Buying the passport to use all the vehicles covered under the MUNI is one of the best deals around. A one way trip on the cable car is $5.00. A passport allows you to travel all day on $11.00. We used all the modes of transportation covered under the MUNI...we found it timely and it made stops in areas that we wanted to go. A hint...if you want to ride the cable car without dealing with crowds, the Van Ness line was never like the Powell line as far as how many riders there were. The Van Ness car was much more enjoyable. We were able to pick where we wanted to sit and it was a lot more relaxed. From the looks of it, most of the riders that were on the Powell line rode from one end to the other. Taking pictures or leisurely enjoying the ride were out of the question.
I found a map in the tourist office just beside the Union Square stop of the underground - (it's just beside where the tram goes from) that had all the buses marked on the map, so you could follow a road and a colour and really easily figure out which bus to get where. It really is simple. And then if you're going a bit further, the underground is very easy to figure out and efficient.
I don't have any insights into public transportation in San Fransisco - but who haven't heard of the San Fransisco cable cars, and who have heard of the MUNI? Having grown up in the old Soviet Union, trams and buses really stand out for me, and a ride on the historic MUNI trolley was a thing to remember.
Getting around San Francisco is very easy even without a car. In fact, one really does not need to hire a car, as the transportation system (known as MUNI) is excellent. There are 5 subway/metro lines that go both above and underground. (It goes underground when it reaches downtown and is above ground in the non-downtown areas.) The 5 lines are the J, K, L, M, and N lines, easily accessible by the Powell Street Station (right by Union Square). Furthermore, there are a countless number of buses serving the entire city. Thus, whereever you want to go, there is definitely a way to get there without needing a taxi or car, with few exceptions (for instance, getting to Twin Peaks is preferable with a car as it is a very high vantage point and difficult to get to through bus). The fare for both bus and subway/metro is $1.50, and that fare allows you to board the bus/metro again for free during a certain allocated time (usually only 1.5 hour). After that allocated period, you will have to pay the fare again. ALWAYS retain your ticket (until it has expired), as it is your proof of payment, and without it, you can be fined up to $200! As for the Cable Cars, it is $5 per trip, and you are not given a certain time period in which you can ride it again for free.
When you are downtown and taking the subway/metro, you will encounter large metro stations. Go to the MUNI booth, and you will pay your fare through the coin slots at the turnstiles. They only accept coins, so if you only have cash, you will be directed to a change machine in the station. After you have paid your fare by inserting the coins into the slots, push the turnstile and a ticket will automatically pop up. Again, retain this ticket! When you are not downtown, you will just board the metro/bus and pay the driver. For the metro, you will need to go to the very first carriage to pay the driver in the front, as there is no driver in the adjoining carriage.
If you're heading out to the main tourist attractions I recommend the taking the bus or a cab. Traffic is usually congested, especially in places like Union Square, Chinatown, and Fisherman's Wharf. Parking everywhere is limited and very expensive. Most hotels have a flyer with a map of the MUNI routes. A good route is the 45. It takes you from Union Street to North Beach to Chinatown to Union Square. The drivers are usually friendly and if you ask will tell you whether you're on the right bus and when you need to get off.
You need exact change. A good deal is the Passport Muni pass. You can buy a one day, three day or week long pass that's good for Muni and cable cars.
The bus can get crowded so keep an eye on your wallet or purse.
The front seats are reserved for elderly or handicapped which means if you're sitting in that area you must give up your seat. It's also polite.
Buses don't always stop at each location. You must pull the signal cord to alert the driver. And the back doors don't automatically open at stops. You must step down or push on the doors to open them. If that doesn't work yell "back door!" and the driver will open them.
Visit here before you come:
Tons of free maps, transportation advice on how to get to Muir Woods, how to catch a ferry to Sausalito or Tiburon, and for guides to the week's events. Extremely helpful experts.
When the Powell-Hyde Cable Car comes to the 'end of the line' at Powell & Market, walk down to the Plaza for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau, Visitors Information Center, 900 Market Street, Lower Level, Hallidie Plaza (near the cable car turn-around). Telephone (415)391-2000.
The Plaza takes its name from the Scotsman Andrew Hallidie, who was the orginal designer of the cable car.
