Driving is an excellent way of getting around San Francisco, especially if you want to explore more off the beaten path places especially away from the city center.
If I'm staying with or meeting up with friends who live in the SF Bay Area they usually pick me up at the airport and wisk me away wherever we are going.
If we plan to meet other friends for dinner or drinks and don't want to worry about cabs or the BART, we'll drive in the city as well. Driving in San Franciso can be a bit congested but nothing horrible, it is quite manageable. We've never had problems driving around the city and finding a parking spot hasn't been an issue either.
Believe it or not, these tiny little vehicles are capable of climbing up San Francisco's steep hills--we saw one at the COIT TOWER.
I don't know if I'd want to join the throng of traffic in a Go Car, but they were really cute!
The cost is determined by the hour: first hour is $44, second hour is $34 additional and each hour after that is $24 additional. Once you hit 5 or more hours, the cost does not increase.
As in New York and other cities, San Francisco taxis signal their availability by the lighted sign on top of the cab. When the sign is illuminated, the taxi is available.
Like in other Cities in the World, San Francisco also has a fair share of fake or "Bandit" taxis and to spot them, here are the ff guide: The words "San Francisco Taxi Cab" appear on the side and rear of cab, A small metal license plate is on the dashboard and A driver’s ID visible from the backseat.Popular tourist areas like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square have a greater concentration of cabs than do outlying areas of the city. If you can’t hail a cab on the street, try the nearest major hotel for a taxi queue.
Popular tourist areas like Fisherman’s Wharf and Union Square have a greater concentration of cabs than do outlying areas of the city. If you can’t hail a cab on the street, try the nearest major hotel for a taxi queue. For less populated areas, Phone a Taxi! make a call to one of the dispatch numbers listed below.
Taxi Cab Companies:
Arrow Cab Company
DeSoto Cab Company
Luxor Cab Company
Metro Cab Company
Veterans Cab Company
First 1/5th of a mile: $3.10
Each additional 1/5th of a mile or fraction thereof: $0.45
Each minute of waiting or traffic delay: $0.45
Airport surcharge: $2.00
Passengers pay for bridge tolls.
For distances 15 miles or farther outside the city limits, taxis will charge 150 percent! of the metered rate.
Tipping: Tip 15 to 20 percent of the total fare.
We rented a car for a day so that we could go out and see Muir Woods, Point Reyes National Seashore and Sausalito. The rates were a lot higher than I thought they'd be, the best rate I could find at a downtown location was $53 per day for an economy car including tax through Hertz. Most of the major rental companies have multiple locations downtown, we were able to rent from their location in Union Square right across the street from the Hilton. When we asked if we could return it to their Fisherman's Wharf location they said we could and although the computer came up at a much higher rate, she gave it to us for the original rental rate.
While I wouldn't recommend renting a car to get around the city itself, it was much less expensive for us to rent a car for the day than take an organized day tour out to Muir Woods and we got to go at our own pace. I didn't think driving was at all challenging, maybe because I am used to big city traffic. There are some one way streets and you might encounter some hills depending on your route but otherwise it wasn't nearly as bad as what I'm used to in Chicago. If you go across the Golden Gate Bridge, be aware that there is a $6 toll when you come back into San Francisco.
I compared rental rates at Expedia and booked through their website, Hotwire was of no use because they only seemed to have rates for the airport, I didn't try Priceline.
The Bay Bridge is a multi level bridge that links the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. It is the 38th longest suspension bridge in the world. It's official name is The James "Sunny Jim" Rolph Bridge but this name is rarely used.
The Golden Gate bridge gets all the glory while the Bay Bridge does all the work. The Bay Bridge sees over 270,000 vehicles per day which far exceeds the Golden Gate bridge at 109,000 vehicles a day.
The toll to cross the Bay Bridge is $4 per car The bridge has appeared in many films, including The Graduate, The Towering Inferno, Basic Instinct, and The Dead Pool.
If you're considering staying out of town to save money on parking, ask yourself do you really want to have to commute back to the hotel to take a nap or freshen up or retrieve something you forgot?
Why don't you drop the family and luggage at the conveniently located hotel of your choice, then drive down to the Millbrae (or Colma or San Bruno or South City) BART station. http://www.bart.gov/guide/parking/index.aspx - for $6 a day you can leave your car there and BART back up to your hotel. (I think you need to set up the parking ahead of time, either online or by phone, and have your permit with you when you arrive.) SF is easy to get around without a car. We have great public transportation - buses, ferries, cable cars. If your hotel is downtown you can walk to many tourist attractions, and, as a previous poster pointed out, you can rent bicycles at the wharf.
