San Francisco Transportation Tips by atufft Top 5 Page for this destination
San Francisco Transportation: 617 reviews and 785 photos
View from Vallejo to SF Baylink Ferryboat
Easily one of my favorite modes of transportation, the Baylink boat ride from Vallejo to San Francisco also competes as one of my favorite ferry rides anywhere in the world! In terms of mileage, this is the longest ferry ride in the San Francisco Bay Area, and one that has many scenic spots along the way. In terms of time, it lasts about 60 minutes. Commuters going from San Francisco to the north bay--Vallejo, Napa, Fairfield, and Benicia--are recommended to use this transportation to get to and from the city. The Bay Link Ferry boats are not hydrofoil ships--wish they were--but are still among the fastest boats around. These boats carry up to 300 passengers, and all tickets must be purchased at the ferry building on the day of the ride. There are monthly passes, but no advanced reservations. See link for ticket pricing and schedule, but basic adult fares are now $13- one-way. Boats depart SF and Vallejo about once an hour.
With a longer evening schedule available on the weekends, the ferry accommodates Giants fans very well, and weekend tourists, with the last departure from SF being around 9pm. Arrivals and departures in San Francisco are at the Ferry Building and Pier 41, with a stop at each pier with each arrival and departure. Travel time between the Ferry Building and Pier 41 is very quick--about 10 minutes.
Pet owners can get onboard by describing their animal as a "service animal in training". Since ferry boat personnel are not permitted to question the owner or ID the animal, it's an easy boarding for small and friendly dogs. Misbehaving dogs and owners can result in the dog being locked up in a utility closet for the trip, however.
Bicycles are encouraged, and there's a special place on the deck to lock them up. There are bicycle storage lockers for rent at both SF and Vallejo terminals. Parking at the SF side is impossible, but parking at the Vallejo terminal is fairly easy and cheap--$5- p/day--paid for through a ticket machine in the parking lot.
The outside poop deck of the ferryboat is small, and most passengers ride inside, especially during stormy weather. Inside, are airline style seats with fold down tables on the seat back. But, there are also tables, and there's a food concession stand.
The Vallejo Ferry terminal has a coffee shop called Panama Red, that serves coffee and pastry in like manner to Starbucks.
Phone: (707) 64-FERRY or (877) 64-FERR
Coastal Path View Over Fort Mason Facing West
There's a hill that separates Fisherman's Wharf/Maritime Museum waterfront from the Fort Mason/Marina waterfront areas. On the east side, the northern end of Van Ness Ave appears to end at a jetty. On the west side, Lagunda ends at Fort Mason. Both streets are closed to vehicular traffic. In between, Franklin Street narrows and deadends in a parking area where tourists might get ticketed. This obstruction makes passage confusing because automobile and bus traffic must detour around a wooded hillside back a couple of blocks to Bay Street, which on the west side exposes an expansive lawn area, known as the Fort Mason. For those trying to use public transit, the predictable cable car and trolley tracks seem to abruptly end, and confusing bus begins.
However, if you are on foot or bicycle, there is a path that follows the coastline over this hill. This is important because many tourists miss visiting The Palace of Fine Arts and Fort Mason because of this obstruction of view and transit confusion. Thus, it's also possible, for example, to walk from Fisherman's Wharf all the way to the Golden Gate Bridge, if one takes this route along the coast and over the hill. See photos to understand more clearly this path. There's also some good views from the hill.
N Judah Train at Duboce, east of Sunset Tunnel
If you have a hotel downtown, take the Market Street antique trolley toward the Castro District. Get off at Church Street then walk to behind the Safeway Grocery Store where N trains tend to collect in the afternoon. The Sunset District is a very popular place for Silicon Valley workers to live because the N Judah Muni Train starts at the CalTrain depot, where workers can come and go from their commutes to San Jose and other cities south of San Francisco. So the train is very convenient for them. On a sunny day though, walk up Duboce, past the park where people can let their dogs off leash for some fun. Then, just before the Sunset Tunnel, get on the train going west. The N Judah train emerges on the western side of the tunnel, alternately climbing hills and zigzagging from Carl to Arguello to Irving (UCSF), and 9th Avenue before extendingn out into the Outer Sunset along Judah to La Playa Streets. At the end, the train turns around and returns along the same route. At the Pacific Highway and Ocean Beach, one can see the Dutch Windmill and head in that direction. From there walk through trails of Golden Gate Park as long as you like, then head south again to catch the train on the return.
