Whether by light rail or cable, surface or underground, San Francisco has one of the best public transit systems in the United States. If you prefer to see the city at your own pace, this city is eminently walkable. In fact, Walk Score®, the Seattle-based company that rates the “walkability” of 2,500 cities, ranks San Francisco second in the U.S. (edged out by just a few steps by New York City). Although many convention groups provide shuttle service for their delegates, if you need to get around on your own, here are a few tips to help you navigate the city’s famous corrugated surface.
San Francisco Municipal Railway
Founded in 1912, the Muni is one of America’s oldest public transit agencies and today carries more than 200 million customers per year. Muni provides transit service within the city and county of San Francisco 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Muni operates approximately 80 routes and lines throughout San Francisco with stops within two blocks of 90 percent of all residences in the city. Operating historic streetcars, modern light rail vehicles, diesel buses, alternative fuel vehicles, electric trolley coaches and the world-famous cable cars, Muni’s fleet is among the world’s most diverse.
Historic streetcars (the F-line) run the length of Market Street from the Castro and along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. The underground Muni Metro shares some stations with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and includes the J (Church), K (Ingleside), L (Taraval), M (Ocean View), N (Judah) and T (Third), named for the major streets or neighborhoods they service.
And Muni has all the right connections — to AC Transit, Golden Gate Transit (and ferries), SamTrans, Caltrain, the Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority and the ferries that crisscross San Francisco Bay to Alameda, Angel Island, Larkspur, Oakland, Sausalito, South San Francisco,
Tiburon and Vallejo. For complete information on all public transit
options, visit www.511.org.
Clipper Cards and Muni Tickets?
Named for the clipper ships that revolutionized travel during the Gold Rush, the blue-and-white plastic Clipper card gives passengers access to all participating Bay Area transit operators (including BART) with an easy-to-use, reloadable card. Clipper cards may be purchased at Muni ticket vending machines in Metro subway stations, as well as at many retailers such as Walgreens. Visitors can also use a Muni ticket to ride any Muni vehicle except for cable cars. Good for short-term use (they expire 90 days from date of purchase), Muni tickets can be purchased loaded with a single or round-trip ticket from any Muni ticket vending machine and then reloaded as often as needed. Using either the Clipper card or the Muni ticket is easy — just tap the card or ticket at the Clipper reader upon entering a faregate or boarding a vehicle and relevant discounts and transfers will apply automatically. For more information, visit www.sfmta.com.
Bay Area Rapid Transit
In addition to Muni, BART operates intra-city service, including an SFO direct connection to downtown San Francisco departing from Level 3 of SFO’s International Terminal. Pre-purchase round-trip tickets from SFO to any city served by BART at BART.gov on the Airport Connections page. BART also connects the San Francisco Peninsula with
Oakland, Berkeley, Fremont, Walnut Creek, Dublin/Pleasanton and other cities in the East Bay. Fares vary by itinerary, and passengers can load up BART cards and continue to use them for the duration of their visit. Note that the ticket needs to be retained to exit the station.
Wheels and Rails
San Francisco is within a day’s drive of Los Angeles, Reno and other major cities. For driving distances see page PD75. Some of the most scenic options are onboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Capitol Corridor and Coast Starlight.
Walking the City
Despite its 43 hills, San Francisco is a walker’s paradise — and can be as ambitious as a morning workout or tackled in small, flat segments.
Delegates shouldn’t be fooled by the compact nature of San Francisco’s 49 square miles. What looks like a flat walk on a map is likely to involve up-and-down pathways, steps and steep streets. Some of San Francisco’s steepest inclines are in the heart of the city, including the ascent to Nob Hill. Advise them to pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes and always have Muni fare ($2) handy in case they want to hop on a bus or streetcar.
Know the Route
Before heading out, delegates should consult with the hotel concierge for directions, check the GPS or stop into the official San Francisco Visitor Information Center (900 Market St., on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza, where the city’s famous Powell Street cable cars turn around). Maps are available, and they’ll help clients scout out the best routes for urban adventures. Outlying neighborhoods such as the Sunset and Richmond Districts and Ocean Beach may be best visited using public transit or by car.