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The B.A.R.T. Metro system goes around the East Bay, and the San Franciscan Pennisula. It unfortuneately does not go as far south as San Jose although extension plans are in the works.
If staying in the city you can take the BART over to Berkeley for the day it will probably cost about $8 for a round trip. It also goes into Walnut Creek and as far East as Pittsburg. The BART also goes to Pleasanton/Dublin and as far south in the East Bay as Fremont.
The BART also services both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland Airport.
How to Ride the BART
first of all review the route map and find the stations nearest where you wish to go. There are five lines, referred to by their end points (not by their colors).
Richmond > Daly City - Millbrae
Fremont > Richmond
Fremont > Daly City
Pittsburg / Bay Point > SFO
Dublin / Pleasanton > Daly City - Millbrae
then buy a ticket. Ticket machines at each station take cash and change as well as credit and debit cards. Tickets are sold according to how much money you put on them. You can add fare to a ticket while you are inside the BART system. You can put enough money on one ticket for multiple rides and use it several times. Place your ticket into the turnstile in the direction shown. Walk through and collect it. Keep your ticket with you, since you will need it to exit BART on the other end.
Signs indicate which trains are on which tracks. Board the correct train and ride BART to your destination. Exit the train and insert the ticket into the turnstile on your way out. If any fare is left on the ticket, it will be returned to you for further use.
more tips: BART charges your ticket based only on where you enter the system and where you exit the system, so there is no charge for changing trains
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The Easiest and Fastest Way to Get Around
Whether your flying into Oakland or San Francisco don't even think about renting a car, the BART is the best way to get around. From the Oakland Coliseum its a twenty minute ride and about 25 minutes from San Francisco Airport to Downtown. So there is no need to stay in Downtown S.F. which can be expensive, you could very easily stay in Oakland as long as its near the BART and still spend all your time in S.F. without paying a premium price. Once in the downtown area its easy to get to the majority of the sights on foot or by trolley. The cost from the S.F. airport to downtown is $5.35 and from the Oakland Colisuem, which is the stop closet to the Oakland Airport, its $3.55 to downtown not counting the $2.00 it cost for the Air Bart from the Oakland Airport to the Oakland Coliseum stop. Check the website below for up to date schedules and pricing, you can even access this site from your mobile phone!
Getting to SF from airports
There are 2 major airports people use to fly in San Francisco: SF International Airport and Oakland International Airport.
Both have BART trains stations nearby.
From/To SF International Airport
ROUT SF International Airport -> San Francisco.
BART SFO/SF Roundtrip Ticket costs $10.70. This will allow you to travel from SFO to any of the downtown SF stations (Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery or Embarcadero) and back to SFO.
BART tickets allow value to be added at station machines for additional travel, so you can use the $10.70 ticket throughout the system to add fare value if necessary. There is no time restriction.
From/To Oakland International Airport
ROUT Airport -> 15 minutes on a shuttle AirBART ($3) -> Airport BART Station($3.55) -> San Francisco.
BART Travel Pack costs $13.10 and includes two $3 BART Tickets for use on the AirBART shuttle ( to get you to the Oakland
Coliseum BART Station), and one $7.10 BART Ticket to ride BART to downtown San Francisco and back to the Oakland Coliseum BART Station. Fare is $3.55 each way.
BART tickets allow value to be added at station machines for additional travel. Put the ticket in any dispensing machine and add currency or coin to match the fare of your destination, as displayed on the chart posted on machines, and a new
ticket will be issued - if you add value to obtain the exact fare amount the ticket will not be returned at faregate exit and you will have to purchase a new ticket from a machine or vendor for additional travel. Save one of the $3 tickets initially received for use on the AirBart Bus as you will need this to return to Oakland International Airport.
There is no time restriction for this pass.
BART: quick and easy
The BART is a great way to get between the airport and the city. It's about $5.15 and a 30 minute trip. The stations are clean and easy to navigate.
You can't really use the BART to get around town muc, use the buses for that.
