Transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area

Transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area

Interstate 80 is a major urban freeway in the Bay Area (seen here in Berkeley, California as the Eastshore Freeway). This section of freeway is among the busiest in the region, carrying a peak average of roughly 300,000 cars per day.

Transportation in the interstate highways and state routes, two subway networks, two commuter rail agencies, eight trans-bay bridges, a ferry, local bus service, three international airports, and an extensive network of roads, tunnels, and bike paths. A 2011 Brookings Institution study ranked the San Francisco MSA and the San Jose MSA sixteenth[1] and second,[2] respectively, on transit coverage to job access. Another nationwide study, conducted by the University of Minnesota in 2014, ranked the San Francisco MSA second and San Jose MSA tenth.[3]


  • Airports 1
  • Public transportation 2
    • Metro/Heavy Rail 2.1
    • Commuter Rail 2.2
    • Light rail 2.3
    • Bus services 2.4
      • Major bus agencies 2.4.1
      • Minor bus agencies 2.4.2
    • Ferries 2.5
    • Bike Sharing 2.6
    • Airport shuttle service 2.7
  • Freeways and highways 3
    • Trans-bay crossings 3.1
    • The Peninsula to the South Bay 3.2
    • North Bay 3.3
    • East Bay 3.4
    • Named interchanges 3.5
  • Bridges 4
  • Seaports 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


An aerial view of San Francisco International Airport at night.

The following airports are served by commercial airlines. In addition there are many general aviation airports in the region.

Public transportation

Map of Bay Area Regional Rail Services.

Public transportation in the San Francisco Bay Area is quite extensive, including one heavy rail/commuter rail system, one commuter rail line, two light rail systems, Amtrak inter-city rail service, and four major overlapping bus agencies, in addition to dozens of smaller ones. In addition to rail and bus systems, there are multiple public and private ferry services, such as Golden Gate Ferry, which are being expanded by the San Francisco Bay Water Transit Authority. Most of the larger agencies accept the Clipper Card, a reloadable contactless smart card, as a universal electronic payment system.

An extensive rail infrastructure that provides a mix of services exists within the nine Bay Area counties. Bay Area Rapid Transit, commonly known as BART, provides subway service in San Francisco and parts of Oakland and Berkeley, and commuter rail service to Contra Costa County, Alameda County, and San Mateo County. An expansion that is currently under construction will build an additional station in Alameda County and bring BART south into Santa Clara County by 2016. Caltrain, which runs on the right-of-way of the historic Southern Pacific Railroad, provides commuter rail service on the San Francisco Peninsula, linking the cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Gilroy, and numerous peninsula cities in between. The Millbrae Intermodal Terminal provides transfers between Caltrain and BART. The Altamont Commuter Express, commonly known as ACE, also provides commuter rail service, but from the Central Valley into Silicon Valley, terminating in the San Jose Diridon Station.

In addition, Amtrak has a presence throughout the Bay Area. Stations in Martinez and Emeryville feature Coast Starlight and California Zephyr service. The Capitol Corridor connects Bay Area cities to Sacramento, and features BART transfer stations at Richmond and the Oakland Coliseum. The Bay Area also has two light rail systems: one run by San Francisco Municipal Railway called Muni Metro, which operates within the city of San Francisco, and the other run by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which operates within Santa Clara County.

A series of overlapping bus agencies provide additional public transit coverage to Bay Area regions both served and not served by rail transit. The four largest agencies, Muni, AC Transit, SamTrans, and VTA operate within the City of San Francisco, East Bay, the Peninsula, and South Bay respectively, although their service areas generally overlap with neighboring agencies and numerous smaller agencies. All of these agencies also provide limited night bus service, which are intended to "shadow" the rail routes that are closed during the nighttime hours for maintenance. In addition, the four bus agencies are each independently pursuing constructing bus rapid transit systems by developing separated right-of-ways and traffic signaling on busy corridors, including on Geary and Van Ness for Muni, El Camino Real for SamTrans and VTA, and International Boulevard for AC Transit.

Although BART and certain bus agencies provide travel over (or under) the San Francisco bay, Golden Gate Transit also runs the Golden Gate Ferry, which along with private operators Blue & Gold Fleet and Red & White Fleet provide ferry service across the bay. The ferry, along with all the major train and bus operators, allow bicycles onto their systems with no additional charge. In addition, Bay Area residents may rent bicycles from the Bay Area Bike Share in certain parts of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties.

Until 1971 the Southern Pacific Railroad operated from its Third and Townsend Depot commuter trains to San Jose and long distance trains to Los Angeles.

