City Guide: San Francisco By Rail

How To Get to San Francisco: Though not directly served by Amtrak, San Francisco is served via the Emeryville station. Every train into and out of Emeryville has an Amtrak thruway bus service across the bay and into San Francisco. Thruway buses connect to the Transbay Terminal, located at the base of the Bay Bridge, though some local services provide bus services to the Westfield Shopping Center, Financial District, and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Four named services either stop or terminate at Emeryville with a connection to San Francisco. Long distance service includes the Coast Starlight, connecting to Los Angeles and Seattle, and the California Zephyr, which connects to Denver and Chicago. Local service is also provided by Amtrak California with the Capitol Corridor between San Jose and Sacramento, and the San Joaquin to Stockton, Merced, Fresno, and Bakersfield.

San Francisco Cable Car

Inside the Station: The Emeryville station has a large waiting room and a ticket counter for passengers to check their luggage on long-distance trains. Also in the Emeryville station is a coffee shop and vending machines. Right outside the station are rental car locations for visitors wanting to explore the area at their own pace.

At the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco, there is a seating area for Muni, AC Transit, Greyhound, and Amtrak bus passengers. On the right side after walking in is a separate small waiting room and checked luggage counter for passengers, primarily on long-distance trains.

Connections: Once reaching the Transbay Terminal, visitors can connect to various locations in San Francisco. Immediately from the Transbay Terminal, passengers can board a San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority aka “Muni” bus to connect to other parts of the city. Additionally, a short two-block walk down Folsom Street connects visitors to the Muni Light Rail or Muni Streetcar service. San Francisco features a number of vintage streetcars connecting the Embarcadero and Market Street to Fisherman’s Wharf. Visitors spending multiple days in San Francisco can purchase passes for the Muni buses, light rail, streetcars, and the world famous cable cars.

If traveling elsewhere in the Bay Area, visitors can utilize the Bay Area Rapid Transit, aka BART, which connects to Oakland, Berkeley, and Daly City. The BART system travels across the Bay, unlike the Muni. Located three blocks from the Transbay Terminal is the Embarcadero BART station. One tip: If spending multiple days in the Bay Area, it is easier to purchase and use a Clipper Card and reload it as needed rather than purchase multiple paper tickets. Clipper Cards are also good for all of the Muni services within San Francisco.

San Francisco Attractions: Once crossing the bay into San Francisco, visitors wanting to begin exploring immediately can make the short 5-minute walk from the Transbay Terminal to the Embarcadero and Harrison Street, E-Line streetcar stop. The E-Line travels along the Embarcadero to Fisherman’s Wharf. The end of the line is Pier 39, a center for shopping and restaurants and the center of the Fisherman’s Wharf area. Pier 39 is also the home to the famous Sea Lions. Fisherman’s Wharf also offers numerous cruises through the San Francisco Bay, including under the Golden Gate Bridge and to Alcatraz. Fisherman’s Wharf is also connected to Market Street by the F-Line.

San Francisco Love Tour VW Buses

A short walk from Pier 39 is Hyde Street. For history buffs, there is the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Site’s Hyde St Pier, a site of numerous historic boats visitors can explore. Included in these boats is the former Northwestern Pacific ferry Eureka. Hyde Street Pier also gives great views of the Golden Gate Bridge through the fog. If not wanting to travel via streetcar, the famous cable cars terminate here from Market Street. For those wanting to indulge their sweet tooth is the nearby Ghirardelli Square, where visitors can stock up on the famous chocolates.

If wanting to see the city quickly, my personal recommendation to see San Francisco is the San Francisco Love Tours, which boards across the street from the Hyde Street Pier. The best way to see a city is often a bus tour, but San Francisco Love Tours provide a slightly different perspective. Instead of a large double decker hop on, hop off bus, guests board a classic, brightly painted VW bus to explore the city and learn about its history. The tour visits the Presidio, the Golden Gate Bridge, Golden Gate Park, the Haight-Ashbury district, and travels down the famous winding road on Lombard Street. Due to the brightly colored paint job, you will likely become an attraction on your own. Be sure to have a peace sign ready for passersby.

Helpful Links:

Amtrak – www.amtrak.com
San Francisco Muni – https://www.sfmta.com/
BART – https://www.bart.gov/
San Francisco Love Tours – http://sanfranciscolovetours.com/