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2 Questions About Transportation

Missouri
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2 Questions About Transportation

Disclaimer: I have already looked up information about the public transit that is listed in the sidebar and have done other research on my own, however we are not that familiar with public transit anywhere and have never really used it before, so it is all quite confusing for us. So, I have a few questions that I can get specific answers to, so we are not completely confused when we get there.

My fiance and I are staying at America's Best Value Inn on Mcallister street near the Civic Center. I know it's not the best tourist area, already been through that, oh well that's where we are staying so no comments are needed about that. :)

Anyways, our flight comes into SFO at 10:45PM. Knowing that the area is not the best, we have been reluctant to use the BART system to get home that late at night. However, according to the hotel's website it gives these directions: "BART from airport: Get off at the Civic Center/UN Plaza BART Station, and then walk up Hyde Street. The hotel is about two blocks from the station."

One option is walking late at night with our luggage for two blocks, but it doesn't seem like the best idea. But, what do you guys think?

Or, we could take a shuttle. We have been looking at different shuttle companies (Lorrie's Shuttle, Super Shuttle, etc.) They all seem OK, but they don't have the greatest reviews, so IDK? I also read that it isn't necessary to reserve a shuttle in advance. But, should we? I mean, it's going to be kind of late (around 11PM). Are there still a lot of shuttles around at this time? Or should we reserve one?

OK -- next question...

I am having a really hard time with MUNI information too. I might be stupid, I don't know, I know public transit isn't that hard, but it just confuses the heck out of me. This line goes here, this line goes there, stop and change buses here...ahhh -- so confusing.

Anyways, can anyone give a more specific explanation for which lines we need to take to get to certain places? Particularity the Pier 39 area, the Alcatraz area, Fisherman's Wharf?

I would really, really appreciate any help provided! Thank you!

San Francisco, Ca
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1. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

>>One option is walking late at night with our luggage for two blocks, but it doesn't seem like the best idea. But, what do you guys think? <<

Take a taxi. Yes, you can take a shuttle, but it's liable to be a long drive (you share with any number of other people going who knows where..). To be honest, if you're from somewhere where you don't take public transit, I'm going to assume you don't have a lot of experience walking around big cities late at night. Walking in that area late at night (with or without luggage) will NOT be a comfortable experience for you, and might actually be unsafe.

The most important things you need to know about any public transit system are: where to get on, what route to get on, and where/how to get off. Your hotel can probably tell you all that each day, as presumably you'll be going lots of different places.

But to start, to get you to Fisherman's Wharf (which is the same area as Pier 33/Alcatraz and Pier 39), walk from your hotel left to Market Street (I think it's left, anyway -- your hotel can tell you that). Turn left on Market, walk to the end of the block and cross Market to the south side. There should be a raised pedestrian island there where the F line will stop. Board the F line (the sign above the windshield should say "F-Wharves" or something like that), slide $2 into the machine next to the driver (or drop $2 in coins), get a paper transfer* handed to you by the driver, then take a seat. When you want to get off (watch the pier numbers on your right or listen for the driver calling the stops), pull the cord over the window or push the bright red button on the wall (this varies depending on exactly which car you're on). At the stop, step down on the back stairwell and the door will open. Trust me, once you do this, it'll seem easy!

*Transfer good for 90 minutes of continuing or return travel (until the time torn off at the bottom).

Now, if you want to go somewhere else, you can use Google Maps directions (in transit mode -- the icon of a bus) to give you the on/off info. I'd look at that before you go, use Street View to see what the stops will look like, and get more comfortable with the process. And come back with more questions....

San Francisco
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2. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

The Civic Center BART station is not the most salubrious, especially at night. If your flight arrives at 10:45 (assuming an on time arrival) you won't be getting into the city until 11:30 at the earliest (that's assuming you're carrying on your luggage). Even if this were a performance night (the symphony, opera and ballet have theaters nearby) the performances are usually over by that time. But it's not a long walk. If you can tolerate urban grit you'll be OK.