Metro/Heavy Rail

Agency Name Train Example Service Area Daily Ridership Clipper? Routes Stations Track Length Track Gauge Mass Transit Connections
BART San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties
Parts of: San Mateo County
Planned: Santa Clara County
421,800[5] Yes 5 44 (16 subway, 28 surface)
5 under construction (surface)
104 mi (167 km) 5 ft 6 in (1,676 mm)
(Indian gauge)
Amtrak, Caltrain, Muni Metro, VTA Light Rail (under construction)

Commuter Rail

Agency Name Train Example Service Area Daily Ridership Clipper? Routes Stations Track Length Track Gauge Mass Transit Connections
ACE San Joaquin, Alameda and Santa Clara counties 3,700 No 1 10 (10 surface) 86 mi (138 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Amtrak, Caltrain, VTA Light Rail
Caltrain San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties 58,245[6] Yes 1 32 (32 surface)
1 planned (subway)
77.4 mi (124.6 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
ACE, Amtrak, BART, Muni Metro, VTA Light Rail
Capitol Corridor Santa Clara, Alameda County, Contra Costa, Yolo, Sacramento, and Placer counties 5,178[7] No 1 17 (17 surface) 168 mi (270 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
ACE, Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, VTA Light Rail
SMART Marin and Sonoma counties Yes 1 9 under construction (surface)
5 planned (surface)
38 mi (61 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
Ferry (planned)

Light rail

Agency Name Train Example Service Area Daily Ridership Clipper? Routes Stations Track Length Track Gauge Mass Transit Connections
Muni Metro San Francisco 214,600[8] Yes 6 33 (9 subway, 24 surface)
5 under construction (subway)
34.6 mi (55.7 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
BART, Caltrain, and Ferries
San Francisco Cable Car San Francisco N/A Yes 3 52 5.1 mi (8.2 km) 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm) BART, Muni Metro
San Francisco Heritage Streetcar Market Street Railway,
23,208 (F)[9]
N/A (E)
Yes 2 32 (F) 6 mi (9.7 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
BART, Muni Metro, Ferries, and Caltrain
VTA Light Rail Santa Clara County 34,300[8] Yes 3 62 (62 surface) 42.2 mi (67.9 km) 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
(standard gauge)
ACE, Amtrak, BART(under construction), Caltrain

Bus services

The Transbay Terminal serves as the terminus for long-range bus service (such as Greyhound and BoltBus[10]) and as a hub for regional bus systems AC Transit (Alameda & Contra Costa counties), WestCAT, SamTrans (San Mateo County), and Golden Gate Transit (Marin and Sonoma Counties).[11]

Megabus recently relaunched intercity bus service in California and Nevada.[12] San Francisco riders can chose from three routes (SF-San Jose-LA, SF-Oakland-LA, & SF-Sacramento-Reno). The San Francisco stop is located in front of the Caltrain Station. Other intercity bus services include California Shuttle Bus, Hoang Transportation, and USAsia.[13]

Major bus agencies

Agency Name Bus Example Service Area Daily Ridership Clipper? Number of Routes Mass Transit Connections
Shuttle All-Nighter
AC Transit Entire: Inner East Bay (western Alameda County and western Contra Costa County)
Parts of: San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties
236,000[14] Yes 68 4 29 None 6 Amtrak, BART, Caltrain, ferries and VTA Light Rail
SamTrans Entire: San Mateo County
Parts of: San Francisco and Santa Clara County
46,070[15] Yes 30 None 1 None 2 BART, Caltrain, and Muni Metro
Muni Entire: San Francisco
Parts of: Marin and San Mateo counties
305,900[8] Yes 42 5 16 None 10 BART, Caltrain, ferries and Muni Metro
VTA Entire: Santa Clara County
Parts of: Alameda and San Mateo counties
108,800[8] Yes 54 5 12 12 1 Amtrak, BART, Caltrain and VTA Light Rail
Note: Some routes that operate as one route type may also be listed as another type (e.g. select daytime Muni services also operate as All-Nighter routes)

Minor bus agencies


Agency Name FerryExample Service Area Daily Ridership Clipper? Routes Terminals Mass Transit Connections
Golden Gate Ferry San Francisco and Marin County 5,300[18] Yes 3 4 Amtrak, BART, Muni Metro, Muni
San Francisco Bay Ferry San Francisco, Alameda County, Contra Costa County, and Solano County 4,565[19] Yes 4 9 AC Transit, Muni Metro, Muni

Bike Sharing

A bike share station in San Jose, California.

