Now that you have a basic primer on the Muni, let’s talk about San Francisco’s other public transportation options, the Caltrain and BART.
The BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is like if the PATH and the Long Island Rail Road had a bastard child. Its primary function is to transport folks to and from Oakland and Berkley (San Francisco’s version of New Jersey – or a really far away Brooklyn). But it also makes several stops in “the city” (AKA San Francisco) making it sort of useful to navigate to a select few locations that may be under served by the variety of Muni options.
There are two significant issues with the BART. First, it’s carpeted, and that’s just not right. Second, I have no idea how to pay for the BART. If you’re taking the BART within San Francisco it costs the same as the Muni…
So let’s talk about that for a second. How much does the Muni cost? Well, officially all Muni rides cost $1.50, plus you can use your receipt for a second ride (in any direction) within two hours of your first ride. So that’s cool.
If your ride commences in one of the underground subway-like Muni stops, you will notice familiar turnstyles and booths and you’ll be required to pay the fare or show a transfer. BUT, if your ride begins at an above-ground Muni stop, you don’t really need to pay, because chances are no one will check. They ask that you pay the driver as you enter the car, but for the most part, they use the *honor* system here, although once in a while (typically near the first of the month in my experience) there will be police-type folks at the terminating station demanding to see your proof of payment – or else you’re hit with a substantial fine. I think $50? It’s much more than $1.50.
If you ride the Muni a lot (i.e. for commuting) you can also try and purchase a monthly Muni Card for $45. Not a bad bargain if you ride frequently, but one of the only place to buy the cards (as far as I can tell) is at a Safeway. Safeways are the major supermarkets in San Francisco, and they’re everywhere, sponsor everything and are the center of substantial consumer commerce. Monthly Muni cards go on sale near the end of the month and last until they sell out.
You can’t get them online. You can’t get them at the vast majority of Muni station. You can only get them for a limited period of time.
Welcome to San Francisco.
The monthly Muni passes also works on the BART, BUT ONLY within the city of San Francisco. If you’re going over the bridge to Oakland or Berkley, your Muni card won’t work. That’s not entirely true…it will work to get you ON the train, but the people on the other side won’t let you out of the station! So be careful if you’re planning a trip outside of “the city”.
I have no idea where Caltrain goes.