Kara’s special transport guide

I’ve decided to help Kara find her way around San Francisco – we’re always swapping public transport adventure stories but there are a few options here and the terminology is quite confusing. I don’t think I’ve got it quite right but if she knows what I’m talking about then at least we’re on the same page!

BART – the underground subway – price per distance, starting at $1.75, Clipper card allowed, scan at turnstile on station entry and exit, to get out, just wait for next station – all doors open automatically, sometimes you can hear garbled announcements about what the next stop is, otherwise study map and look out the window as the train pulls into the station.


MUNI – the above ground trains, that sometimes go underground, $2 flat fare, Clipper card allowed, scan at turnstile on station entry and exit, or above ground, scan on-board on entry only (front or back door), to get out press bell or pull chord – doors will open automatically at next stop, usually a red neon sign displays the name of the next stop.

Muni train

Rattly trams – over ground central city tram – sometimes old sometimes newer and shiny – I think they’re officially known as street cars, $2 flat fare, Clipper card allowed, scan on entry, on-board (front or back door), to get out pull chord (sometimes press button) and step down into the stairwell to activate the back doors to open – don’t stand in there if the tram is crowded or the doors won’t close and you’ll be shouted at. If you’re lucky the tram driver is rather jolly and will loudly call out the name of the next stop – otherwise look out the window.

Tram excursion

Tram excursion

Tourist tram – goes up the big hills from Market Street with people hanging off the taking photos, $5, not a tourist so never been on it 😉 I imagine you just leap off in manner of an action film hero when you’re approaching your destination.

Tourist tram

Bus – goes everywhere, some bendy, some regular, $2 flat fare, Clipper card allowed, scan on entry, on-board (front door only), to get out pull chord (or sometimes press button) and when bus arrives at the next stop, step down into the stairwell to activate the back doors – don’t try this at the traffic lights, you look like an idiot, if the bus is at a stop but the back doors aren’t open and someone yells “BACK DOOR” in the direction of the driver, roll your eyes and give them the ‘have-you-never-ridden-on-a-bus-before-my-vegetables-are-wilting-while-I-wait-for-you-to-figure-this-out’ glare and if no-one else beats you to it yell back “STEP DOWN” – it’s their first time. Sometimes doors open by pushing on the long vertical bar handles on the door – I suggest you sit where you can maintain eye contact with the back door at all times in order to familiarize yourself with the signs – like a big yellow one that might say “To exit bus, push door handle’ and to watch what other people getting off at stops along the way do.

New Year's Day bus adventure

Caltrain – goes out of town down to Silicon Valley – never ridden it, not sure of the cost, I *think* Clipper card is allowed as there were some card dispensers at the train station, not sure of the scanning rules, stopping rules or door rules.



#1 Kara Haas on 01.13.12 at 1:00 pm


Thank you so much! This is incredibly helpful and without your initial guidance as to what in the world a ‘Clipper Card’ is or where to purchase, I still would be digging on the bottom of my purse for loose change to board the MUNI.

Again, without proper guidance of how to disembark, I believe that I would still be riding the #30 bus.

All of this guidance, it looks like I may need to venture down to the Caltrain station and learn the rules this weekend. If I do not surface on Monday, please send a cab to the last stop.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! No longer lost, Kara

#2 Andrew Hedges on 01.13.12 at 1:50 pm

There are a few different ways to ride Caltrain, but the important thing is you *must* have a valid ticket *before* you board or you may be subject to a $250 fine. Whoop whoop!

There are ticket dispensers on the platform of every station. You can pay cash or use a credit card to buy a 1-way or round trip ticket from your zone (Zone 1 is SF) to whatever zone you’re going to (e.g., Palo Alto is in Zone 3).

You can also buy monthly passes, 8 ride passes, or even a “Go” pass that is good for a year and lets you ride as much as you want.

Not all trains go to all stops, so check the schedule before you ride. Trains are numbered (e.g., 216), but you have to know where on the train to look for the number and it’s only going to have the last 2 digits. Me, I just go by the time of arrival.

Conductors are very good about announcing stops in advance. If they don’t announce the next stop, it’s because the train is going to stop at whatever the next stop is.

Weekday timetable here:


#3 OrangeGirl on 01.13.12 at 4:11 pm

Thanks Andrew! You do need to tell Kara which door to exit the train from though … they really don’t seem to prepare people for public transport in rural Florida 😉

#4 Trouble Coffee Company – San Francisco — OrangeBlog on 04.15.12 at 8:40 pm

[…] we go out West on the bus but this time it was the Muni that took us to the same block the coffee shop was in. Actually a lot quicker than the bus! The […]

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