Bay Area Bike Share is a regional public bicycle sharing system that serves the cities of San Francisco, Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View, and San Jose, along the Caltrain corridor.

The bicycles are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to anyone who purchases a membership, with three options, annual fee of US$88, US$22 for three days or US$9 for 24 hours. Any rider may take unlimited trips of up to 30 minutes, as measured from the time the bike is withdrawn from a dock to the time it is returned. Bikes can be picked up at any of the stations using a key fob or electronic code, and dropping them off at any station. Longer trips incur additional fees starting at US$4 for the first additional half hour, since the idea of bike sharing is to make bicycles available for short trips.[20] A replacement fee of $1,200 is charged if a rented bike is lost.[20]

Airport shuttle service

Airport shuttles (mostly buses and vans) provide services from the three major San Francisco Bay Area airports, namely San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport (OAK), and San Jose International Airport (SJC).

  • Flat Rate Airport Taxi Cab and Car Service - Private airport shuttles and car service, door to door, serving the whole San Francisco Bay Area: Silicon Valley, San Mateo County, Alameda County and Santa Clara County to and from SFO, SJC and OAK. Customer can also prepay, request baby seats, minivans, eco cabs. Reservations only: 2 hours notice needed to book the ride.
  • BayPorter Express Airport Shuttle - Airport Shuttle service serving Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco Counties to and from SFO and OAK.
  • Marin Airporter - Airport Shuttle service serving Marin County to and from SFO.
  • Marin County Airport Shuttle - Airport Shuttle service serving Marin County to and from SFO, OAK, and SJC.
  • Monterey Airport Shuttle - Airport Shuttle service serving Monterey County to and from SFO, OAK, and SJC.
  • Non Stop Airport Shuttle - Private shuttle service to and from SFO, OAK, and SJC.
  • Sonoma County Airport Express - Airport Shuttle service serving Sonoma County (Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma) and Marin County (San Rafael) to and from SFO and OAK.
  • SuperShuttle - Airport door-to-door van service serving San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties to and from SFO, OAK (reservations only), and SJC (reservations only).
  • Cook Limousine Services - They are Sonoma based limo service company owned by a vineyard manager and wine maker. They also provide dinner service and door to door airport pick up and drop off services.

Freeways and highways

The Bay Area possesses an extensive freeway and highway system.

Trans-bay crossings

Interstate 80
San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
The western terminus of I-80 is located in San Francisco as James Lick Skyway (Bayshore Freeway), just west of the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge. The interstate continues to the east over the bridge, connecting to Oakland and the north coast of the East Bay as the Eastshore Freeway, and then on to Sacramento, Reno, and New Jersey.
Interstate 580
Richmond - San Rafael Bridge
This spur route's western terminus is in Marin County. The Interstate crosses the San Pablo Bay over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, goes through Richmond as the John T. Knox Freeway, passes through Oakland as the MacArthur Freeway, then continues to Livermore, through the Altamont Pass to Tracy, where it intersects with Interstate 5, thus providing a link with Southern California.
Route 92
San Mateo - Hayward Bridge
SR 92's western terminus is in Half Moon Bay. The two-lane highway crosses the Santa Cruz Mountains, connecting to Interstate 280 and U.S. Route 101 as the J. Arthur Younger Freeway, becoming a freeway as it passes through San Mateo before crossing the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge to Hayward as Jackson Street.
Route 84
Dumbarton Bridge
SR 84 begins at Route 1 (at the Pacific Coast) near San Gregorio State Beach, and crosses the Santa Cruz Mountains on a scenic route between La Honda and Woodside as Woodside Road. It then crosses the Bay over the Dumbarton Bridge from Redwood City to Newark. The route then passes through Fremont as Thornton Avenue and Peralta Boulevard, continuing as Niles Canyon Road to Sunol and Livermore as Vallecitos Road and Isabel Avenue, terminating at Interstate 580 as Airway Boulevard.

