Despite being in California, with its famous/notorious love for the car, San Francisco is quite well served with public transport. Getting around the city is relatively quick and easy, especially in the areas around downtown. Getting into and out of the city can be a bit more of a problem, especially late at night (especially after 12:20 AM).
The primary San Francisco public transit network is Muni, the San Francisco Municipal Railway. They run streetcars and buses all over San Francisco. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) provides both commuter and local rapid transit service through San Francisco, linking the city with San Francisco International Airport and Millbrae to the south and to a variety of East Bay locations including Oakland, Berkeley, and Walnut Creek. Caltrain offers connections to points south on the Peninsula, including Palo Alto and San Jose.
AC Transit runs primarily in Oakland; some buses cross the Bay Bridge and connect to the Transbay Terminal. Golden Gate Transit serves Marin County, and connects to the Transbay Terminal as well. SamTrans serves San Mateo County; a few buses connect to downtown San Francisco for commute service. (Mostly people use Caltrain instead). VTA operates in Santa Clara County and does not connect to San Francisco.
Amtrak sends buses to downtown San Francisco to connect to its stations in Oakland, Emeryville, and elsewhere. They also have trains from San Jose, at the same station as Caltrain (Diridon Station) and a convenient connection to BART in Richmond. Amtrak works fine for regional routes such as transit to Sacramento on the Capitol Corridor; long-distance routes (such as the Coast Starlight) are frequently somewhat delayed.
ACE is a commuter rail service through the Altamont Pass. It connects to Caltrain at San Jose Diridon.
511.org has resources for planning a trip on public transit. Alternatively, use Google Maps.
Some connections are better than others.
- Amtrak-BART: Though without tracks in San Francisco, Amtrak connects with the BART system in Richmond. Riders can take a shuttle from one of six stops in the downtown San Francisco area. Read the Amtrak page for details about shuttles.
- Amtrak-Caltrain: One of Amtrak's shuttles drops off and picks up at the Fourth and King Caltrain station. Trains also share stations with Caltrain at San Jose Diridon and Santa Clara.
- BART-Caltrain: BART connects with Caltrain in Millbrae.
- BART-Muni: BART and Muni trains connect at five points throughout the city — at Balboa Park and the four northernmost stations (Embarcadero, Montgomery, Powell and Civic Center).
- Caltrain-Muni: Muni's N and T rail lines have a station across the street from the Caltrain depot.
- Muni: Muni trains and buses intersect at hundreds of points throughout the city.