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San Francisco public transit questions

Hi,

In two weeks I will be in Pacifica for a few days. I will have a car for driving down the coast for hiking/beach exploration south of Pacifica. However, I have one day where I am considering going into the city.

I'm interested in either the SF Botanical Garden, or walking around in the area roughly bounded by Pacific Heights, Haight Ashbury, the Fillmore area. I assume that driving and parking the city is best avoided - please correct me if I'm wrong!

If I go to the botanical garden, it appears that there is a parking garage near one of the entrances, so driving seems like a no brainer.

However, if I go into the rest of the city, maybe taking BART is a better idea? (Daly City BART station is closest to where I'm staying.) It appears that for the area where I want to go in the city, I'll have to change to the bus at some point. Is it is easy to manage, and do the buses run fairly frequently on weekdays?

Also, I read up on how to pay to ride, and I need some clarification. There's BART and there's Muni; there's an app for each; if you have the BART app you can use it to pay for rides on both BART and Muni, correct? Is there some sort of 24 hour ticket for rides on both?

Or should I just drive into the city and count on finding parking? Or ride share?

Thanks for any advice.

Posted by
1588 posts

I suggest you park at Daly City BART station and then take BART to downtown. From there, use Uber or Lyft. Don't waste time on buses or MUNIs, which can be slow. You only have one day in the city and therefore time is worth more than gold.

Posted by
4927 posts

The SF transit options (including Bart trains and Muni streetcars and buses) can all be paid for with a Clipper Card, for which there is a digital version. You get the eClipper card, add it to Google Pay or Apple Pay, and then add money to it. Then tap to pay.

https://www.clippercard.com/ClipperWeb/

Posted by
4927 posts

There is free street parking on the roads near the Botanical Gardens, if you can find a space - tougher on weekends. There is a paid parking garage under the nearby museum but it's not cheap.

Parking Garage Hourly Rates:
$5.25 weekdays, $29.00 maximum
$6.25 weekends, $33.00 maximum
From: https://www.sfbg.org/visit

Posted by
465 posts

We were just in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We walked all over some of those same areas--we did Pacific Heights, Fillmore, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Richmond. A little bit of Embarcadero. We did a whole day walking in the Presidio. Met friends in the Tenderloin. And a short jaunt just to take in a bit of Golden Gate Park. We actually didn't take any public transport (a few Ubers after dinner) but walked everywhere. We did take CalTrain to Menlo Park to visit friends.

Posted by
9436 posts

I highly recommend taking a SF City Guides walking tour… they’re great. So many to choose from. I live here and have done probably 35 of them.

Posted by
337 posts

I’m very familiar with SF having lived there for many years. You can take BART from Daly City but then you will have to rely on Muni (they are two different systems) however you can buy a clipper card. Buy it on your smart phone and avoid the $3 charge for a physical card.

When I’m in SF I drive and walk all over the place. If you drive- do not leave anything in the car or trunk. I’ve not had break in issues because I don’t have a thing in the car. Having a car will enable you to drive through Golden Gate Park and see some of the sites that are out of the way, like Palace of Fine arts or the Legion of honor museum. (Rodin Thinker is in the courtyard) You can even drive down Lombard Street. drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. You can park at the Bridge and walk too. I think the car will give you more flexibility. Park and walk. For wharf area. If you can’t find street parking there is the Pier 39 garage at the wharf. If you want to take a cable car ride, get it on California street or Hyde by the Buena Vista. The home of Irish Coffee. Powell street is an awful place to catch the cable car nowadays. Grab some sourdough bread at Boudins at the wharf. It’s fun and a reasonable place for lunch. Presidio is fun too. It’s by the Bridge. Disney has a great museum but you can do the lobby for free which has a lot of stuff to see

Frankly, Muni and BART have had crime issues and not immune from the homeless issue. I would walk 3 miles than take a Muni Bus. I’ll take BART, but be aware of everything and do not take out your phone. Avoid Financial District and Unión Square. Shadow of former selves and really nothing to do there when there is much to see around the Parks and Ocean.

Weather- It will be cold and foggy. Dress accordingly. Have fun.

Posted by
465 posts

All, thanks for the suggestions. It sounds like perhaps a combination of BART, ride share and lots of walking may be my best best, unless I feel bold and like driving into the city.

Posted by
9436 posts

IF you have a car with a trunk in SF you are still at risk of a break in because thieves will assume there are valuables in the trunk. I agree with Mo about Muni, i would never take it. And watch your back on BART, like you would in NYC. But yes, BART and Uber or Lyft is a good plan.