Another option would be to go to www.parksleepfly.com and click on the hotel plus parking link. You can spend either your first or last night at an airport hotel, park for free for up to a week, then take the free shuttle to the airport and catch BART up to the city. It's a bit of an effort, but it would certainly save you a lot of money, and it's less effort than getting in and out of the city every day (don't forget how ghastly our rush hours can be.)
The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTA) maintains a web site and phone service that provides up to date traffic information for the major freeways in the San Francisco Bay Area. The site has a color coded map of the current traffic conditions. It shows if traffic is light, moderate, heavy, or gridlocked. The site will also estimate driving times. This information is invaluable for determining the traffic conditions before attempting to cross the Bay Bridge.
The information used for the site is gathered by a series of data collectors that captures the location of cars that have the Fast Track toll collection transponders. This enables the MTA to track vehicles equipped with Fast Track as they traverse along the major routes. The time a vehicle travels between the collection points is relied back to the MTA and the information is reflected in updates to the traffic maps on the web site.
On a local news report the MTA stated that it does not keep the data collected for more than one day. However, the system does raise some privacy issues. Users of the transponders can place them in a protective envelope when not at a tollbooth and the MTA will not track their movements or use the information on their updates.
The service is also available by phone by dialing 511. A series of menus will lead the user to the traffic information.
If you drive to San Francisco you will find that parking can be a nightmare. According to the SFMTA there are 450,000 registered vehicles in the city and some 35,000 more bring commuters into the city limits each day. Street parking downtown in anywhere that is remotely interesting can be impossible, especially with their confusing rules and regulations about double parking, street sweeping, and temporary street closures, and parking garages are insanely expensive (though cheaper than Manhattan!). In various trips to the city I have tried different parking options from hotel lots (in Oakland) and parking garages (in SoMa, Union Square, Fishermans Wharf, and Oakland) to street paring (Chinatown and Japantown) and parking at BART stations in Fremont and Daly City.
San Francisco has 23,000 parking meters that cost anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 an hour. They accept nickels, dimes, and quarters, as well as smart cards. Motorcycle rates are just $0.10 to $0.25 an hour at meters. Most meters have hours of operation from wither 7 am or 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday, but in some areas, like Fishermans Wharf, the meters are in effect seven days a week. Most meters are on the street, but some are in the 21 city-owned metered lots downtown.
San Francisco also operates 19 parking garages with about 12,500 parking spaces. These are mostly located in the city center and daily rates range from about $15 in Japantown to $33.50 in the Financial District. We've parked at a few of these lots around Union Square where rates are at least $25 a day, and once at Fishermans Wharf for around $5 an hour.
In my opinion one of the best bets to to park at outlying BART stations and take the public transportation. I have done this on three occasions, twice at Daly City and once in Fremont. At both stations parking is free on weekends and holidays. In fact, the standard rates are just $2 outside the city.
Known in southern California as the Pacific Coast Highway, in the central part of the state as the Cabrillo Highway, and in the north as Shoreline Highway. It traverses some of the most beautiful parts of the Pacific Coast including Half Moon Bay, Pacifica, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park, all within an hour south of San Francisco.
Further from the city, the highway traverses some stunning coastline including Monterey Bay. Highway 1 hugs the coast around Monterey Bay hitting Santa Cruz, Marina, and the edge of Monterey, before cutting off the Monterey Peninsula for a few miles (skipping Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, and much of Carmel) to , then it's back along the ocean. Other great spots along the highway include the entire Big Sur coastline, and great parks such as Natural Bridges State Beach, Año Nuevo State Park, and Pigeon Point Lighthouse State Historic Park, Point Lobos State Reserve, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the Hearts Castle at San Simeon, and Morrow Bay.
Parking in SF is expensive regardless of where you go, but some places are less pricy than others..
I have 2 spots in the downtown to recommend:
- Sutter-Stockton Garage
Location: 330 Sutter at Stockton.
a) Monday through Saturday:
Day rates (from 7am to 6pm):
Up to 1h = $2.
Up to 2h = $5.
Up to 3h = $7.
Up to 4h = $9.
Up to 5h = $12.
Up to 6h = $15.
Up to 7h = $18.
Up to 8h = $21.
Over 8h (before 6pm) = $26.
Evening rates (from 6pm to 7am):
Up to 1h = $2.
Up to 2h = $4.
Up to 3h = $5.50.
Over 3h (before 7am) = $7.50.
b) Sunday (from 7am to 6pm):
The same as the evening rates.
c) Daily rates (maximum):
Monday through Saturday = $33.50.
Sunday = $15.
d) Motorcycle flat rate = $5.
- Portsmouth Square Garage.
Location: 733 Kearny at Clay.
Rates: The rates are published on the website.
They also offer an Evening Rate = $5.00 (Monday through Friday)
Vehicle must enter after 5pm and leave before 4am on the next day.
