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As far as I understand, there are no clipper card vending machines at Oakland International Airport (OAK). But there is one at Coliseum Station. If I plan to buy a clipper card anyway, should I do that at Coliseum Station? Or should I buy a regular ticket from OAK to my destination in downtown San Francisco and buy a clipper card afterwards?

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There are Clipper machines at "virtual OAK station"

  • Board the BART-OAK cable car*. There will be a conspicuous lack of fare-gates or entry controls. You will fear this is a proof-of-payment system. It's not. Don't worry about it.
  • Exit at Coliseum Platform 3.
  • There is nowhere to go except through fare-gates or back to OAK!
  • Buy your Clipper card(s) right there.

If you intend onward travel on BART, tap through the fare-gates, and you are now in the paid area of BART. Where to go next will be obvious. Your card will be encoded as having entered the BART system at OAK Airport.

If you do not want to ride BART today, buy your Clipper tickets and hop right back on the cable car for a free ride back to OAK. This is legit. It's quite fast, and you could do it while your companions collect luggage.

How does that work? BART is a variable-fare system, meaning you must card-in when you enter, and card-out when you leave. However, the OAKland Airport cable-car is a simple 2-station shuttle, and for design-geometry reasons, the Coliseum end empties only into the paid area of the BART station at platform 3. There's no way to get landside from platform 3. So BART displaced the OAK fare-gates to the Coliseum end. Now they do not need to staff the Airport station.

Since the fare-gates are there, so are the ticket/Clipper sales machines.

Joyriding the BART system proper

BART has an "excursion fare" intended for joyriding the BART system by entering and exiting the same station. Normally this is overpriced, but from the Airport station it's the cheapest fare to anywhere, at $6.

So if you want to joyride BART proper, you can enter the faregates and take the normal BART trains. Complete your joyride within 3 hours or you'll have to see the agent and accept a stern look.

  • The Dublin line is easiest to access and it's #2 for scenery.

  • The Fremont line is just more of what you see on the boring part of the Dublin line.

  • The scenery king is the Pittsburg/Bay Point line, but you must change trains to reach it (this isn't too bad though).

  • San Francisco line is dead last for scenery as it's all underground west of Oakland. The cool spots east of Embarcadero are the railyards and the Imperial Walkers (really) at West Oakland and the black coolness of the Transbay Tube.

  • Richmond Line, only the far half is scenic, and it's a long drag underground through downtowns Oakland and Berkeley to get to it.

The short trip is a bounce to East Dublin and back. The longer trip is to Embarcadero then Bay Point then Macarthur then Coliseum, but that's ambitious if you only have 3 hours to kill.

Other time-kills

Walking off the airport property is out of the question because it's miles, so Uber would be required. The Hegenberger area is pretty desolate but it has an In-n-Out Burger (thanks Zach Lipton).

The town of Alameda has back-road access to the airport and is very nice. Consider either its Park St. downtown (over 100 shops and local eateries) or South Shore mall (fast-casual food). Either one is a 10 minute Uber from the airport.


* Yeah. It's really a cable car. Not quaint, but modernistic because BART. It doesn't have a grip or gripman, and the cable is permanently bolted to the car, unlike the system across the bay. The cable stops and starts to move the car. You can watch the sheaves turn at the OAK end; that's the powerhouse.

  • To be clear, riding between OAK and platform 3 is only free if you make an immediate return trip to the airport and just ride for fun. Riding between OAK and platform 3 will cost you over $6 if you wish to exit at Coliseum or ride BART further anywhere else in the system (plus the fare for the rest of your journey). – Zach Lipton Apr 11 at 16:42
  • @ZachLipton: Since I will have to entertain children at OAK - how exactly do I do the return trip? I get off the cable car, and then there is a bridge to get to the return platform? Or is it a one-track cable car which gets to Platform 3, and then the same cable car goes back to OAK? – WoJ Apr 11 at 19:34
  • @WoJ If your intent is to simply travel onward on BART, then you can simply buy n tickets and herd everyone through the faregates there at platform 3. Now you are inside the paid area of the BART system, and can take normal BART trains and exit any station. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 11 at 19:38
  • @WoJ What Harper said. Platform 3 goes to/from the airport. There are fare gates between Platform 3 and Platforms 1+2 (the rest of the station, with regular trains going everywhere BART serves). I'm not quite sure where you plan to go to/from; if you describe your journey, I could be more clear. – Zach Lipton Apr 11 at 19:45
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    @WoJ Got it. I'm pretty sure you can just ride it back and forth as much as you want. Here's a diagram of platform 3 and the system. You can ride from the airport to Coliseum, not go through the fare gates, and just get back on the train back to the airport. No bridge required; it's just one terminal platform. Personally, I'd take a Lyft/Uber or bus (don't walk) to In-N-Out rather than ride back and forth a hundred times. – Zach Lipton Apr 11 at 20:31
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https://www.bart.gov/guide/airport/oak

For travelers landing at OAK, there is no need to purchase a BART ticket or Clipper card until after you arrive at the Coliseum BART station Platform 3, where you can buy a BART ticket or regional Clipper card from vending machines.

The BART line between Oakland Airport and Coliseum Station is a people-mover "monorail" service (though it actually has two rails). To get anywhere from OAK, you have to transfer at Coliseum to the regular heavy-rail BART system, and you can buy your Clipper card there. It's not clear whether it would even be possible to buy tickets of any kind at OAK itself.

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    Can confirm that at OAK there are no tickets -- you buy tickets when you arrive at Coliseum. (Even if you do not transfer to another BART train you pay when you get off the people mover in Coliseum.) – ajd Apr 11 at 1:12
  • @ajd So do I have to pay for the first leg (OAK - Coliseum) first in order to leave Coliseum, and only after that I can buy a clipper card? – user77409 Apr 11 at 2:22
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    @user77409 BART's site claims you can buy a Clipper card on platform 3 (where the airport train comes/goes), so you can do that there, load enough money onto it for your trip in the same transaction, and then proceed to the main part of the station. I'm not 100% confident that's true, but the worst-case scenario is that you buy a paper ticket at those machines instead and are out an extra $0.50 – Zach Lipton Apr 11 at 3:42
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    @user77409 Note though that if you're not traveling alone, there's a 25% discount for group (2+) airport trips, but only if you use a certain app to buy your ticket; it's a pilot program. – Zach Lipton Apr 11 at 3:44
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If your trip is at least 10 days away, then order a clipper card online (or by phone) and get it by postal mail (in the United States). It's also the cheapest way to get a card because it's free if you opt-in for autoloading money on it (you can always opt-out after you receive it). Otherwise, a card is $3.

https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/getTranslink.do

Note that the fare for the OAK to Coliseum BART extension is $6 just for that little spur line (prices checked April 2019). Depending on the number of people in your party, it may be cheaper to take the Uber. It’s definitely cheaper to take the 73 AC Transit bus from the airport to Coliseum as the bus is only $2.35.

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    Do they send it free around the world? Or only in (continental) USA? – Jungkook Apr 11 at 9:24
  • The site only allows you to enter shipping addresses in US states and territories. – josh3736 Apr 11 at 18:38

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