The areas you mention wanting to visit are some of my favorites. If you like coffee be sure to get a Blue Bottle coffee… corner of Fillmore and Jackson or at the Ferry Bldg. My advice is avoid Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf… tacky tourist packed areas. The Ferry Bldg and walking the Embarcadero to the east is good if you want to be by the water. If you had a car i’d highly recommend Crissy Field, an amazing park along the bay at the base of the GG Bridge, still possible with Uber. I also recommend taking a ferry from the Ferry Bldg across the bay to Sausalito (a charming, beautiful town) and back. I hope you have a fun visit!

Posted by
4594 posts

I stayed with a friend in Outer Richmond neighbourhood and used MUNI a couple of times. I do a lot of public transit when I travel, and not just 'western' countries, but one in particular was a little stressful. I am not sure how they work it for homeless, but it seems that they just wander on to the slower (not express) buses. It was a verrrry long ride from one side of the peninsula to the other. If I felt very threatened, I would have gotten off, but there was a lot of language, and more than I am used to anger, mumbling and conflict going on on that route. Another day, I used an express bus a block or so south, and it was a calm 'commute to work' type vibe.
Not sure I would be planning many more trips via MUNI if I was to return.

Posted by
465 posts

thank you, Susan and Maria, for the tips & experiences.

Susan, the ferry to Sausalito sounds wonderful - looks like I can hop on BART and ride right where I need to w/out changing to the bus. I've been to SF before, so have no interest in the super touristy areas.

Maria, I ride MARTA trains in Atlanta and sometimes encounter uncomfortable situations like you describe on the trains and in the stations. I usually try to sit in the first car behind the driver for that reason.

Posted by
4293 posts

Thinking outside the box and depending on your fitness level, a friend and I rented bikes for the day near Fishermen's Wharf and rode across the bridge to Sausalito and then back across to Haight Ashbury with multiple stops in between.

Posted by
16874 posts

We spend quite a bit of time in San Francisco because we have family there. We love to walk but we do avoid the Tenderloin and Civic Center areas. When we want to go farther, we use the Muni Metro light rail lines, and have had no issues ( which we have had on Muni buses).

We use the N- Judah line to reach Golden Gate Park if we aren’t up for walking there. This east-west rail line starts downtown in the same stations as BART, but on a different ( higher) level. Then runs west to the ocean beach, running the length of Golden Gate Park just 3 blocks south of it, on Judah St.

https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/pdf_map/2021/05/n_judah_pdf_map_20210515.pdf

Get off at the 9th Ave stop to enter the park through that gate; it is close to the botanical garden. Then walk west through the park to the next exit at 19th Ave. if you want to see something wonderful, walk south to Judah and turn left to 15th. Continue south one block and dogleg to 16th Ave. You are aiming for the famous 16th Ave tiled steps, but first you will come to a lower set of tiled steps called Hidden Garden steps.

I described the route this way (with the dogleg) because when we were last there in January , 16th Ave did not go through to the steps; we had to first take 15th and switch to 16th at the “ K” street ( streets in this area are in alphabetical order from north to south.) The 16th Ave steps extend from Moraga St. to Noriega.

If you are game for more steps, go right on Moraga at the top of the tiled steps and you will see wood and metal steps leading to the top of the hill in Grandview Park. I believe it is 200+more steps to the summit.

https://sfrecpark.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/Grandview-Park-Trail-400

The view from there is indeed grand, well worth the effort.

Retrace your steps down the tiled steps and back to Judah St. to find a Muni stop for the tram. They are every 2 blocks or so, and can be easily recognized by the railed platform separated a bit from the sidewalk.

Links with photos of the tiled steps are below.

An alternate route to take from Daly City to Golden Gate Park would be BART just to Balboa Park Station, changing there to the J-Church Muni Metro light rail line which runs north to Market Street, then east to downtown SF. Get off at Market/DuBoce, , where you can switch to the N-Judah westbound to Golden Gate Park. This route avoids possible issues with other BART riders through the Mission, Civic Center, and downtown areas. It is what we take to go to the airport.

Map of the J-Church is below. Compare with the N-Judah map above and you will see the point near Market street where you need to transfer from one line to the other.

http://www.16thavenuetiledsteps.com/

https://storyateverycorner.com/san-francisco-mosiac-stairs/

https://www.sfmta.com/sites/default/files/pdf_map/2022/02/j_lrv_20220215.pdf

Posted by
4927 posts

I take the N-Judah Muni line several times a year, including recently, to get from one of the Bart stations downtown to Golden Gate Park to visit the Botanic Gardens and the museums. During the daytime. I've never encountered any uncomfortable situations.

Posted by
9436 posts

What CWsocial said. Did you enjoy your SF visit?