The city of San Francisco is blessed with one of the most elaborate public transportation systems. For locals, expats and travellers, the notorious traffic is a blessing in disguise, as the world would have never known about the efficiency of the public transport in San Francisco. Streetcars and Muni are a great way to travel in the city, while BART, the underground system of San Francisco, is a good choice when travelling to the outskirts. Unlike the conventional road taxis and cabs, San Francisco’s transport system conveys people to various places of interest via water taxis.
Even though the rapid and efficient public transport in San Francisco frees people from the worry of having to figure out commutation plans, however, what is preferred by most people is being afoot in the city. Both Ferry rides and cable cars are fascinating journeys and travellers can reach almost any place via these mediums. And it is easy to understand that one can totally skip getting a car in the city, however, for an understanding of how to approach the public transport system, we suggest you keep reading.
Appearing on the transportation scene of San Francisco a few years back, Clipper Cards have made travelling easy for daily commuters. Offering a 50 cent discount to the riders, the Clipper Card is like a plastic credit card and saves travellers from the struggles of having the exact change for bus rides. One of the biggest reasons why travellers pick clipper cards overpasses and cash is because of their multi-purpose nature, that is, the card is usable on buses, BART, trolleys, cable cars and some ferries too. Clipper cards can be issued at Muni and Golden Gate Ferry ticket offices and machines, BART stations, or else can be applied for online at clippercard.com.
Using the clipper cards is very easy, travellers just need to tap the card on the Clipper logo on BART stations, Muni stations, buses, and streetcars. Senior citizens, disabled people and under 19 travellers can obtain clipper cards that will offer them discounted rates on public transport.
Bay Area Rapid Transport or BART is a train system connecting San Francisco and other cities in the East Bay and down the Peninsula. Running underground like a subway, Bart emerges above ground in some outer areas of San Francisco. In the East Bay, BART crosses Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Antioch and south through San Leandro, Fremont and Pleasonton. Along the Peninsula, the BART goes to the SF and Oakland airport and Millbrae. Fares are calculated based on the distance travelled and generally costs about $8.65 for a one-way trip. Tickets for BART can be purchased from the ticket machines installed on the train stations via cash or credit card. For more information about maps and lists of stations, see BART.
San Francisco’s Muni system consists of both buses and streetcars that run on rail tracks. While locals call buses Muni and streetcars Muni Metro. The Muni system of San Francisco costs an adult around $3, while for senior citizens the subsidised rates are priced at $1.50. One can get even lesser rates with Clipper Cards and MuniMobile. People under the age of 19 years can travel for free. To know about routes and timings, check the Muni map.
Golden Gate Transit (SF & North Bay buses)
Serving mainly the North Bay, the Golden Gate Transit is a public transport in San Francisco consisting of bus and ferry services. The buses operate between downtown San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge and accept both cash and Clipper Cards. If one wishes to visit Market Street and Van Ness Ave, Golden Gate Transit’s bus route #30 runs start service from Transbay Terminal downtown. For more information about routes and schedules, check Golden Gate Transit.
There are 4 main ferry services connecting San Fransico via its waters. While two of them are run by the government and accept Clipper Cards, the other two are managed by private agencies.
San Francisco Bay Ferry
Connecting to East Bay towns like Oakland, Richmond and Vallejo, the San Francisco Bay Ferry or SF Bay Ferry is a popular public transport in San Francisco, run by a private company, the Blue and Gold Fleet. Working individuals who travel on a regular basis mainly rely on SF Bay ferry for their daily commutation. To keep a track of its schedules and new information, it is good to keep checking SF Bay ferry’s website.
Golden Gate Ferries
Starting at a price of $11, Golden Gate ferry operates between Central San Francisco and Marin County towns like Sausalito, Tiburon, Angel Island and Larkspur. Being a public transport, the Golden Gate ferry accepts clipper cards and has every new information up on their official website.
Blue and Gold Ferry and Alcatraz Ferry
Both Blue and Gold Ferry and Alcatraz Ferry are privately owned and run ferry systems. While Blue and Gold connects to some towns, Alcatraz Ferry only takes travellers to Alcatraz Island. Blue and Gold ferry also hosts bay cruises and tours for holiday-makers, however, both of these privately operated ferry systems have separate ticketing systems.
Taxi and rideshare
Car-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft are the only two players running the road rideshare game in San Francisco. What makes San Francisco’s taxi system stand out is the availability of water taxis too. Costing around $10 for adults and $5 for kids, water taxis serve between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf from 10 am till 6 pm. For more information about San Francisco water taxis check sanfranciscowatertaxi.org.
San Francisco is a compact city, which would rarely need a traveller to have a car of their own. Most individuals prefer being on foot to access different areas of the city or else the public transportation. Cars are also not preferred because of the regular traffic jams, steep ridges and pocket-pinching parking rates. However, exploring the Bay Area requires individuals to invest in their own or private vehicle through rental agencies.
The aforementioned information, advises travellers on how to go about with the unique transport system in San Francisco. Be it Munis, buses or trolleys, (even though the service is impacted after covid) have added to the efficiency of the overall commutation system and solved almost half the problems of travellers. Both over-road and over-water means of transport, takes travellers in different ways, thus, filling each other’s gaps. Travellers wanting to exit the city need not have a cab or private vehicle and can easily take the BART to reach the two international airports.
Cable cars are always a pleasure to ride, however, it is advised to take an evening ride between Market Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. One thing which must not be missed is a ride to Chinatown and Nob Hill. Apart from the ample options to travel on road, Hop-on Hop-Off double-deckers and PresidiGO shuttles are yet other options that connect to the downtown and Presidio Hills. Water taxis and pedicabs take commuters to islands and let them explore a range of dockside restaurants and popular activities. So, even if travelling to a specific destination isn’t on one’s mind, travelling in San Francisco via public transport is always fun!