I'll be landing at San Francisco International Airport, and my final destination is Silicon Valley. To be precise, I want to get to the VTA light rail line from Mountain View, but more general advice regarding destinations south of the airport would be welcome. How can I get there by public transport in a reasonable time?

I see that many different carriers may be involved (BART, Caltrain, Samtrans, VTA, …). I won't have Internet access during the journey, so any decision regarding routes will have to be made based on posted schedules. Ideally, I'd like a recommendation of one route that won't make me wait too long if I just miss a bus or train. Also, I may have a limited supply of coins for buses that require exact fare.

  • Did you try asking google maps? It often comes up with good public transport suggestions for the bay area
    – Gagravarr
    Dec 13, 2011 at 0:43
  • @Gagravarr One of its proposals had me walk 2.7mi to Millbrare Caltrain/BART. The more sensible routes are very sensitive to time changes (e.g. depart a few minutes later, and you should take a bus instead of a train). As transit planners go, it's pretty poor. I'm hoping that there's a sensible route that I can take without needing to check the times of three connections once I get past customs. Dec 13, 2011 at 1:02

2 Answers 2


What's quickest will depend on exactly when you want to leave, but as a rough idea BART + CalTrain is likely to be simplest (even if bus/buses might be faster depending on your exact arrival time)

For the CalTrain down to Mountain View, you have a few trains an hour in the week (more in peak hours). Most of these stop at Millbrae, a few stop at San Bruno. The CalTrain timetable page has the details, and lets you download PDFs for offline checking. I'd suggest you save the appropriate one.

To get to the CalTrain, you'll want to take the BART. Most likely you'd want to go to Millbrae, but the BART only goes there directly from the airport on evenings and weekends. In the day on a weekday, the BART will take you to San Bruno, where depending on CalTrain timings you'll either way for a CalTrain, or ride the other BART line down to Millbrae to pick it up there. (It's one stop from the Airport to either Millbrae or San Bruno)

You might find a bus quicker, but it likely won't always be, and I'd guess it'll vary much more.

So, I'd suggest you download the CalTrain timetable PDFs, then head to the BART station at the airport. Look at where trains are running to at that point, then compare that to the timetable PDF, and head to either San Bruno or Millbrae (maybe via San Bruno + change). You should be able to buy your tickets for both of these without needing coins - BART ticket machines take notes and some also take cards and CalTrain ticket machines take notes and cards

Alternately, use the SFO Free Wifi once you're through customs, and ask google maps for the best thing for that minute.

  • 2
    Indeed, looking up the train times on the SFO free wifi then taking BART to either San Bruno or Millbrae (with a change at San Bruno except in the evening service) then changing to Caltrain seems the best option. Between the airport terminal and BART, allow 5–10min for the airport rail shuttle. Dec 14, 2011 at 9:51
  • 1
    Update: There is now direct BART service from SFO to Millbrae at all hours the system is operating. Sep 12, 2018 at 0:49

You take BART from the Airport station to Millbrae. BART headways are 15-20 minutes. In the off chance BART trains only go to San Bruno instead of Millbrae, take a BART in the other direction to Millbrae.

There, you will have an easy transfer to CalTrain, which takes you down the peninsula to Mountain View. All CalTrains stop at Millbrae and Mountain View, except for a few express trains in the morning (before 8:45) or afternoon (4-7) weekday commutes. At those times check the schedules in the station or ask commuters. CalTrain headways are 30-60 minutes.

At Mountain View you change to the VTA light rail. It has headways of 30 minutes or better.

The peninsula and south bay is certainly not the best of Bay Area transit. It's much better in the City/Oakland/Berkeley.

  • Taking the (relatively new) "SFO" bus from the airport to Millbrae Caltrain station is likely a better option than taking BART.
    – Doc
    Apr 11, 2019 at 20:48
  • @Doc probably so; BART really nails you on airport trips. I didn't know about that. Originally, the idea was a free people mover between Millbrae (where BART would go) and all the terminals and the car rental. But crazy politics. I'm amazed BART didn't nix that bus! Apr 11, 2019 at 21:04
  • BART did nix the bus, but it restarted a few months ago. Technically the BART fare from Millbrae to the airport is "Free", however there is a special airport fee that you still have to pay.
    – Doc
    Apr 13, 2019 at 3:21

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