Bradford Street, Bernal Heights, SF
Setting the curvy or twisted street claims aside, there is also several claims for steepest grade in San Francisco. Bradford Street, at Tompkins, is clearly one of the contenders. This street is located very near the US101 and I-280 south bound junction, and not too far south from Vermont street. Bradford Street is in the Bernal Heights district, which is capped with the Bernal Heights Park. Bradford is a street interrupted by dead end due to steepness of the rock. There is a stairway with switchbacks that links to the rest of Bradford further atop the ridge. There is one section of specially poured concrete that has a grade of 41%! This is adjacent to a set of stairs, so it's not hard to recognize. Yet, city engineers had claimed that sections of Filbert or 22nd Streets were the steepest in town until some internet sleuths performed some grade measurements.
Type: Car/Motor Home
Lombard Street, Russian Hill, San Francisco
These two streets are car streets only, although there are also sidewalks and stairs for walking along these two very unique tourist attractions.
Wikipedia has an entry that describes Lombard, the brick paved and more famous of the two: Lombard Street is best known for the one-way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being the crookedest [most winding] street in the world (though this title is contested - see below). The switchback's design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb. It is also a serious hazard to pedestrians, who are accustomed to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile (400 m) long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The speed limit in this section is a mere 5 mph (8 km/h).
However, many believe that concrete paved Vermont Street, on Potrero Hill, is actually more crooked and steep than Lombard but has fewer turns. The section of Vermont in question is located between 20th and 22nd Street, near McKinley Square. It has a series of seven sharp turns, fewer than Lombard, but has a steeper grade. Wikipedia notes that on an episode of Fact or Fiction on the Travel Channel, Jayms Ramirez measured the sinuosity of both Lombard and Vermont streets, and proved that Vermont is indeed more crooked (with a sinuosity of 1.56 versus 1.2 for Lombard Street). Although Lombard has more turns, some of the turns on the south end of Vermont were removed during the construction of the US101 freeway. I have a relative whose home was affected by this freeway construction and modification of Vermont.
You can examine the images taken from Google Earth showing both streets. The first is Lombard, which runs basically west to east one-way. The second is Vermont, which runs on-way north to south. The Vermont Street satellite image is rotated 180 degrees so that an easier comparison can be made.
Now, to throw a wrench into the which is grade is steeper debate, there actually is yet another street in San Francisco that has no twists and turns, but claims to have the steepest slope, along a short section of its pavement. See the tip for Bradford Street in Bernal Heights. In any case, San Francisco claims to steepest slope and most twisted street are legendary...
Type: Car/Motor Home
Full BART Train Ride from the Suburbs
BART has construction plans to extend lines out east as far as Antioch, Brentwood, and Livermore, and south to San Jose via the Fremont line. These extensions will make BART an even better service than it is now. As others have stressed many times, BART is a good deal in terms of American transportation economics. From the end of the Blue Line at the Pleasanton Station, the average automobile will take at least an hour, assuming no traffic jam, and pay a $5- Bay Bridge toll. A Round Trip, per person, BART ticket to the Embarcadero Station in San Francisco is currently (Feb 2012) only $10.80, payable with either cash or credit/debit card. For not a lot more, one can ride all the way to the airport---beating all the airport shuttle prices. The price of parking alone in the city or at the airport will easily persuade visitors that BART is a good deal. The long-term airport parking at the BART parking stations are a particularly good value over private concession parking near the airport. When returning to the East Bay destinations though, be sure to check which train you are on. You may need to transfer at one of the Oakland stations, and in some cases, back track. But, don't worry, you don't have to pay extra if you make a mistake as long as you don't leave the station. The busiest transfer stations are the Balboa Park, Powell Street, MacArthur, and Bay Fair, so choosing another transfer station can be a good idea to avoid passenger congestion. As others have written, be careful of the parking lots at night, but all lots have video surveillance and BART police patrol, and in general, BART is very safe. See my combined transport for recommended routes in the city itself.
