|When you arrive in San Francisco, you always wonder what are the transportation methods you'll use. Yes, they have a very good transit system, but with so many types of vehicles, you wonder if it's all the same price-wise or if your ticket or pass is good for this or that other vehicle. I'll explain it all to you now so you won't get confused between bart, metro, street cars and cable cars.|
First, there are two different service
companies deserving San Francisco. There's the MUNI (logo above)
which is the MUNIcipal transit. Then there's the Bay Area Regional
Transit (BART). Transportation titles aren't transferable from one
system to the other. The BART is mostly used by locals to go in and
out of San Francisco to work mostly, so I'll limit myself to the MUNI
system, which is the most complicated one anyway. Technically,
there's a 3rd system with limited stops, the Golden Gate
Transit, but that's only a few buses going through the gate up to
First, of course, you have the buses.
The buses come in different sizes and varieties in San Francisco.
You have the regular gas bus, the trolley buses (those with poles
connected to electric wires above the street) and now you have hybrid
electric buses (which are either an old gas one converted or one of
those new designs shown here. All the varieties come in both regular
and extended (articulated) versions.
Most tourists don't even know it exists
in San Francisco! But it's there. It's underground in Downtown
limits... and pops up at street level on the outskirts of the city.
It can take you right from downtown to the Ocean beach in a bit more
than 30 mins. Most people confuse this with the street cars...
because all their line identifications are letters. Metro line are
identified by letters J, K, L, M, N and T. Most tourists will use
line N... that goes from the CalTrain station (next to the Giants
stadium) to the beach, passing along downtown and Market street.
This is one of the signature of San
Francisco. These are the trains that do the line F, from Market
street, to downtown and to Fisherman's Wharf. There are more than 15
of those historic street cars in service. Most come from other
cities who abandoned this transportation method. You can see on each
of those cars the city it comes from (could be Boston, Philadelphia,
DC, Los Angeles, etc). They either kept the original city colours or
were painted into the San Francisco colours of the era of the car.
That's why they're all different. Inside each car, near the rear
door, there's the information about the origin of the car and the
information about the paint job if any.
That's the other transportation
signature of the city. These are old cars pulled in the streets by
an underground cable onto which the car grips to move around. When
they want to stop, the gripman lets the cable go and applies the
break. I had travelled a few times inside the car in the past,
today I tried the back 'porch'... quite spectacular. I haven't
ventured yet to use it from the side steps. Most tourists use the Powell-Hyde line to go from Market Street to Lombard Street and to the Wharf. If you want a less crowded experience, try one of the other two lines.
Although, the cable cars
are part of the MUNI system, their pricing is much different. A
single-rid of cable car costs $6 and you don't get a transfer.
While the other MUNI vehicles charge only $2 and you get a transfer.
You can get 1-, 3- and 7-day
passes at a good price... and that will allow you unlimited travel on
all MUNI vehicles (including cable cars) for the chosen duration.
Even if the 1-day pass is much more expensive than for most cities,
two rides on the cable car (for example to get to and from the
Lombard street) and one bus ride... and you're back in your money.
The best deal is to get a 7-day pass if you're there for more than 3
days. You can then do what I call 'transit tours' and explore the
city all over and really mix with the locals, by going outside the
San Francisco is very expanded and very
hilly... not a very walkable city to go all around. Even the wharfs
area is quite large... so even on flat ground, that's still a
challenge to cover it by foot. But for short distances, it's a very
wonderful city to walk in and the car drivers are very polite with