Transport in San Francisco


San Francisco is a lovely city to travel by walking, even with the hills, but there are a variety of transportation options from which to choose. There are several different modes of public transport including the iconic cable cars and buses. There are miles of bike lanes, and many different companies in which to rent a car. Ferries and boats even make the waterways accessible. A variety of maps, like, make traversing the city a bit easier.

"Green" (environmentally friendly) and public transportation are more popular here than in almost any other US city. Bicycling has about 40,000 residents on the move to work regularly. The city has worked to make this a better option with additional bike lanes continually being added to the already 68 miles (109 km) of bicycle lanes. Rideshare is an organization that allows interested parties to find a convenient carpool. Also, nearly a third of the commuters use public transportation. The San Francisco Municipal Railway, known as Muni, make public transport possible with a combined light rail/subway system (the Muni Metro) and a bus network that includes trolleybuses, standard diesel motorcoaches and diesel hybrid buses. The Metro streetcars run on surface streets in outlying neighborhoods but underground in the downtown area. In addition, there is the F Market historic streetcar line, which runs on surface streets from Castro Street to Fisherman's Wharf and the iconic San Francisco cable car system which has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

If you are interested in riding transportation frequently, buy a Fast Pass. The pass costs $45/month ($10 for senior and youth passes). Weekly passes are valid for one week's unlimited use on all Muni lines, Monday to Sunday. Passes are $15 and there is $1.00 surcharge to ride the cable car. Convenient of visitors, Muni Passports are available for one, three or seven consecutive days of rides.


Muni Metro is a mass transit system operated in the City and County of San Francisco. Metro cars have been made to fit the historical context of transportation in the city. Muni operates 80 routes throughout San Francisco with stops within 2 blocks of 90% of all residences in the city. This is the second busiest public transportation in the United States.
Basic Muni fare (for bus, metro and streetcar) is $1.50, and includes a transfer good for 90 minutes. The fare for seniors, youth, and people with disabilities is $0.50.
Muni Metro runs from approximately 5 am to 1 am weekdays, with later start times of 7 am on Saturday and 8 am on Sunday. Late-night service is provided along much of the L and N lines by buses that bear the same route designation.
Route planner is available on the website (or use, or make a free call from the San Francisco Bay Area by dialing 511, say "Muni", then "Operator".

Landmark cable cars started as an idea of Andrew Hallidie in 1873 when he gave the system it's first test run. Over the years, the system grew and developed along with the city and became as much a symbol of the city as the Golden Gate Bridge. This is the world's last permanently operational manually-operated cable car system! The driver of a cable car is known as the gripman. This is a highly skilled job, requiring the gripman to smoothly operate the grip lever to grip and release the cable, release the grip at certain points in order to coast the vehicle over crossing cables or places where the cable does not follow the tracks, and to anticipate well in advance possible collisions with other traffic that may not understand the limitations of a cable car. Only about 30% of people who attempt the training course actually pass and there is only one grip woman, Fannie Mae Barnes, hired on January 15, 1998.
Compared to other aspects of the public transportation system, the map is quite limited, but people still come from around the world to ride the rails.

    The cable car lines:
  • At Powell and Market streets, there is a cable car turntable which serves as the beginning stop for two lines, the Powell-Mason and Powell- Hyde lines.
  • The Powell-Mason line begins at the Powell/ Market turntable, and the line runs from there up and over Nob Hill and down to Bay Street at Fisherman's Wharf. The
  • Powell-Hyde line also begins at the Powell Market turntable and runs over Nob and Russian hills before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghiradelli Square.
Tickets can be purchased at turnarounds or from the conductor as you board and the fare is $5.00 each way. For seniors and people with disabilities, fares are $1.00 before 7:00am and after 9:00pm.


