San Francisco: Taking Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) from the Airport

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
BART map (courtesy of Bay Area Rapid Transit website

If you’re traveling to San Francisco, at some point during your trip you’re probably going to ride Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) at least a few times on your trip.  Perhaps the most popular way for visitors to San Francisco to ride Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) is taking the train from the airport to your final destination, which is what I did on my recent trip.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Montgomery Street Station – BART by Eric Heath, on Flickr

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) went into service in 1972 and covers 104 miles in the Bay Area.  There are currently 45 stations with additional stations currently under construction and line extensions planned. Over 126 million people ride Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) annually.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
San Francisco International Airport

If you’re flying into San Francisco International Airport (SFO) you might consider renting a car or taking a taxi to your hotel.  But with cab fares averaging around $70 into Union Square, I decided to take BART instead.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Entrance into the airport at the San Francisco International Airport station

After departing your plane, follow the large signs inside the airport that will direct you to the airport’s BART station.  Walk through the doors and over to the automated ticket machine to purchase your tickets.  Credit cards, ATM cards, and cash are all accepted at ticket machines.

Once you determine your fare, you have to use the buttons on the machine to add or subtract $1 or $0.05, which seems a little odd, but that’s how the machine works.  I ended up paying for my return ticket at the same time so I wouldn’t have to mess with the machine on the way back. My fare was calculated out to be $8.95 each way, substantially more than my $2.65 fare to take a comparable trip on the T in Boston to the airport, but still far less than a cab.

TSG Tip: To calculate your fare in advance, visit the fare calculator page on the BART website.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
BART ticket

This is my BART blue card, the most common BART ticket, with the stored amount of my two fares on it. Once you have your ticket in hand, walk up to the turnstile, place your ticket in the machine, and the gate will open. Be sure to grab your ticket and take it with you as you need the ticket to exit the station on the other end.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Waiting on the platform at San Francisco International Airport

From the turnstile it was only a few steps to the platform at San Francisco International Airport.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Waiting on the platform at San Francisco International Airport

I’ve been on many subway and train platforms around the world and I will give BART big points for keeping their platforms super clean and shiny.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Waiting on the platform at San Francisco International Airport
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Waiting on the platform at San Francisco International Airport

Look for the signage on each side of the platform to ensure that you board the train going in the right direction.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Inside the train

Onboard the train there were plenty of seats, some more roomier than others with room for luggage.  The total travel time from the airport to Powell Street Station was all of about 30 minutes.

TSG Tip: Pay attention to the overhead announcements as you might have to get off at a station to board another train bound for your final destination.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Inside the Powell Street Station

Arriving into the Powell Street Station I was kind of surprised at how clean and empty it was.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Powell Street Station

Like really empty.  Felt like a walker from “The Walking Dead” would turn the corner and try to eat my face off.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Escalator down to the train at Powell Street Station

On my return trip back to the airport, I took the escalator down to the platform at the Powell Street Station.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Inside the train

Once again I boarded the train and waited to arrive back at the airport.  I was traveling on a Wednesday at about 9:30 am and the train was empty as you can see here.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Inside the train

I was surprised to see 70’s style vinyl covered seats on the train, but apparently these replaced the earlier upholstered seats where different strains of mold and bacteria were discovered in 2011.  I’ll take the vinyl over that any day of the week.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
San Francisco International AIrport BART station

When I arrived back at the airport, all I had to do was follow the signs back to the departures area to fly back to Boston.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Departures at San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International Airport is a beautiful airport.  I happen to love the spacious feeling of the departures area and all of that natural light.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
San Francisco International Airport

Would I use Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) the next time I visit San Francisco? Absolutely. It’s more cost effective and it’s super easy to use.  That makes using BART a must for your next trip to San Francisco.

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