The Peninsula to the South Bay

Interstate 280
Southern, Junipero Serra, & Sinclair Freeways
Highway 101
Bayshore & South Valley Freeways
Eight-lane and, in some parts, 10-lane freeways connecting San Francisco to San Jose through the Peninsula. Highway 101 continues south to Gilroy and Salinas, California, before continuing to Los Angeles. For most of its route I-280 runs along the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is very scenic, while 101 is highly urban and is locally known as "the world's longest parking lot."
Route 1
Cabrillo Highway
Route 35
Skyline Boulevard
Two-lane highways also traveling down the Peninsula, SR 1 along the Pacific coast, and SR 35 near the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. SR 1 as Cabrillo Highway connects to Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz, and Monterey, before continuing to Los Angeles.
Route 9
Route 17
Highways through the Santa Cruz Mountains, connecting the South Bay to Santa Cruz. Part of SR 17 in San Jose is an 8 lane freeway.
Route 85
West Valley Freeway
Route 237
Southbay Freeway
Six-lane freeways connecting the west Santa Clara Valley to the east Santa Clara Valley, bypassing Downtown San Jose.
Route 87
Guadalupe Freeway
North-south six-lane freeway entirely in San Jose, connecting San Jose International Airport, Downtown to the Almaden Valley. (formerly the Guadalupe Parkway)
Route 152 Two-lane highway from Watsonville, crosses the Santa Cruz Mountains to Gilroy, then crosses the Diablo Range through Pacheco Pass to I-5 near Los Banos.
Route 156 Two-lane highway connecting the Monterey Peninsula from Castroville to northern San Benito County and Route 152.
Route 82
El Camino Real
Highway running from San Jose to Interstate 280 in San Francisco. It is designated a State Route, although it is more similar to an inner-city boulevard, and contains either 2, 4, or 6 lanes. It runs from Daly City in the north through the Peninsula and beyond.

The freeway system in Santa Clara county is augmented by its expressway system of county routes.

North Bay

Highway 101
Redwood Highway
Route 1
Shoreline Highway
Continue north of San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and connecting San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties, and eventually to Oregon. They are concurrent between the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin City
Interstate 505 This interstate highway provides a direct link from Interstate 80 in Vacaville in Solano County to I-5, bypassing Sacramento.
Route 29 Four-lane expressway connecting Interstate 80 in Vallejo in Solano County as Sonoma Boulevard to the towns of American Canyon and Napa. North of Napa, SR 29 is a two-lane rural highway through the towns of the Napa Valley, California's Wine Country, to Clear Lake.
Route 37 Four- and two-lane expressway connecting US 101 in Novato with Interstate 80 in Vallejo, along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay.
Route 12
Sonoma Highway
A highway connecting Santa Rosa with suburbs to the west and Interstate 80 through Sonoma and Napa to the east.

East Bay

Interstates 680
Sinclair Freeway
Interstate 880
Nimitz Freeway
Two interstate highways that travel up the East Bay from San Jose, 880 close to the bay to Oakland and 680 inland from San Jose north through Fremont, Pleasanton and Concord; then crosses the Benicia-Martinez Bridge and ends at Interstate 80 in Fairfield.
Interstate 980
Grove Shafter Freeway
A freeway entirely in Downtown Oakland and begins at Interstate 880 and travels north to become Route 24 at Interstate 580.
Interstate 205 This interstate highway's western terminus is at Interstate 580 in Alameda County just west of the San Joaquin County line. I-205 heads east through Tracy to I-5, providing access from the Bay Area to Stockton and the northern San Joaquin Valley.
Route 13
Warren Freeway
A highway entirely in the Oakland Hills and travels north from Interstate 580 to Route 24, where the freeway portion ends. Beyond SR 24, SR 13 is Berkeley's Ashby Avenue.
Route 24
Grover Shafter Freeway
A state highway that begins at Interstate 580 in Oakland and travels east through the Caldecott Tunnel to Interstate 680 in Walnut Creek.
Interstate 238
Route 238
Mission Boulevard
An arterial from Fremont to Hayward, along the base of the hills, then becomes a freeway near Oakland.
Route 4
John Muir Parkway
California Delta Highway
Western terminus at Interstate 80 in Hercules, travels east through Martinez, Pittsburg, and Antioch, where the freeway portion ends. The highway continues to Brentwood and east to Stockton.

Named interchanges

The Alemany Maze is the interchange between the James Lick Freeway (U.S. Route 101) and Interstate 280.

The MacArthur Maze is the interchange between the Eastshore Freeway, Nimitz Freeway, and MacArthur Freeway at the east end of the Bay Bridge.


Due to the central location of the San Francisco Bay, eight toll bridges cross the Bay or Bay tributaries. Each of the bridges collect separate tolls, and all of them accept payment through FasTrak, an electronic toll collection system used in the state of California.