There is no need to book a shuttle. Just go out and get one. Preferably one that has some people on it already or you'll be making a few laps of the terminals while the driver tries to fill it up.

Your hotel (which really is a dump BTW -- but you asked us not to comment) is near Market Street which is the transit "spine" of the city. You can take the Muni Metro from Civic Center station (Muni Metro and BART share stations along Market St.) to Embarcadero and catch the F-Market & Wharves to Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf. Or you can catch the F line on Market at 7th, 8th or 9th Streets (on the island).

To get to Golden Gate Park, take the outbound N-Judah from Civic Center Station to Irving and 9th Ave. (We have numbered streets and numbered avenues ... and they are not near each other so be aware of that.)

There is a Top Question with transit directions using Union Square as the starting point. Any bus along Market will get you to the Square so those directions can be tailored for your use as well.

If there is any way you can move hotels, I would do so. Have you read the TA reviews on this place? There aren't many but none of them good.

Eugene, Oregon
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3. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

If you're going to be walking to Market for all your transit needs, I'll give you a helpful newbie hint: not every bus stops in the same place. On one corner there will be a stop with maybe 4-5 different bus numbers listed, if you do not see the one you want...it does not stop there. You must walk a little further - sometimes forward, sometimes back, it's really hard to know - until you see the sign that lists YOUR bus number.

This might be second nature to locals but if you've never done it before I hope it's helpful.

San Francisco...
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4. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

Personally, I would probably take a form of transit that takes you right to your door in that neighborhood at that time of night. You would probably be fine walking the few blocks with luggage, but it would make me nervous so personally that would be my preference. You could even take Bart to embarcadero station and a $10-ish cab ride from there. I believe the shuttles are still around before midnight or so, but I very rarely take them myself so I may be wrong.

For transit, you can plan your trips on Google maps with the transit options. It may be helpful for you to look at a transit map like at http://www.sfmta.com/cms/mmaps/official.htm . planning a trip isn't much different than planning a trip by car. You need to figure out what lines get you from point a to point b, but looking at the colored transit lines instead of the streets. Just like you might have to turn onto another street and change direction to get somewhere in a car, you might have to get off one transit line and get onto a different one to get somewhere. If you buy single tickets on muni you get a transfer slip good for getting on another vehicle for 90 minutes (with the exception of cable cars).

When you're waiting for a vehicle, be sure to wait at a stop on the side of the street where the traffic is going in the correct direction for your destination. When you board, show your pass or transfer to the driver (or gate agent in the subway). Just watch the other people boarding and you'll probably understand what to do in most cases if you get confused. Be sure to look at the letter or number shown on the vehicle to be sure it's the right one since sometimes many vehicles may stop at a stop.

To get off a vehicle, pull the cord or press the button a block or two before the place you want to get off to indicate you want to stop there. Be ready to make your way off since the driver may not wait forever for you to leisurely get up and saunter off (and then you'll have to get off a stop late and walk back if you miss your stop). In most places stops are every two blocks, but it varies in some neighborhoods. Subway stops are further apart than most bus stops.

From where you are staying, probably the nearest areas for many transit options are market street (the subway, f- streetcar and Bart) or Van Ness ave (buses). Market street routes will take you down market or toward the park (mostly east and west). Van ness will take you more north/south.

I hope this helps. It's probably not as hard as you imagine. Have a good trip.

Missouri
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5. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

Thank you for all the help. This is EXACTLY what I was looking for. I'm actually going to print out both of these, so I have them for reference when we get there. I guess I never thought about asking the hotel staff about the routes, but I prefer having things to look over just in case we get lost while we are there. But, I'm sure you San Franciscoians are quite helpful to lost tourists! (I generally have a good sense of direction, so hopefully we won't get lost though).

So...SFSusan, you think we should just get a taxi? It would be like $40 bucks or so, right? Do taxi's take debit cards? We will probably have cash, but just wondering. Would this be the most direct and quickest transportation?

Or, if we decide to do a shuttle...there will be plenty of them at 11PM or even later? I guess we will decide when we get there what to do...

