Ticket fee depends of the mileage, you just select your starting and ending points, you put the money (check first the BART Fare Chart next to the screen, the fee for the central stations in SF is about $8.20 one way) and the ticket which is a card will come out. Validate your ticket and keep it till you exit the final station.
The train seemed a bit old and noisy but who really cares. From Powel station or any other central station (depending the address of your hotel) you can take the Muni buses or a cablecar.
- Budget Travel
Easiest way to travel from SFO to SF
Since there was a BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station just down the street from our hotel, we used it to travel from the San Francisco airport to downtown San Francisco. It was very easy to find the BART station at the airport by following the signs, and the trip to the Powell St. station (near Union Square) took about 30 minutes. Trains run roughly every 20 minutes between 6:00 am and 1:00 am. Tickets cost $8.10 each way, which is by far the cheapest option for traveling to downtown SF from the airport.
- Budget Travel
BART from the airport
BART is San Francisco's subway, it's not as useful for getting around the city as buses, but it is an inexpensive way to get from the airport (SFO) to the city, we used it both directions. The cost for us was $8.10 each way, no savings for a round trip. The ride to the Powell Street station in Union Square was about a 1/2 hour, the airport station is reasonably well marked, you will have to take an airport transit train to get to the station.
The ticket machine was a little confusing, you need to get a ticket for $8.10 to go to the four central stations, Powell Street, Civic Center, Montgomery Street or Embarcadero, which is clearly marked on the machines but it's not a ticket option, you start at $10 and adjust to get to $8.10. Each person needs their own ticket, you can buy multiple tickets on one transaction and you can use credit, debit or cash. I didn't see any manned ticket booths at the airport but we were fine using the machines.
The train was a little grungy but we felt perfectly safe riding it in the early evening and in the afternoon when we returned.
The website below is very useful in planning your journey, you can check the station by address and then it also helps map your route from the station to your destination and also check the fare. The trains run every 15-20 minutes and shuts down at around midnight for a few hours before starting up again.
Pittsburg-Bay Point Station--Last on Yellow Line
The BART yellow line runs from SFO (the airport) through San Francisco, Oakland, and the East Bay cities of Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, and Concord before it terminates at Pittsburg. There's plenty of free parking at this terminal station, and this provides the best access for those interested in visiting the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta Region. Pittsburg is just 5 miles west from the Antioch Bridge (Hwy 160), and so by rental car it's easy to visit the Delta island towns of Rio Vista, Isleton, Locke and Walnut Grove. This region of levee protected wetlands is good for birdwatching, fishing, and fresh farm produce. The Pittsburg-Bay Point BART station is also a good departure point for rental car excursions along Hwy 4 east, to largest city on the San Joaquin River, Stockton; Sierra Motherlode historic towns such as Sutter Creek, and Sonora; the extraordinary Sequoia Grove at Calaveras Big Trees State Park, and Yosemite. The North Concord-Martinez BART station is better departure point for rental car sojourns to the old state capitol on the Carquinez Strait-- Benicia, bay delta wetland Preserve and historic slough port town of Suisun City, and the Napa Valley Wine Region. All these East Bay BART stations are also terminals for a wide array of municipal and regional transit buses that can be your link to some local towns in the Delta Region and certainly to the suburban rental car companies, which tend to be slightly cheaper in cost than at SFO. The Station is easy to find along the CA highway 4 freeway, as it is located within the median. The parking lot is on the south side of the freeway, and there's a covered pedestrian breezeway that crosses over the eastbound lanes to the station.
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