If you have an extra day or two, try to visit Napa Valley and taste its wines.
Directions to Napa from San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
Approximate Driving Distance - 56 miles
Get on Highway 101 and head north toward San Francisco.
Follow signs to Bay Bridge and go over bridge.
Then take "Berkeley, Sacramento " fork on Interstate 80.
Follow I-80 until you come to Highway 37, which will be clearly marked "Napa /Sonoma" and read "Columbus Parkway and Marine World".
Take Highway 37 West over the freeway go 1.6 miles to Highway 29.
Turn RIGHT (North) on Highway 29
Then take the LEFT fork which is marked "Calistoga/Sonoma Highway 29"
Directions to Napa from Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Approximate Driving Distance - 50 miles
Start out going Northeast on AIRPORT DR toward NEIL ARMSTRONG WAY.
Turn right onto HEGENBERGER RD continue toward Interstate 80 North.
Take the Interstate 80 North towards downtown Oakland/San Francisco.
Follow the signs to stay on Interstate 80 towards San Francisco/Sacramento.
Take the Sacramento Exit (labeled 80 EAST).
Continue on I-80 and go over the Carquinez bridge.
Travel about 5 miles and take Highway 37 exit, which will be clearly marked "Napa Sonoma" and read "Columbus Parkway" and "Marine World".
Take Highway 37 West over the freeway, go 1.6 miles to Highway 29.
Turn RIGHT (north) on Highway 29.
Proceed north about 12 miles until you come to a fork. Take the LEFT fork which is marked "Calistoga/Sonoma Highway 29" (NOTE: Ignore signs that read "Napa/Lake Berryessa".) Proceed on Highway 29 approximately 5 miles to Central Napa.
Directions to Napa from Sacramento International Airport (SMF) can be found here
A city of one-way streets, near-vertical hills and kamikaze bike messengers, San Francisco puts visiting drivers to the test. There is little or no free parking. Parking can cost more than $30, even more if you move your car. For the most part, public transportation is your best bet. How ever, if you still insist on a car, here are some driving tips!
If you plan to take any day trips, visit the beach, Napa Valley or Monterey, then access to an automobile will be a virtual necessity. The highways are fairly easy to navigate although they can become congested, especially during commute hours.
The bay area is ringed by highways 101, 880 and 80. The Bay, San Mateo and Dunbarton bridges cross the bay between the peninsula and the East Bay. Marin county is linked by the Golden Gate bridge to San Francisco and by the Richmond bridge to the East Bay.
Highway 101 runs through San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, north to Oregon and south to Los Angeles. It is typically crowded and often slow. Highways 101 and 280 both take you to San Jose.
Highway 280 runs south from San Francisco parallel to Highway 101 and is much less crowded. It that wasn't enough reason to take highway 280, it is worth the drive just for the scenery. It was voted the nation's most beautiful freeway after all.
Highway 80 exits the city eastbound to the Bay bridge and deposits you in Oakland. Continue east and highway 80 leads to Sacramento and Lake Tahoe.
Highway 880 runs parallel to highway 101 on the eastern side of the bay.
I still would not recommend driving in the city. The confusing array of one way and two way streets, steep hills and narrow lanes all conspire to make driving an unpleasant experience at best. Parking is in short supply and expensive. There is little or no free parking!
Mr. Toad Tours resembles something you might see driving around the streets of Disney World-- it's that novel.
You can tool around San Francisco in an environmentally friendly car that's propane fueled. Three models are available for your consideration: a 1918 Packard, a 1912 Rambler and a 1929 Model A.
The 80 minute HOP AROUND THE CITY TOUR costs $32 for adults; $26 for students with ID, seniors and the military; $15 for kids ages 4-12 and free for under 4.
Tours lasting two plus hours are also available, please see the website for more information.
the Golden Gate Bridge is one of the top tourist sights in San Francisco, and driving across the bridge is a great experience. The bridge was completed in 1938 and covers 1.7 miles across the Golden Gate. Some parking is located at either end of the bridge for those who want to walk, but it can be packed when the weather is nice and on weekends.
Tolls are collected southbound only and cost $5 per car; northbound traffic is free! Bicycles are allowed 24/7, but pedestrian traffic is only allowed during daylight hours.
Built from 1933 to 1936, the bridge has an eastern and a western span connected at Yerba Buena Island. Tolls are charged for west-bound traffic only (Oakland to San Francisco) and the cost is $3, expected to rise to $4 to help finance the new eastern span that is still under construction. The Bay Bridge carries 280,000 commuters each day across its two-mile, double-decked spans.
On 29 April 2007, sections of the Oakland side of the bridge were destroyed when a tanker truck hauling fuel wrecked and caught fire melting and collapsing portions of I-80 and I-580 onto I-880.