Also, I don't know if this is comparable or not, because all cities are different, but we are from near St. Louis and have spent many a night walking around and staying in downtown St. Louis (East St. Louis is a different story...heh). So, we are pretty street smart and I'm a keen worrier, so if anything looks slightly sketchy I will probably book it and fast. But, overall, the main thing is that we don't want to be looking like confused tourists at night with our luggage.

Missouri
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6. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

Holodan...

Thank you for your post as well. It is very informative. Even if your information seemed like extremely basic info for most people, I didn't know a lot of it, and I really appreciate that. The only public transit I have been on is taking a bus in Chicago and the metro link a few times in St. Louis. Other than that I've always had my own car. Public transit has always fascinated me because the people using it make it look so easy, but for someone else it can look like a complex maze of numbers and colors.

San Francisco, Ca
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7. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

>>So...SFSusan, you think we should just get a taxi? It would be like $40 bucks or so, right? Do taxi's take debit cards? We will probably have cash, but just wondering. Would this be the most direct and quickest transportation? <<

Yes, taxi will be the quickest and most direct at that time of night. Probably $40 is about right, plus 15% tip. They should take "credit card-branded" debit cards (ie, Visa, Mastercard) but some taxi drivers pretend their cc machine is broken to avoid having to pay the cc processing fee. So cash as a backup is good.

By the way, don't worry about colors on our transit, that only appears on the maps for clarity purposes. Our lines are designated by numbers (buses) or letters (streetcars/Muni Metro).

And yes, we're very helpful with lost visitors -- after all, our economy depends on you!!

San Francisco...
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8. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

I have to disagree about needing cash as a backup - if a cabbies credit card reader is broken - that's his issue. And if you have no cash - amazingly it will start working again! All cabs in San Francisco take credit cards.

I will add my endorsement for you to check out google maps chart your directions and choose public transit to see the options - you can even choose time of day and day of week. Once you see the different options on the map, it can be easier to decide which route you'd find preferable.

I'm very good with rail lines - subway, streetcar, cable car because, let's face it, they can only go in so many directions. But I am very bad with the bus system. I know some lines because I take them every so often, but when I travel somewhere new, I rely on Google maps on my phone.

Do a Google image search for San Francisco bus stop - it will help you see that some stops are large, with shelters, some have clearly appointed signage, some are yellow paint with black lettering on streetlight poles, and some are merely yellow paint with black lettering on the street itself.

But as everyone says above, once you see it and get used to it, it's not too bad.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

Dear OP, our transit is as easy to use as the CTA in Chicago and easier than Saint Louis. The only difference is that SF is not that big so we don't have trains connecting various parts of the city but we do have street cars or light rail and buses. There is BART but it is primarily used by visitors to get to and from SFO to go to the East Bay. There is a article with photos of the various modes of transit in the TQ

Do you have a smartphone ? Apps like google maps can help you find the next MUNI on the smart phone

Berkeley, California
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10. Re: 2 Questions About Transportation

I'm sorry to hear about your hotel and its location. Please don't judge the Bay Area based on your experience there! Anyway, moving on...

Regarding getting around town, I see several comments directing you down to Market Street to catch Muni buses and streetcars and Muni Metro. While this works most of the time, there are a couple exceptions that will make your life easier:

To get to Ghirardelli Square and the west side of Fisherman's Wharf, you can walk 1.5 blocks west from your hotel and take the northbound 19-Polk bus or 2.5 blocks west from your hotel and take the northbound 47-Van Ness bus. Both routes are much faster than going east along Market Street on the F streetcar line.

Note that the 47 bus also continues east in Fisherman's Wharf proper, but the total travel time is about the same as the F at this point. However, it's good to keep this route in mind, as the F can often be crowded. Also, if the F is a no show on your way back, you can always take the 47 instead.

Finally, when you head out to Golden Gate Park, you can simply take the 5-Fulton bus. It runs on McAllister Street in front of your hotel. Yes the N-Judah goes to GGP too, but unless you plan on eating a meal in the Inner Sunset (9th Avenue & Irving Street area), the walk to/from the 5 is shorter on both ends.