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Taking the BART Train from SFO to Downtown San Francisco

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What is BART? Why Use It?
Taking the BART Train from SFO to Downtown San Francisco

BART Train at the SFO Station

© 2012 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

Most folks call the San Francisco area's rapid transit system simply BART, which is short for Bay Area Rapid Transit. San Francisco Airport (SFO) is one of three area airports and the most popular.

You can get on the train right at the San Francisco airport and get off in downtown San Francisco. The ride is about half an hour long, but allow closer to an hour end-to-end by the time you buy tickets and wait for the next train to arrive.

Using BART is easy, and you don't even have to go outside to get to the station.

You might simply assume that using BART to get to and from SFO is the best solution, possibly thinking that public transit should be the least expensive, but there are a lot of considerations, so before we show you how to take it, we'll tell you more about its pros and cons.

Cost of BART from SFO

A one-way BART ride from SFO to a stop near Union Square will cost less than a full-priced movie ticket, a good thing to keep in mind when comparing its cost compared to other options and especially when compared to what it's already cost you just to get to SFO.

We don't want to lead you astray by quoting an exact fare that could become outdated, so the best thing to do is check current fares at the BART website.

Is BART the Best Way to Go?

The short answer is: "maybe." Using BART to travel between the airport and downtown San Francisco has pluses and minuses.

Convenience factor: The first thing you need to know is that the BART line from SFO will only take you to stops along Market Street near Union Square and the convention center. If your end destination is Fisherman's Wharf, a B&B near Alamo Square, a hotel on Van Ness or some other part of the city, you'll have to transfer to some other form of transportation to get there, which runs up the total trip cost.

Here's a comparison of BART to other SFO transportation options:

  • Shared-ride shuttle van: BART cost is about half of the van option and takes about the same time (but could be faster during rush hour). However, the van will take you to the exact address you want.
  • Public transit bus: BART costs about four times what a SamTrans bus does, but BART gets you to San Francisco in half the time. SamTrans stops in more parts of the city, though.
  • Taxi: Here's the possibly surprising part. Taxis charge by time and distance no matter how many people they're carrying. At the time this was written, a party of four could take a taxi to downtown San Francisco from SFO for about the same cost as using BART - and the taxi will drop you wherever you want. Check the current rates for yourself on the SFO transportation services web page.
If you've decided that BART is the way to go or if you just want to find out more, keep reading. We'll tell you how to get the BART station at the airport, get a ticket, get on and off the train and what to do if something goes amiss.

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