Electric Bus in SF
San Francisco is very congested and yet the city is working very hard to keep it's air clean. This city is very liberal and being "green" is politically correct. For a long time though, the MUNI has had emission free transit in the cable car, electric trolley, and electric bus sytem--at least at the street level. The maze of wires overhead may not look too pretty, but these buses are quiet and efficient. Don't drive around them to closely if you're in a rental car. Sometimes the bus has to stop short to avoid an accident, and the electrodes leads get disconnected from the overheat wires. Then, the driver has to get out of his seat and go to the back of the bus to reposition the leads.
During summer there's no need to pay big bucks to go to Muir Woods from San Francisco. A good route is to take the ferry from SF Ferry building to Sausalito, then take a shuttle bus to Muir Woods. For $8.50 adults can catch the Golden Gate Ferry from San Francisco to Sausalito. Then from there it's a $3- round trip fare to Marin Transit's "Stagecoach" to Muir Woods. Golden Gate Transit also runs a Route 66 shuttle bus service for a nominal fare between Sausalito and Muir Woods, and direct from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge to Muir Woods and Sausalito for those who don't have time for the ferryboat ride. See the links below for more details. These transit services also provide a variety of options for those heading between SF and the rest of Marin County, including Stinson Beach, Tomales Bay, Mill Valley, etc. Fares for all these services are sharply reduced for senior citizens.
Other Contact: http://www.marintransit.org/stag
View from Lincoln Golf Course toward downtown SF
For those who don't bother to rent a car, the Palace of the Legion of Honor and other places in the Outer Richmond District can seem complicated because no MUNI nor BART train services the northwest corner of the city. But MUNI buses do service this area, so from Montgomery/Market Streets downtown, take Muni Bus #38. This bus will turn off Market and travel along Geary toward the west for several miles. At 33rd Avenue, get off and either walk north, zag to 34th avenue and up the hill through the Lincoln Park Golf Course to Palace of the Legion of Honor, OR if you don't have the stamina for the uphill climb, take Bus #18 straight to the Legion of Honor. There are some great views of downtown and the Golden Gate Bridge for this area. Also, since Geary and Clement Street run parallel for quite a ways within, #38 is also a good way to get to the Clement Street commercial district. Get off the bus, just past corner of Arguello/Geary, at about 5th Avenue and walk one block north. See my tips on these neighborhoods for more information.
Bicycle Messengers Mingle at Mechanics Monument
Wikipedia presents in detail the interesting though disputed origins of and subsequent 1997 crackdown by San Francisco police against some 7,000 helmeted and protesting Critical Mass bicyclists who had shouted down then Mayor Willie Brown at Justin Hermann Plaza. Each Friday, it had seemed, to those commuting in luxury cars away from towering office buildings within the west coast's wealthiest financial district, an eternity before dinner and theater. But, the low wage messenger, enviromentally conscious commuter, and the occasional recreational cyclist had long been abused by the uneven pavement, open sewer grates, and dangerous intersections, within a sea of arrogant, mindless drivers rushing to go to or return from work. Thus, Critical Mass, a method of protest used in many other cities, congregated thousands of protesting cyclists, controling intersections and blocking lanes by their numbers. Police officers frequently fumbled in their attempts to issue citations to nimble and fleeing cyclist protestors. The city eventually lost this public relations campaign though when news crews televised riot gear clad police officer clashed brutally with the thin styrofoam helmets of non-violent cyclists. Today, seeing the value of pollution free bicycles during an era of global warming, the city recognizes and celebrates this period of cyclist civil rights protest by placing new emphasis on the eco-friendly practice of bicycling to work. Although the city has a long way to go in terms of bicycle friendly infrastructure, MUNI claims on it's website that it is dedicated to making San Francisco one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the USA. There are now many dedicated bicycle lanes, some through traffic tunnels, and planned routes throughout the city are in progress. Moreover, the city and county have retrained officers to issue citations to motorists breaking the law by harassing a cyclist or violate traffic lanes devoted to cyclists. Much of this is promoted in a more friendly way by the powerful San Francisco Bicyclist Coalition, which regularly works with the government, and businesses on behalf of the bicycle messengers, commuters, and recreationists. The increasingly popular Tour of California, always has a stage that begins and ends in the city of San Francisco.
Other Contact: http://www.sfbike.org/
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