How to get around in San Francisco?

Whether you currently live in San Francisco, want to live in San Francisco, or plan on traveling to the city by the bay, there are so many ways to get around the city. In fact, the city was named the second-best city for public transportation based on Metromile data, only behind the Big Apple. From the city’s iconic cable cars to the recent bike share trends, there are more options than ever when it comes to getting around in San Francisco. Read on to learn more about San Francisco’s transportation options.

Your Guide to Getting Around San Francisco | Metromile

Common forms of San Francisco public transportation 

If you need help getting around in San Francisco, you have numerous modes of transport to choose from that fit your budget and lifestyle. Let’s go over the main San Francisco transport options. 

1. Muni 

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is the entity that manages the Muni transportation system, which is short for Municipal Railway. 

Muni operates several different public transportation options in San Francisco including:

  • Light rail Metro trains
  • Muni buses (bonus: they’re fuel-efficient)

The entity also manages historic cable cars (more on that later). Through Muni, more than a million people use the public transportation service as part of getting around San Francisco, according to the SFMTA website. 

Muni also connects with other regional forms of transportation including:

  • AC Transit 
  • BART
  • Caltrain
  • Golden Gate Transit
  • SamTrans
  • The San Francisco Bay ferry 

A single Muni ride costs $2.50 per ride and you can see your route options here. 

2. Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) 

One of the top San Francisco public transportation options is the Bay Area Rapid Transit, more commonly referred to by its acronym, BART. 

The underground (and sometimes underwater!) rail is an engineering marvel, connecting San Francisco with both the East Bay and South Bay. 

BART has been around for over 45 years, serving as one of the main ways residents of SF and tourists get around. It’s also a great way to get to and from the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). 

The fare for BART is based on the distance you travel, so can vary depending on where you’re going. 

You can use the BART fare calculator and also the BART transportation map to see where it goes and plan your next trip. 

3. Historic cable cars 

One of the most unique and iconic things about San Francisco is its use of cable cars. Cable cars act as another character in the soul of the city and are a must for any tourist visiting the Bay. As a resident, it’s a different way to get around the city and reminds you of the magic in the city. 

The historic cable cars are also run by Muni and cost a flat $8 as of September 2021. According to the SFMTA website, there are the cable car routes to choose from:

Cable cars are a quintessential San Francisco experience, having been invented in the city close to 150 years ago and are one of the more delightful ways to get around San Francisco. 

4. Driving 

Aside from the abundance of public transportation options, it’s possible to drive around the city to get where you need to go as well. Though the city is known for its hills, which can make driving stick a bit tricky, it’s also known for its beautiful geography and historic sites which can make driving a fun way to see the local surroundings. 

On top of that, safety is a priority. The city of San Francisco is working toward safety for all people traveling the San Francisco streets with their Vision Zero SF program, which works toward ending traffic-related deaths. 

The good news is that the city is relatively small and there are many San Francisco public transportation options, which means you may not need to drive as much as you think. 

Residents can benefit from opting for pay-per-mile insurance with Metromile, where you pay a small base rate and pay several cents for every mile you drive up to 250 miles per day. You’re used to paying gas by the gallon, why not pay insurance by the mile? Metromile offers affordable auto insurance coverage for low-mileage drivers. 

5. Biking 

You don’t have to use four wheels to get around SF, but you can opt for two wheels instead and use a bike. Though San Francisco is well-known as a walkable and public transportation-friendly city, it’s also one of the most bikeable cities in the U.S. as well. 

As of 2019, there were 9 miles of additional bikeways added, 670 bike racks were installed and approximately 52,000 cyclists were accounted for during peak periods, according to SFMTA bike data. If your preferred San Francisco transport is a bike, be sure to helmet up! 

6. Walking 

Who needs wheels when you can use the power of your own two feet? San Francisco city streets were designed for maximum walkability. It’s easy to walk around parts of the city like downtown, Fisherman’s Wharf, and more. Walking can let you see more of the city at your own pace and explore new avenues of discovery. 

The city of SF is also committed to creating safer streets for pedestrians and making it easier and better to walk where you need to go. 

Emerging  San Francisco transport options 

Aside from the six most common San Francisco transportation options listed above, there have been new modes of transport that have hit the market in recent years that you can utilize as well. 

Privately-owned commuter shuttles 

San Francisco is a tech hub and privately-owned commuter shuttles have become a thing. These types of shuttles bring employees to work from specific neighborhoods. One of the most popular is the “Google bus” which transports employees from San Francisco to Mountain View. There are over 125 shuttle stops, according to SFMTA data. 

Ride-share options like Uber and Lyft 

When it comes to getting around in San Francisco, there are also ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft. Using Uber and Lyft, you can book a car and driver to take you where you need to go with a mobile app. 

Using the bike share program 

If you don’t have your own bike but still want to get around San Francisco by bike, you’re in luck. The city has a bike share network where you can affordably rent a bike for a short trip. It’s a way to get around the city by bike and can be good if traffic is high and you want to get somewhere fast. 

Electric moped

San Francisco also has electric mopeds or e-mopeds that are shared similar to the bike share program. Using a mobile app, you can book a shared moped to get around town. On top of adding one more way to travel around San Francisco, e-mopeds also create no emissions at all so it’s a good choice for the environment. 

The bottom line 

As you can see, the San Francisco transport options are abundant. Whether you want to choose San Francisco public transportation, your own two feet, or opt for a rideshare program, bike share, or moped share, the city has got you covered. If you live in San Francisco and utilize these options, you may be considered a low-mileage driver. Using traditional car insurance, you may be paying more than you need to. Why pay more when you can pay just for the miles you drive plus a low base rate? It’s time to re-think your auto insurance and get a smarter, more affordable option with pay-per-mile insurance. Check out your Metromile quote today. 

Melanie Lockert is a freelance writer, podcast host of the Mental Health and Wealth show, and author of Dear Debt. She’s a cat mom to two jazzy cats, Miles and Thelonious, an amateur boxer, music lover, and needs coffee to function.