8

One of the hardest things for me, when in a new country, is to understand how public transportation works and if the taxis are worth it (i.e. whether the higher price you pay is not that much, given the effort you will "pay" to get to your destination with the bus for example).

My flight is Saturday 16:00, from San Francisco to Paris. I remember that I arrived from SF airport to Market St. by the BART, but I have no memory of the station I disembarked at. I am staying some blocks below Market and 3rd St.

I was lucky enough to not use any means of transportation after that BART ride from the airport, so I have no clue.

What are my options to reach the SF airport from there, and a rough approximation about the price?


Remarks:

  1. In some countries, you have to switch lines when you use the subway, to get to the correct one that will get you at the airport. I would rather avoid that, since I will have one luggage, one hand-luggage and the laptop bag. I am not sure if BART that goes to the airport is accessible from every underground station I see in Market St. .
  2. My Greek phone will not work here, and is also very old (imagine it like an old classic Nokia if you want), so if something needs electronic interaction, I can only use my laptop, before leaving the house.

Edit:

By asking, you go to the city, as the Romans(?) said, but there is some heat where I stay now with Airbnb, that's why I am asking for help here... :/

  • 1
    For a 16:00 - 4PM departure I would as a rule use public transport. For a departure where you need to start before the morning rush, I would look for a shutle service or a shared/booked taxi. I would never assume a taxi for one person can compete with those in price. But you can often quite easily look up taxi prices by a simple google search. – Willeke Sep 20 '16 at 18:46
  • @Willeke 16:00 is the flight and I want to be comfortable with time. You are right about that with the yahoo/google search, but when I am in the street I see so many different taxis+shuttles, that I do not know what I have to look for! – gsamaras Sep 20 '16 at 18:49
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    Thank you @Willeke, the options are too many, it seems like BART is the way to go for me! – gsamaras Sep 20 '16 at 18:55
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    I updated my answer with alternative options like Uber/taxi because you requested it, but I'd still recommend BART. No real traffic concerns, and pretty much the cheapest option that doesn't take upward of an hour or more. – wkl Sep 20 '16 at 18:58
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    @smci your comment make me to think, and it turns out that "Take BART train to the Powell Street station. ", since I was staying in The Westin St. Francis. – gsamaras Sep 22 '16 at 16:29
20

San Francisco Airport-bound BART trains leave from all San Francisco BART stations and go to the airport without a change of train. It's a good idea to check the schedule, as trains may only run every 20 minutes outside of peak periods. Trains serving the airport will be say San Francisco International Airport (SFIA) on the electronic signs and announcements. The trip is scheduled to take about 32 minutes from Montgomery (add/subtract 2-3 minutes for other downtown stations) and has a standard fare of $8.95 from the downtown stations.

BART will take you directly to the international terminal. From there, Terminal 3 (used by United) is a short walk (or train ride if you wish), while Terminals 1 and 2 are accessible by the airport's AirTrain (or a longer walk if you prefer).

Note that some subway stations in San Francisco only serve the Muni Metro system, not BART. All BART stations are shown on the map birryree helpfully posted. Muni stations like Van Ness, Church, and Castro will not take you to the airport without a transfer to BART. In your case, Powell or Montgomery are likely your closest stations; both serve BART. Inside the station, be sure to use the BART ticket machines and faregates, not the Muni ones, as some visitors end up on the wrong subway! The stations are staffed if you have questions.

Besides BART, you do have other options. A taxi is likely to cost on the order of $40-$50, perhaps more, depending on traffic. Uber and Lyft will be significantly cheaper, you can get real-time fare estimates for those services using the apps, and you can make them even cheaper (at the cost of time) if you use UberPOOL or Lyft Line to share a ride with another passenger. Without surge pricing, Uber estimates around $25-$31 for Uber X from your area to the airport.

A car may be faster than BART--it's about 20 minutes driving time with no traffic.

Summary: If you're near a BART station, and it sounds like you are, and are able to carry your luggage, I'd take BART. Otherwise, I would take Uber or Lyft.

