Travel in San Francisco Getting Around the City without a Car

Travel in San Francisco: Getting Around the City without a Car

Despite California’s love affair with the auto, it is easy to get around San Francisco without one. In fact, traffic and a lack of inexpensive parking make driving around the city less than desirable. The following are the various ways for visitors, newcomers, and residents to get around San Francisco without a car.

MUNI – San Francisco’s Public Transportation System

Carrying over 200 million riders a year, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MUNI) is the country’s seventh-largest provider of public transit but one of its most diverse. MUNI’s vehicles include buses, light rail, historic streetcars, and cable cars.

Fares for the system are $2.00 per ride for adults (except cable cars which cost $5.00 per adult ride) and $.75 per ride for youth, seniors, and the disabled.

Fares need to be paid with exact change.

Transit passes are available (at various locations), including the MUNI Fast Pass which is good for the designated month and MUNI Passports which are good for 3 or 7 consecutive days.

Many MUNI buses and light rail start in downtown San Francisco and travel outbound via Market Street.

Light rail vehicles have letters for names; buses have numbers.

The K, L, M, N, & J streetcars all travel in the underground subway while downtown; the T and the historic F streetcar lines travel on the surface.

Stops in the downtown commercial area include Embarcadero (Ferry Building, hotels, and the water’s edge), Montgomery, and Powell (hotels and shopping).

Riders need to look at the destination marked on the front of the vehicle.

When waiting underground, monitors tell which light rail train is coming and when it will arrive; when waiting on the surface of Market Street, destinations are marked on signs at the appropriate curbs or traffic islands.

Cable cars were designed to navigate the city’s huge hills.

The Powell-Mason Street line that goes to Fisherman’s Wharf is the most popular.

The wait for this cable car line, however, can take over an hour.

A pleasant alternative to this destination is to take the F streetcar line on Market Street.

Using historic streetcars from all over the world, this line travels towards the Ferry Building, rides along the picturesque waterfront, and ends at Fisherman’s Wharf.

Some notable destination accessible from other streetcar lines: The J Church line gives a great view of the San Francisco skyline as it travels near The Castro and The Mission and then heads to the shopping of 24th Street in Noe Valley; the L Taraval heads towards the ocean and The San Francisco Zoo.

The N Judah runs near Golden Gate Park, the Academy of Sciences, and the shopping found on Irving Street in the Sunset.

Diesel, hybrid, and trolleybuses cover the rest of San Francisco.

Some examples: the 5 Fulton goes to the museums (De Young and Academy of Sciences) and other wonders of Golden Gate Park; the 30 Stockton goes through Chinatown, North Beach, and the shopping on Union and Chestnut Streets and ends near The Exploratorium.

On December 5, 2009, new routes and schedules went into effect for MUNI.

Current versions of MUNI’s Street and Transit Map can be found posted at most transit stops or can be purchased for $3.00 at various locations throughout the city as well as the Powell and Market transit kiosk near the beginning of the cable car.

BART within San Francisco

BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) operates trains that pass through San Francisco on the way to East Bay and South Bay.

Stops in San Francisco include Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell, Civic Center, 16th Street Mission, 24th Street Mission, Glen Park, and Balboa Park.

Traveling between any of these stations, costing $1.75 per trip, is faster on BART than on MUNI.

You can also take BART to either airport: directly to San Francisco International Airport or the airport shuttle that goes to Oakland International Airport.

Trip Planning

Planning your trip on MUNIis as easy as calling 311 (in San Francisco) or calling 511 (within the San Francisco Bay Area).

You can also access the trip planner of 511 or Google Maps through the internet.

These resources all give free transit info.

No matter where you want to go to San Francisco, there is an inexpensive way to get there on public transit.