Pick up a map of the MUNI bus routes; spend some time with the experts planning out the best way to get to places like Golden Gate Park, Legion of Honor Museum and the Cliff House. To save money, ask about all-day MUNI passes.
At the visitors bureau (see below) you can buy a weekly CityPass for municipal transportaion, tickets for cable cars, the Blue and Gold Fleet bay cruise, admission to the Museum of Modern Art, the Exploratorium, the Legion of Honor and the California Academy of Sciences and Steinhart Aquarium.
From here you can walk to beautiful Union Square only a few blocks away. Forget renting a car. San Francisco is compact enough to get to the good stuff by foot, MUNI bus, cable car or taxi.
San Francisco is an easy town to navigate around by using the San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI). We bought seven day passes for about $15.00 each. For current fares check at the web site listed below. This pass lets you use the buses, electric trolleys, light rail trains and best of all, includes the famous Cable Cars. Unlimited rides!!! You can purchase passes at the Visitor Information Center in Hallidie Plaza and at most MUNI stations. You can go just about anywhere in the city with these passes. Well worth the cost.
San Francisco has what I consider a good public transportation system. No system is ever perfect, but this one can get you everywhere you need to go. One way fares are $1.50 and transfers are free and good for a few hours. There are two parts to MUNI. There is the bus system, and there is the metro system which runs on a rail.
1 month passes for Muni are $45 and are good from the first of the month until the 3rd day of the following month. So if you are going to stay for a while, or make more than 30 trips on MUNI :-), it might be economical to get a pass.
Unlike most of the cities in the US I have been to or lived in, San Francisco imo has decent mass transportation.
I honestly could stay here indefinitely without a car, and never miss a thing
(I can de-plane at SFO, hop on Bart, and be at my hotel in about 40 minutes for about $5.00 .....
try that in Colorado, TX, or LA...)
The muni, walking, and affordable & reliable cabs get me all over town safely, quickly and relatively hassle-free.
BART gets you almost anywhere in the Bay Area.
Here are the BART Fares & Schedules to download in PDF format.
Ferrry Service gets you over the water to Marin County.
Lots of my friends commute into the City via BART regularly & painlessly from Walnut Creek, Oakland, etc.
I have found the MUNI to be safe, clean, and somewhat reliable whenever I have used it (disclaimer... but I'm just a tourist, I don't depend on it everyday at rush hour....)
My favorite time-saving MUNI run is downtown metro (under Market St.) from Castro to Embarcadero.
MUNI INFO HERE:
The F Market line is one of several light rail lines in San Francisco, California. Unlike the other light rail vehicle lines, the F line is operated as a heritage railway using exclusively historical equipment both from San Francisco's retired fleet as well as from cities around the world
Hop on the Muni 30 line and you can get a cheap round trip tour of many of the best parts of San Francisco. We usually pick it up at Pac Bell Park or at home, in the Marina. This bus route goes through: The Marina District, Fishermans Wharf, North Beach, ChinaTown, Union Square, Market Street, SOMA and Pac Bell Park...For only 1.25.
Oh, and make sure that you're not on the 30X. That's the express bus for the commuters. It skips the wharf, chinatown and northbeach and head straight for the finacial district.
We bought 3-day MUNI passports and rode the Cable Cars as much as the children wanted. We also rode the 'F' train along the Embarcadero and Market. We rode the buses as needed to get to/from various sites, including the Golden Gate bridge.
Try taking the SFO Muni from Fisherman's Wharf and you get good views of the Bay, the Streets of SFO, along Market and into Castro. You can then explore Castro and can even have a meal there. All for a couple of dollars, good for other Munis and valid for 4 hours.
After riding BART to Balboa Park, we then headed up to street level to take the bus to Monster Park. Talk about getting "door-to-door" service, the bus was waiting for us and after one other stop, we were dropped off right in front of the stadium. After the game, we headed to the designated area, hopped on the bus and it took us back to the BART station. Very convenient, and well thought out.
These are really efficient, extensive, and most are quick. As a tourist you will use these more often than others. At the time I am writing this the fare for buses is $1.25 and is good for two transfers. The fare for cable cars is $3.00 As a traveler who is going to be spending more than 7 days I recommend that you get the Citypass which gives you unlimited rides on both buses and cable cars for 9 days.
If you take the cable car try to sit at the very front or in the very back. The first time around might frighten you a bit but for you thrill seekers it is worth it.