An economical way into San Francisco
Departing or arriving into the San Francisco airport is now the economical way to travel on B.A.R.T. - Bay Area Rapid Transit. If you're arriving from a flight into San Francisco and are on a budget, definitely take BART into the city or over to Oakland and beyond. It is fairly quick and beats traffic and tolls.
Taking BART to the San Francisco International Airport is just as easy. From there take the Airtrain (Complimentary) to your terminal where your airline is located.
If you're coming in from an International flight, there are currency exchange kiosks in the terminal. Exchange a bit of money before taking BART as they do not have a currency exchange there and you would have to go back out. The BART station does have machines that can give you change in USD currency bills and coins.
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Efficient Ride Around Bay Area and East Bay!
While the Muni system provides the primary way for visitors relying on public transportation to get around the city, the BART rapid transit trains are your ticket into the city from both the San Francisco and Oakland International Airports, as well as an efficient way to get to some of the suburban areas south of San Francisco and the East Bay communities.
BART operates in downtown San Francisco street, in the lower level of the Market Street Subway, below the Muni Metro trains. The system runs as far south of San Francisco as Milbrae, and, on the east side of the bay, serves Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, Pittsburg, Bay Point, Dublin, Pleasanton, and Fremont. BART fares are priced by the distance you ride, and the system is more expensive than riding Muni. Therefore, it is not really designed for travel within downtown San Francisco. However, for reaching the city from the airports, or for travel to other locations in the Bay Area, it is a fast, cheap way to get to your destination.
prices are: example ar trip from balboa park to embarcadero is $ 1:45; Daly City to Oakland airport is $ 3.85
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Extend BART - Transfer to Car Sharing
Over a dozen BART stations now host Car Sharing: meaning you can take BART to near your destination, then pick up a car. This is particularly useful for avoiding the San Francisco Bay Bridge, which can be a mess any time, but especially during weekdays, Friday evening, Saturday evening and Sunday night. There are 3 car sharing organizations that offer this service, including a local non-profit by the name of City CarShare.
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Good for getting to Airports
BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is one of San Francisco's Metro-type systems. It is great for getting to and from 2 of the 3 San Francisco Bay Area's Airports. However, it is not a great option for travelling within the San Francisco. There are limited stops in San Francisco and they are all pretty much in the same area. BART is used more for commuters or people who are staying in the greater bay area (mostly the East Bay) and want to get in to the city. If you are flying into/out of San Francisco Airport (SFO), then BART is a great option for getting to and from San Francisco. BART has a stop the airport. Make sure you get on the train that says "San Francisco Airport/Milbrae" if you are leaving San Francisco and need to get to the airport. The other trains going in the same direction will stop before reaching the airport. If you are at SFO and need to go into the city, you can take the "Dublin/Pleasanton" line (which is the only line right now that goes to the airport). Make sure you do some research as to where to get off if you are going to San Francisco because Dublin/Pleasanton is on the otherside of the bay. If you want to go to the Oakland Airport (OAK), you need to get on either the "Dublin/Pleasanton" line or the "Fremont" line (The Fremont Line stops running after 7PM on weeknights). Then get off at Oakland Coliseum/Oakland Airport. Once you are at the Oakland Coliseum, you have to take the AirBart Shuttle which is $3 for adults and $1 for children, the disabled, and seniors. If you want to go into the city and you are at the Oakland Coliseum Bart Station, you can take the "San Francisco Airport/Milbrae" line or the "Daly City" line. If you are planning to visit other cities while you are visiting San Francisco, BART is the most easiest way to get to some cities around the Bay. My suggestion is to check out the BART website, it is very user friendly. It even has a section where you can search destinations based on where you are visiting.
From the Airport take B.A.R.T.
Although not the fastest way into the city from the Airport, it is one of the cheapest. From S.F. airport you can take B.A.R.T. (Bay Area Rapid Transit) to the city within an hour depending on your destination. This area of B.A.R.T. is new, clean, and underused. So another nice thing seems that you don't need to worry about crowds.