  • Yeah that BART muni difference was what I wanted to ask, but I didn't know how to! Zach, it was a pleasure. Shall you find yourself in Greece, just let me know! :) Goodbye! – gsamaras Sep 20 '16 at 18:59
  • Uber is no longer an estimate, but tells you the exact price you will pay. – Berwyn Sep 20 '16 at 19:59
  • @Berwyn I forgot about that change, though it's implemented oddly. When you first give your origin and destination, it gives an estimated price range, but it then shows you the actual fixed price fare once you move to the next screen. Very strange. – Zach Lipton Sep 20 '16 at 21:45
  • Minor correction: Not all SFO trains serve Millbrae, so those will not have Millbrae on their signs. Conversely, not all Millbrae trains serve SFO. – Nate Eldredge Sep 20 '16 at 22:17
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    @gsamaras -- yes, there are two systems: the Municipal Railway, which despite the name consists of streetcars, subway trains, cable cars, and buses, and as the name suggests, operates only within the city; and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) System, which has stations all over the Bay Area, including 8 in the city, the northern 4 of which are also Muni subway stations (with separate platforms). – Malvolio Sep 21 '16 at 1:30
16

So, I'll preface and say that if all else fails, just ask someone, like the staff at your hotel or someone on the street. People will generally be very helpful.

That said, here's a station map of the BART:

BART station map

As you can see, all the BART train lines share a lot of the same stations on the San Francisco side, but you will want to be on the Yellow line that heads toward San Francisco International Airport/Milbrae.

Where you are in the city (near Market Street), you should be able to go into any BART station and take the yellow line toward the airport.

Finding the Closest BART Station

The BART site has a directions page that lets you find directions to the nearest.

Alternatively, you can use Google Maps to find the closest BART station by asking for directions to San Francisco International Airport via public transit. It will give you walking directions to get to the nearest BART station.

Cost of BART Trip

This depends on what station you're taking, but the fare is probably going to be something like $9 USD.

You can also calculate the fare on BART's Fare Calculator page.

Alternative Options

I'd recommend the BART, overall - it's less susceptible to traffic compared to taking something like an Uber or taxi, and it's also fairly easy to navigate.

However, since you want more options:

  • Uber (or Lyft) - According to my Uber fare estimate, it will cost something between $25-35 to get from downtown SF to the airport. UberPool (a shared version of Uber if you managed to get one) would make it more like $20 USD. I'd recommend this option as an alternative to BART, and they will pick you up where you are.

  • Regular taxi - Taxis are generally more expensive than Uber/Lyft for getting to airports, so I'd say a taxi from downtown SF to SFO (the distance is ~23 km or so) is probably $45-50 USD.

  • Bus - I have only ridden buses in San Franciso once, so I'm not very familiar with them. However, the SamTrans bus system has buses that will go through SFO. Cost is $4 USD.

  • Private shuttle - There are companies like GoLorries that allow you to book private shuttles (shared or individual) that go from downtown to SFO. For shared rides, the cost is typically around $17-20 USD. I don't have experience with these, and they may require you to go to specific locations for pick up.

  • Is there no scenario now where it makes more sense to take CalTrain to Millbrae and then transfer to BART or an Uber? Do they still require the double transfer? – choster Sep 20 '16 at 22:14
  • @choster - I didn't include that as an option because I think it's more complex to involve a transit transfer, and OP was already relatively close to BART from what I gathered. I do think you still need to pay a double transfer on Caltrain to BART but I'm not as familiar with that stuff. – wkl Sep 20 '16 at 23:03
  • @choster That requires a double transfer (Caltrain to Millbrae, BART to San Bruno, BART back to the airport) Monday-Friday before 9pm and a single transfer (Caltrain to Millbrae, BART to the airport) at other times. It's not the absolute worst way to go if you happen to be right by Caltrain already, but it's going to take a while and be irritating, especially as the Caltrain and BART schedules don't line up. If you're that close to Caltrain, you're also next to a freeway on-ramp, and it's a good idea to compare with Lyft or Uber, especially if there's more than one of you. – Zach Lipton Oct 25 '17 at 7:38
5

The question seems to be specific to a particular time in a particular place, but here are more generalized suggestions:

Google Maps and IOS Maps have public transit information for some cities. Often Google will tell you the cost (I do not know whether it is accurate). Google pretends to have more flexibility, but when you change the date you want to travel, it still shows you the next one from "right now."