Bridge Name Picture Connects Length
Antioch Bridge Antioch in Contra Costa County with Sacramento County 1.8 mi (2.9 km)
Benicia-Martinez Bridge Solano County with Contra Costa County 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
Carquinez Bridge Vallejo in Solano County with Crockett in Contra Costa County 0.66 mi (1.06 km)
Dumbarton Bridge Menlo Park in San Mateo County with Fremont in Alameda County 1.63 mi (2.62 km)
Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco with Marin County 1.7 mi (2.7 km)
Richmond-San Rafael Bridge Richmond in Contra Costa County with San Rafael in Marin County 5.5 mi (8.9 km)
San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge San Francisco with Oakland, California and the East Bay 4.46 mi (7.18 km)
San Mateo-Hayward Bridge San Francisco Peninsula with the East Bay 7 mi (11 km)


The Port of San Francisco was once the largest and busiest seaport on the West Coast. It featured rows of piers perpendicular to the shore, where cargo from the moored ships was handled by cranes and manual labor and transported to nearby warehouses. The port handled cargo to and from trans-Pacific and Atlantic destinations, and was the West Coast center of the lumber trade. The 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike, an important episode in the history of the American labor movement, brought most ports to a standstill. The advent of container shipping made pier-based ports obsolete, and most commercial berths moved to the Port of Oakland and Port of Richmond. A few active berths specializing in break bulk cargo remain alongside the Islais Creek Channel.

The port currently uses Pier 35 to handle the 60–80 cruise ship calls and 200,000 passengers that come to San Francisco.[21] Itineraries from San Francisco usually include round trip cruises to Alaska and Mexico. The new James R. Herman Cruise Terminal Project at Pier 27 is scheduled to open 2014 as a replacement. The existing primary terminal at Pier 35 has neither the sufficient capacity to allow for the increasing length and passenger capacity of new cruise ships nor the amenities needed for an international cruise terminal.[22]

On March 16, 2013, Princess Cruises Grand Princess became the first ship to home port in San Francisco year round. The ship offers cruises to Alaska, California Coasts, Hawaii, and Mexico. Grand Princess will be stationed in San Francisco until April 2014. Princess will also operate other ships during the summer of 2014, making it the only cruise line home porting year round in San Francisco.[23]


  1. ^ "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America (San Francisco)".  
  2. ^ "Missed Opportunity: Transit and Jobs in Metropolitan America (San Jose)".  
  3. ^ "Access Across America: Transit 2014".  
  4. ^ "SJC Named Second Fastest Growing Medium Hub Airport in US for 2013". Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  5. ^ "APTA Ridership Report - Q1 2013 Report" (PDF).  
  6. ^ "February 2014 Caltrain Annual Passenger Counts" (PDF). Caltrain. Retrieved July 11, 2014. 
  7. ^ "2016 Business Plan - Capitol Corridor" (PDF). Retrieved July 24, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b c d "APTA Ridership Report - Q4 2013 Report" (PDF).  
  9. ^ "TEP Route Data & Proposed Changes".  
  10. ^ "BoltBus to launch Bay Area-Los Angeles service". Retrieved November 6, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Project Overview – Regional Transit". Transbay Transit Center. Archived from the original on December 13, 2006. Retrieved July 25, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Megabus.Com Expands Service To/From Los Angeles, San Francisco And Six Cities". Retrieved March 26, 2013. 
  13. ^ "AIBRA - Find a Station". Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Ridership, Bus Fleet and Service". Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  15. ^ "SamTrans sees 3% growth in ECR ridership up 3% in first month; kicks off study of speed improvements". Peninsula Transportation. Retrieved January 2014. 
  16. ^ CCCTA - Operating & Scheduling Committee: Fixed-Route Operating Report for May 2010
  17. ^ "Golden Gate Transit: Research Library". Retrieved 14 September 2014. 
  18. ^ Prado, Mark. "Larkspur Ferry at 'crossroads:' Ridership outgrowing parking". Marin Independent Journal. Retrieved January 2014. 
  19. ^ Prado, Mark. "San Francisco Bay Ferry Ridership Rising". Retrieved May 2014. 
  20. ^ a b CBS San Francisco (2013-08-29). "Bike Share Program Launched In 5 Bay Area Cities". CBS 5 KPIX. Retrieved 2013-09-14. 
  21. ^ "SFPort – Cruises". Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  22. ^ "SFPort – James R. Herman Cruise Terminal Project at Pier 27". Retrieved March 16, 2013. 
  23. ^ Engle, Jane (April 15, 2013). "LA Times – Cruises: The Grand Princess finds a home in San Francisco". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 

External links

  • Bay Area Shuttles directory
  • West Coast AA Roads (San Francisco Bay Areas)
  • Live Toll Prices for San Francisco Bay Area Bridges