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Glen Park Station destinations
In a series of BART station reviews, I provide examples of destinations and activites that can be take from those stations, as well as the connecting MUNI transport services. For those with limited time in the city, Glen Park could be a good stop. Glen Park is one of the first stops off BART on the south side of the city, with only Balboa Park being closer to the SFO city limits. The station interior is mostly unfinished concrete but the skylight roof creates a pleasant urban ambiance. Leaving Glen Park Station itself on foot is no great shakes because the neighborhood is quite near the 280 freeway, but just outside one can quickly find the #23 Monterey MUNI Bus which will wind it's way over the residential ridges south of Mt. Davidson to 19th and West Portal where there's a relatively quiet little business district with a row of great restaurants, good bookstores, and pleasant coffeeshops. Here, the average tourist visiting the city is rarely found (see my tip on West Portal). The upscale St. Francis Wood neighborhood is also here (see my tip on St. Francis Wood). The single family homes hugging the hillsides in this part of town are mostly early 20th century Mission Revival type homes with tile trim and rounded doorway lintels. Continuing from West Portal District, take Sloat Avenue west to Stern Grove (see Stern Grove tip), San Francisco State University, the San Francisco Zoo, and eventually Ocean Beach. This western side is the foggiest corner of the city. While these aren't considered "must see" places in SF, for those who have been to the city exploring this corner of the city will still rival the interest value of most American cities. Incidentally, at 19th and West Portal, one will find a line of the MUNI Rail system, which can be taken through the Twin Peaks Tunnel to the Castro District, creating a reasonable loop of sorts for those without a rental car.
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BART -- Rapid Transit
BART or Bay Area Rapid Transit serves most of the San Francisco Bay Area. In the East Bay it branches off and extends to Richmond, Pittsburg, Pleasanton, and Fremont. It serves both the San Francisco and Oakland International Airports. Although for Oakland, a shuttle is provided to transport you between the airport and the trains. On the Peninsula, it terminates at Millbrae just beyond the airport. It does not serve Marin to the north.
If you plan to head into the City from the East Bay during commute hours, BART is a good choice if your destination is near a station or served my a MUNI line. The alternative drive over the Bay Bridge is a snarl!
Discounted or free transfers to local bus systems are available inside the stations. In San Francisco, a voucher for $0.25 off a MUNI fare is available at dispensing machines. The BART website offers schedules plus a trip planner.
One word of caution, try to be extra aware of your surroundings outside the 16th and 24th Street Stations as these locations have higher amounts of street crimes than most parts of the City. This is especially true in the late evenings or into the night.
Be aware that BART stops running around Midnight. So if you have taken a train into the City and closed down the bars, you might find yourself stranded after last call.
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BART and MUNI
Save yourself a lot of hassle and aggravation. Please don't add to San Francisco's existing gridlock. The traffic is already bad enough here. Use the BART/MUNI system to get around. These two systems comprise subways and buses, and have stations close to the cable car system as well. They service the entire Bay area, except Marin County and other places along the periphery.
BART is a decent enough service for getting around a lot of parts of the Bay Area. It serves part of SF, part of East Bay, about halfway down the Peninsula. It doesn't go to San Jose (yet) and it will never go to Marin County. It certainly beats driving into the city and having to park your car in some place where you might not come back with a driver side window, like, say, the Mission District.
BART has seen better days and is in need of an upgrade. The interior is getting a bit shabby, the trains don't always run on time, and the rails screech a lot. However, it generally works (when workers are not on strike), and it is much cheaper than taking a cab or parking.
Build in some extra time for waiting for Bart, waiting for it to leave the station, and the time it takes to get from point A to point B. Overall, well worth it. Combined with other mass transit systems, like Caltrain, Muni and Golden Gate Transit, you can pretty much get around to a lot of places in the Bay Area without a car.
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The Bay Area Regional Transportation Service actually has more stops in East Bay than it does on the west side of the bay in San Francisco. The key stops for tourists are along Market Street and include Embarcadero Station near the Ferry Building, Montgomery Street Station near China Town and North Beach, Powell Street Station at Union Square, and finally San Francisco International Airport Station. Unfortunately this leaves some fo the key areas of the city isolated from the BART including Fisherman's Wharf, Golden Gate Bridge, Monster (Candlestick) Park, and even the downtown AT&T Park. Luckily, most of these areas are connected via the Muni or by the cablecars.
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