Rome2Rio: if you can get it to accept the address of your destination as the starting point, and someplace far away as the destination, it will give you an estimate on taxi to the airport. Again, I do not know whether the price is correct.

  • All this will give you an intuition, I guess, +1! – gsamaras Sep 20 '16 at 19:08
4

I don't know if this should be an answer or a comment but just to add to what @birryree and @Zach Lipton said about BART. Just to warn you, they are fixing a part of the track between the Glen Park and Daly City stations so it will take a little longer to get to the airport if you're traveling to the airport on one of the weekends there is construction.

https://www.bart.gov/news/articles/2016/news20160615-2

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    This is a great point, but they just finished this particular project last weekend. There, of course, can be other construction projects, so it's still a good idea to check the BART website in advance. – Zach Lipton Sep 20 '16 at 21:46
  • @ZachLipton My bad then. My parents came to visit me this past weekend but due to the BART construction, they had to drive instead of me picking them up at Millbrae station. Since this is outdated, should I delete this answer then? – Classified Sep 21 '16 at 0:10
  • @ZachLipton William Yuan's answer also states that this particular Saturday the very same constructions will be on progress..No please don't delete it. So Classified you cannot just use the BART, you have to to get out of BART, get in a bus or something? – gsamaras Sep 21 '16 at 0:12
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    They finished this particular construction project early and normal operation is planned for this weekend as far as I am aware (no need to transfer to a bus or anything). I'd keep this answer as a general note to suggest that people check the BART website for any construction or problems before leaving (BART breaks on its own accord from time to time) before heading out and consider another transportation option in that case. – Zach Lipton Sep 21 '16 at 0:29
3

On this particular Saturday, I would not recommend BART because they are maintaining the tracks between Glen Park and Daly City stations (@OP they're two stations between downtown SF and SFO). Bart has set up a free bus bridge between the two stations, and anticipates delays of up to 60 minutes for all trains that go through the area.

In my experience, the most cost efficient (only 4 bucks), and sometimes time efficient, way of getting from downtown SF to SFO is the Sam Trans KX or 292 bus routes. KX only runs on weekday commute hours. 292 runs all days. There are stops along Mission St., (parallel to and one block south of Market) and takes an hour.

The main benefit of taking 292 and KX, IMO, is there are 4 stops at SFO: 1 on each of the international terminals and 2 near the domestic terminals. You can just hop off at your terminal. The SFO Bart station is at International Terminal G, and up to 15 minutes walking/Airtrain ride away from the other terminals.

When that time is factored in, the bus drive time is not as noticeable. However, the 292 is not advised if you have more that 1 check in luggage, and it may have one or two (usually quiet) homeless people on it.

Edit 9/21/2016. Bart has finished maintenance so there are no scheduled delays between SF and SFO.

  • Hi William, thank you for your answer. Are you sure this is the case for this weekend? Check the comments below Classified's answer please... – gsamaras Sep 21 '16 at 0:12
  • Oh cool. Maintenance is done. bart.gov/news/articles/2016/news20160615-2 I know maintenance was ongoing the last 4 weekends. Though in my experience, Bart operations control is never trustworthy... – William Yuan Sep 21 '16 at 0:17
  • NP. You can always check bart.gov/schedules/advisories for real time notifications on whether or not trains are running on time. – William Yuan Sep 21 '16 at 0:22
  • You are welcome, please update your answer with the new info that say that this was the previous weekend, and I will upvote! :) – gsamaras Sep 21 '16 at 0:29
  • The 292 is a good option to highlight, especially since you can't beat the cost, but it's scheduled to take around an hour and 10 minutes from downtown to SFO, which makes it fairly slow, even taking the multiple terminal issue into account. Buses that only run every 30 minutes are especially inconvenient for airport trips, since you have to pad your schedule a lot in case a bus doesn't show up. Personally, I'd take BART (or a car) unless price is the most important factor above convenience or speed. – Zach Lipton Sep 21 '16 at 0:36

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