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Public Transportation in San Francisco

Are you dreaming of moving to San Francisco, the cultural hub of the Bay Area, and of waking up to the sight of the Golden Gate Bridge? There’s more to the City by the Bay than California’s liberal culture. With our guide on moving to San Francisco, you’ll learn about the climate, visas, and public transportation.
San Francisco is famous for its historical cable cars.

The Muni

Founded in 1912, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency — or “Muni” — is one of the oldest transit companies in the United States. From modern light rail vehicles, diesel buses, and electric trolley coaches to the symbolic cable cars, there is no shortage of options for getting around town.

There are over 80 routes throughout the city, and within the city limits, it should be possible to find public transportation at any hour of the day. For you nighthawks, a handful of Owl buses service certain areas of the city once the rest of the Muni fleet has called it a day.

However, none of Muni’s services reaches San Francisco International Airport, which is located around 10 miles (16 km) south of the city. For transit to and from the airport, you can instead rely on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) or SamTrans.

Getting around San Francisco: Tickets and Fares

A single ticket for Muni’s buses and light rails costs 2.25 USD. The ticket is valid for 90 minutes and includes unlimited transfers. Trips with the famous cable cars, meanwhile, are 7.00 USD per ride.

For limited travel or first-time visits, you can get a Limited Use Muni ticket at one of the vending machines at the metro train stations. Tourists and business travelers should also consider the Muni Visitor Passports, which are valid for unlimited travel on all Muni services for either one, three, or seven days.

Once you have moved to San Francisco and know that you will probably be using Muni regularly, a Clipper card may be a good option. The Clipper card is a reloadable transit card, on which you can load a monthly pass or simply any cash value. You can recharge your card at vending machines on metro stations or at Clipper retailers. The monthly passes come in two varieties: one for Muni only and one that also includes the BART.

Another Way of Getting Around: Taxis

If squeezing yourself into a trolley car with hundreds of others every day is not your cup of tea, taxis could be a decent alternative to getting around town. Fares generally start at about 3.50 USD and run at 2.75 USD per mile, plus 0.55 USD per minute of waiting or traffic delay. Remember that, in the US, a tip of at least 10% is customary.

Cabs are probably easiest to hail along downtown streets. If you find yourself anywhere else in the city, you may need to call a taxi company. Most taxi drivers accept credit cards, but you should ask in advance just to be safe.

If driving your own car is more your style, you should read our articles on Transport & Driving in the USA for more information on getting a US driver's license, buying a car, importing a vehicle, getting auto insurance, and more.


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