Bay Area Rapid Transit Visitor Guide

BART Subways San Francisco

BART Trains Are Efficient San Francisco Transportation

Whether you are flying or driving into San Francisco, BART is a convenient and easy way to get around the Bay Area. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is a high speed commuter train which allows commuters and visitors alike to travel quickly and safely from the early morning to the late night. As the central hub of all the regional Bay Area public transit systems, BART connects the outer reaches of the Bay Area to the city centers of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. Even for the first time rider, BART is easy to use. Fares are based on the distance traveled each way. Every station is equipped with several ticket vending machines.

To calculate your fare, locate the colorful map indicating the different BART lines and stations. Find your destination, and a fare chart (usually located near a fare machine) which will indicate the cost from where you are to where you wish to go. Next, purchase a ticket, or add money to an existing ticket, by inserting money in one of the vending machines. They are cash and coin only, taking up to $20 and can give change up to $4.95. There is a $1 “change key“, giving you the option to pay with quarters. While some stations have ATMs, don’t count on it. It is best to come prepared with cash, preferably smaller bills. If you miscalculate, there are “Add Value” machines to add money to your ticket before exiting the station.

Trains are frequent, particularly during the day and commute hours. However, there is a time table for your convenience located at every station. From the airports, BART is a simple alternative to costly cabs and airport shuttles. Opened in January 2003, the SFO BART station is the sleekest in the system, stopping at international terminal and delivering passengers to and from domestic flights via AirTrain. We've created a detailed guide to riding BART from San Francisco Airport SFO.

While BART does not go all the way to Oakland International Airport, the AirBART shuttle meets BART at the Oakland Coliseum station, costing $2.00 per passenger ($.50 for every child under 11). Both stations offer a variety of visitors’ guides to help you utilize BART during your stay. If you are planning to visit San Francisco by car, save yourself the hassle and expense of parking in the city by using BART. Most stations, except in the downtowns, have parking. Some paid and some not, these lots make it easy to leave your car and ride into the city. In San Francisco, BART lies beneath Market and Mission Streets, hugging the eastern edge of the city. There are many sites and activities just a short walk away from the downtown BART stations: restaurants and hotels, art and cultural museums, Union Square shopping, the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building, and the historic Mission Dolores. But don’t be deterred if your destination is not on the BART line. Overlapping with BART along Market Street, the Muni lightrail provides easy access to the AT&T San Francisco Giants Ballpark, the beach, and the western half of the city.

The Cable Car turnarounds are directly above BART at Powell Street, and just a few blocks away from the Embarcadero station at California and Market streets. The historic streetcar line, the F, travels from the Castro, along Market, the Embarcadero, to Fisherman’s Wharf. To get directly to Fisherman’s Wharf from Union Square and Downtown, the 30 bus is the most direct line, dropping passengers near the Hyde Street Pier and Ghirardelli Square. The 30 also runs through North Beach where you can easily transfer to the 39, which goes both up Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower and down to the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf at Powell and Beach streets.

From San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland are just a quick trip under the bay. However, remember that most stations are closed after midnight (exceptions for some stations which run one or two trains after 12am), so if you are planning dinner or a night out in the East Bay, check the time tables at the BART station, or look on-line. After the evening commute and on every Sunday, two transbay lines are cut. Thus, if you are traveling from San Francisco to Berkeley (or vice versa), you must transfer at the West Oakland station. With access to the airports and complete guides to all Bay Area public transit, BART makes it easy to visit San Francisco. From BART you can get wherever you need to go via train, lightrail, bus, street car, cable car, or by foot.

Official BART Schedules and Fares

By: Elizabeth Linhart, Copyright SFTRAVEL LLC