San Francisco - Getting Around -

On foot

Walking can be an enticing option to get from one neighborhood to another, so long as you are aware of where you are and keep your street smarts -- Sf is a town of friendly neighborhoods but it is also "big city" - be aware of your surroundings. Streets which often go straight up and down hills may make driving difficult, but make for breathtaking views (as well as good exercise) for the pedestrian. There are many stairway walks scattered throughout the city, at blocks that are too steep for a roadway. You can find maps that include hiking trails, bikeways, and the grade pitch of all streets marked in varying colors by how steep each segment is, that can help you orient to city walks suitable to your ability and temperament.

Highlight walks might include:

 • Broadway, a quite doable walk of several miles beginning at the Bay, going through a risquι entertainment area, past Chinatown, over Russian Hill, out to the mansions of Pacific Heights, and ending at the Lyon Steps alongside the Presidio, San Francisco's newest national park.
 • Ocean Beach (Richmond, Sunset),
 • Herb Caen Way (The Embarcadero) along the waterfront from the,
 • the Barbary Coast Trail (through Downtown, Chinatown, and North Beach), and
 • the Greenwich and Filbert Steps on the east side of Telegraph Hill, both strenuous and unforgettably beautiful, with cottages and a flock of wild parrots to enjoy along the way up to the Coit Tower.

By public transit

San Francisco's Municipal Railway or Muni runs a network of local transport that covers most areas of touristic interest well. Components of the Muni are:

 • Muni Metro is a modern light rail system. It serves the CalTrain terminus at 4th and King, runs north along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then goes underground under Market Street (in the same subway as BART) before surfacing and serving various locations in west and south San Francisco. You may board at any door provided you already have a ticket or pass. In the underground section and at major surface stops you should purchase tickets from the ticket vending machine before boarding; if the stop does not have such a machine and you do not have a ticket, you must board through the front door and buy one from the driver.
 • Streetcar Line F uses historic streetcars, some from other US cities and painted in the colors of those cities that once operated cars of that type, and others from the Italian city of Milan. The line runs from Fishermans Wharf south along the waterfront Embarcadero to the ferry building at the foot of Market Street, then up Market Street on the surface to the Castro district. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the driver.
 • The world-famous Cable Cars run on three lines in the steep streets between Market Street and Fisherman's Wharf. These cars are a fun ride, especially if you get to stand on the running board, if a bit impractical for everyday use. The cable car is such an attraction that, especially on weekends, it takes longer to wait in line to ride up Powell St than it does to walk the short but sloping distance. Board through any door or just grab a pole on the running boards; tickets are checked and sold by the conductor.
 • Buses serve the rest of town, with the steepest routes using electric trolleybuses. Board through the front door and buy tickets from the driver.

90 minutes of travel on the Muni system except the Cable Cars costs $1.50 (since September 1st '05); be sure to get and keep a transfer ticket when you pay for your first ride; you may be asked to show your transfer ticket (or pass) by fare inspectors at any time. Cable Cars are $5.00 per one-way, single-vehicle ride, no transfers issued or accepted. Before 7 AM and after 5 PM Seniors are $1.00. San Franciscans who actually use the cable cars for commuting to work can buy MUNI passes at a reduced cost.

An all day Muni Passport good on all Muni vehicles, including Cable Cars costs $11.00. Other passports and passes are available for longer periods: a 3 day pass costs $18, while a 7 day pass costs $24. The passports come in the form of scratch cards; be sure to scratch off the appropriate dates before using. Muni also sells an excellent map of the San Francisco transport system, including services provided by other operators. Passports and maps can be bought from the information booths at San Francisco airport, the Cable Car ticket booth at Market and Powell, the Convention & Visitors Bureau also at Market and Powell and many other locations.

Muni can be contacted by calling +1-415-673-6864.

BART has eight stations in San Francisco, making it a nice way to get between well-trafficked parts of the city, especially downtown and the Mission. BART gets you also across the Bay to Berkeley or Oakland and to the airport. For more information on BART, see the 'Get in' section above.

CalTrain has four stops within San Francisco. Other than the 4th and Kings terminal, these are at 22nd St., Paul Ave., and Tunnel Ave, none of which are particularly attractive for visitors. For more information on CalTrain, see the 'Get in' section above.

By bike

Bicycles can be convenient in San Francisco, if you have strong legs. San Francisco is fairly small -- about 7 miles square -- and it's fairly quick to get from one end to the other. But much of the terrain is hilly and hard to pedal up. Do not be misled by maps depicting the city's strict, regular street grid, as even the straightest of San Francisco's streets might include steep hills or even staircases instead of a roadway.

Downtown, SoMa, and the Sunset and Richmond districts are relatively flat. There are a number of bike paths and bike routes on city streets; the San Francisco Bike Coalition keeps a lot of information about them.

By taxi

Taxis in San Francisco are, for a large city, surprisingly inefficient and expensive. Except for taxi stations at or near downtown business hotels, or cruising just a few major arteries, taxis can be hard to find and hail -- and calling for a cab can mean a 30-45 minute wait, if the cab shows up at all. Now, if you're anywhere near Union Square and are holding shopping bags, just by standing on the curb and hailing passing cabs will usually get you one quite quickly.

By car

Having a car can make it easy to get to parts of the city poorly served by Muni or other public transportation, as well as other parts of the Bay Area. However, perpetually-clogged traffic and a confusing system of one-way streets can make driving in downtown extremely frustrating. In addition, a significant percent of the city's revenue is made through parking tickets; parking laws are convoluted, enforcement is arbitrary, and devilishly stacked against the driver. San Francisco does not have a through limited-access freeway like its larger neighbor to the South. Cross-town traffic uses the main CA-1 along 19th Avenue and US-101 along Lombard and Van Ness. Most of the city's internal freeways were damaged by the 1989 earthquake and consequently torn down, so driving in San Francisco is a surface-street affair.

Finding your way around

Cross streets: As San Francisco streets are numbered (100 per block) from the beginning of the street, It is best when asking directions to ask for a cross street or neighborhood name. For instance, if you are at the intersection of Haight Street and Clayton Street, and you ask the driver of the 33 Stanyan bus "Does this bus go to Market Street?" it will get you a yes, but the bus won't get you downtown, it will get you south from that intersection to Market and 18th in the Castro district.

Numbered streets and avenues: San Francisco has both numbered streets, in the Mission, the Castro, Noe Valley, and SoMa, and numbered avenues in the Sunset and the Richmond. Mixing numbered streets and avenues when asking directions may leave you miles from your destination. This can be confusing, as San Franciscans will not say "Street" or "Avenue" unless it is required to avoid ambiguity. Thus, "I live on Fifth Avenue" but "I live near Fifth and Geary." Street signs generally don't have "Street" or "Avenue" either; they just say "GEARY" or "MASONIC".

Adapted from WikiTravel under the Wiki License


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