MUNI buses work in combination with the light rail lines to offer coverage over the entire city. Sometimes crowded, but fairly comfortable, buses are another easy way to get around. The buses are also hybrid electric and thus green friendly. Next Muni is a convenient feature that allows riders to be able to see exactly when the next bus arrives as the vehicles are tracked by GPS.
Tickets are sold on the bus, but exact change required, or in Muni metro stations. Transfers last 90 minutes. If you plan to see a lot of San Francisco and stay for a few days, invest in a MUNI Passport which are on sale at the cable car turn around.

    How to find a bus stop:
  • Look for a bus (or streetcar) shelter. These are in the middle of the sidewalk and made of glass. The line numbers served by that bus shelter will be listed on the glass overhead at each end of the shelter.
  • Look for a signpost. These will have a small metal "flag" at the top with a list of the lines that serve that stop. The flag may be brown or gray.
  • Look for a painted pole. This may be a telephone pole or a concrete pole with a yellow band around it. The lines serving that stop will be painted below the yellow band.
  • Look for a yellow rectangle on the street. The rectangle will read "Bus Stop" or "Car Stop" and have a list of lines served painted below it. It may be surrounded by a large white rectangle reading "Bus Zone".
  • Not all stops are at corners. Sometimes they are in the middle of the block.
  • Buses don't stop at every corner. This helps us provide faster service. You may need to walk a block or two.
  • Call and ask the San Francisco 3-1-1 Customer Service Center. They can look up the stop on their system and tell you where your stop is, which direction your bus will be going, and what type of stop to look for at your particular stop.

The Transbay Terminal serves as the terminus for long-range bus service (such as Greyhound) and as a hub for regional bus systems like AC Transit (Alameda County), SamTrans (San Mateo County), and Golden Gate Transit (Marin and Sonoma Counties). Amtrak also runs a shuttle bus from San Francisco to its rail station in Emeryville.


Originally dreamed up in 1946 and finally constructed in 1964 as a solution to congestion, BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), is an excellent source of transportation in the bay area. These commuter trains are composed of five lines on 104 miles (167 km) of track with 43 stations in four counties. Around 375,000 passengers ride BART each week making it the fifth busiest rapid transit system in the United States. Trains appear about every fifteen minutes on weekdays and twenty minutes during the evenings, weekends and holidays; however, since a given station might be served by as many as four lines, it could have service as frequently as every three to four minutes.
Fare is based on a formula that takes into account both the length and speed of the trip. A surcharge is added for trips traveling through the Transbay Tube, to San Francisco International Airport, or through San Mateo County. A stored-value card fare system, the TransLink smart card, is used to pay for transportation and has many different plans to suit every rider. The fare calculator can help find out the exact cost of a ride, but $1.50 is the base price of trips under 6 miles (9.7 km). The This system is slightly faster in downtown San Francisco than the city's light rail system.

Amtrak is a national service that connects to San Francisco through a shuttle bus from San Francisco to its rail station in Emeryville. From here, riders can travel across the country.

Metro/Train: Transit map


San Francisco is primarily served by three major airports: San Francisco International Airport, and nearby Oakland International Airport and San Jose Airport. The airports are connected to public transportation BART with options for taxis and shuttles available.

San Francisco International Airport: The airport is 13 miles (21 km) south of the city, but is still under the jurisdiction of the City and County of San Francisco. The airport is a hub for United Airlines, but also serves as the largest international terminal in North America.

Oakland International Airport: This is the airport furthest from downtown San Francisco, but still is an international carrier which services 15 million passengers annually.

San Jose Airport: The smallest of the three bay area airports as it is surrounded by the city of San Jose, but still serves around 11 million customers a year.

Be careful with yourself and your belongings and ignore offers of transportation from solicitors in the terminal. Go to ground transportation information counters, bus stops, and taxi dispatchers for safe and legitimate transportation. Ignore non-uniformed persons offering to assist with baggage.


Finding a taxi should not be a problem within the city, especially around tourist attractions. To make sure you have found a safe taxi (insured, background check on driver, security cameras), look for: the words "San Francisco Taxi Cab" on the side and rear of cab, small metal license plate on the dashboard, and a drivers ID visible from the backseat.

    Cab Companies
  • Arrow Cab Company (415) 648-3181
  • DeSoto Cab Company (415) 970-1300
  • Luxor Cab Company (415) 282-4141
  • Metro Cab Company (415) 920-0700
  • Yellow Cab (415) 333-3333
  • Veterans Cab Company Main: 415-648-4119

The charges for riding in a taxi are standard and should match up to these charges. Ask for a receipt at the end of your ride to examine your bill and to have the number of the taxi you rode in.

    Taxi Fares and Charges:
  • First 1/5th of a mile: $3.10
  • Each additional 1/5th of a mile or fraction thereof: $0.45
  • Each minute of waiting or traffic delay: $0.45
  • Airport surcharge: $2.00

Passengers also pay for bridge tolls. For distances 15 miles or farther outside the city limits, taxis will charge 150 percent of the metered rate. Tip 15 to 20 percent of the total fare.

Car Rental

Most major car rental companies have outlets at the major airports. To reserve a car, you can often find the best deals by reserving on-line, but most companies offer a phone number to help customers with any questions they may have while also taking reservations by phone. Most companies will require a major credit card to reserve a car.

It is necessary to have an international driver's license or a country license and an international permit. Along with a photo ID, the International Driving Permit provides translation of your valid driver's license and is printed in 10 languages. Some basic pointers on renting and driving in America:

  • American drive on the right side of the road.
  • The speed limit is usually between 55 to 65 miles an hour on highways and freeways, and 25 to 35 miles an hour on city streets. The speed limit is strictly enforced.
  • The driver also needs to be 25 years or older.
  • It is illegal to pick-up hitchhikers.
  • Buy liability insurance to prepare for the unexpected.

On a day-to-day rental, a car will cost (without insurance) $14 and up for a used car and $40 and up for a new car. A month's rental of a car will average around $575 (not including insurance or a security deposit). For a smaller car, prices will range between $300 and $600 per month (not including insurance or a security deposit). Prices vary considerably depending on the dealer, the size of the car, and the make and model. Most companies offer free pick-up, so ask what services are included when making your reservation.

Some common rental companies:

675 Post St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Sun 06:00AM-06:00PM; Mon-Thu 06:00AM-05:30PM; Fri-Sat 06:00AM-06:00PM

821 Howard ST.
San Francisco, CA 94103
Sun 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM; Mon - Fri 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM; Sat 8:00 AM - 1:00 PM

241 10th Street
San Francisco, CA
Mo-Fr 0700-1800, Sa 0800-1300, Su Closed

To check traffic conditions on-line: or can help find the fastest ways around the city. To find out the cheapest places to get gas, go to

City Map:


The city of San Francisco is sculpted by the bodiies of water surrounding it. There are over 62 cruise ships based in San Francisco and over 110,000 passengers pass through the Port of San Francisco per year. Boating San Francisco is the best resource for boating whether you have your own boat, wish to charter a boat, or are looking to take a cruise:

  • Charter a boat: This is most luxurious and most expensive option. Usually includes a skipper and crew to manage the boat.
  • Rent a boat: From rowboats, to kayaks, to sailboats this option gives you the freedom to boat on your own, at a lower coast and less grander then chartering a boat.
  • Take a cruise on a large boat: This is a chance to relax on a big ship while it trawls through the bay. More expensive dinner cruises are also available.
  • Take a cruise on a sailboat: Offers the experience of sailing around the city on sailboats large and small.
  • Fishing Boat: The waters around San Francisco offer the opportunity to get back to nature and take a day fishing. The season dictates which type of trip to take, but there are a variety of adventures throughout the year.
  • Whale Watching: Catch a glimpse of the Humpback or Gray whales as you cruise around the waters.
  • Ferry: Boats aren't all about entertainment, they are also a form of transportation. Ferries offer a low-cost relaxing way across the bay.

Update 2/01/2009


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