Is There Public Transportation in San Francisco? (What you should know)

Aerial view of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, CA

If you are moving to or spending your vacation days in San Francisco, California, you may be wondering if there is any easily accessible public transportation to help you get around and avoid paying those high Uber prices. We are here to give you that answer and help you best understand your options and how to use these options during your experience in San Francisco.

From buses to metro trains, to cable cars, there are several ways to get around the city efficiently and affordably, while cutting down the number of commuter cars on the road. San Francisco offers a wide variety of public transportation options for residents and visitors to travel around town.

Keep scrolling to learn more about these public and transportation options and how to use them.

Hybrid Buses

transport, tourism, road trip and people concept – smiling bus driver taking ticket or plastic card from passenger

San Francisco’s Hybrid buses are a relatively new addition to their public transportation lineup. Interestingly, they actually run on a combination of diesel fuel and biofuel created from recycled oil and fat (such as that from grease fryers). It’s quite an interesting way for them to help reduce environmental impact by their transportation fleet!

How to Ride the Muni Fleet in San Francisco

San Francisco has very significant public transportation options. The Muni system includes fuel-efficient buses, light rail metro trains, historic street cars, and even cable cars (everyone knows the red cable cars!). The Muni system is well used, with more than 725,000 passengers using it daily.

When you are planning a trip to San Francisco, you can use the SFMTA Trip Planner online to plan your routes through the city. The planner allows you to see where the different light rail lines, bus routes and street car systems interconnect. You can also use the MuniMobile app to plan your trip. In addition, there are maps and schedules throughout the city at the many Muni stations and bus shelters in San Francisco. The stops for the various Muni modes of transportation are located at:

  • Bus shelters
  • Muni Signposts
  • Platform Islands
  • Painted Utility Poles
  • Underground Light Rail Subway Stations

How to Pay for Your Muni Fare

You can pay for your ride through the MuniMobile app or through a ClipperCard, which is a prepaid card you can use on any sort of Muni transportation in San Francisco. Using both these methods will net you a 25 percent discount on your fare. In addition, note that if you are a Senior, Student, or have a disability you can get an extra 10 percent discount off as well. Kids under the age of 4 always ride free.

Note that you need to keep your proof of payment on you as you ride any sort of Muni transportation, or else you may get kicked off your ride and cited or fined.

You can also pay for your ride with cash or at Muni Ticket vending machines that are located at many of the stops and stations.

Guidelines For Riding Muni in San Francisco

There are several things you may want to know in order to make your trip through the city go more smoothly. If you have the MuniMobile app and pay through it, or you have a clipper card or have a sort of pass (such as a daily pass) then you can board at any door of any Muni bus. Otherwise, you will have to pay your fare to the bus driver in order to get on. Hold on when you are riding! San Francisco can be quite hilly no matter how you choose to get around.

Smoking, eating and drinking are prohibited on Muni rides, and you are also not allowed to listen to music or videos if you don’t have headphones on. Make sure to keep aisles clear by not putting your handbag or backpack in the aisle or on a seat and instead placing it either in front of you or on your lap. When you get to your intended stop, pull the cable cord on the side of the bus or press the appropriate button so that the bus stops when you get there. You wouldn’t want to miss your stop! Also, it is always kind to thank the bus driver. Everyone appreciates good manners.

Muni Metro

businessman at the train station

The Muni Metro is probably San Francisco’s most extensive and versatile public transportation system. It also happens to be the third busiest light rail system in the United States, and it boasts a fleet of 151 vehicles, which are ridden by over 173,500 passengers on the average weekday.

The Metro has over 71.5 miles of standard-gauge track and features 7 light rail lines (including one peak-hour shuttle and six regular lines) , nine underground subway stations, 24 above-ground stations, and a grand total of eighty-seven surface stops, which can come in many different forms. Some are just traffic islands, while others are noted by yellow-striped signs which read “Car Stop”.

Two of the Metro systems previously mentioned stops are in Stonestown and San Francisco state, which are both located in the Southwestern Part of San Fran. All the other stops are on the east side of the city, so plan your routes accordingly and know ahead of time where the stops are compared to where you want to go.

Cable Cars

Cable cars are perhaps the most famous out of all the transportation options offered in San Francisco. Who hasn’t seen a cable car/trolley car in a movie at some point? In fact, cable cars were actually invented in San Francisco about 150 years ago. There are 3 cable car lines, which run the following routes:

  1. One runs from Powell and Market street and runs to Fisherman’s Wharf
  2. Another also starts from Powell and Market street and also eventually ends up in the Fisherman’s Wharf Area
  3. A third goes from California and Market street and runs to Ness Avenue

In order to get on the cable cars, you can either board at the cable car turntables, which are located at the beginning and end of each of the respective routes. Alternatively, you can board the cable cars at any of the stops marked by a brown and white cable car signpost throughout their routes.

Make sure to hold on if you are riding on the outside of the cable cars! The hills in San Francisco can get pretty steep! Also note at stops, that the green X on the trolley stoplight sign is meant for the trolley to let it know its time to go, and not for pedestrians. Also note that service animals are encouraged to ride on the inside section of the cars and that if their owner does choose to ride on the outside portion of the cars, they have to keep the service animal on their lap. Cables cars are not equipped with accessible boarding, sadly.

Historic Streetcars

There are two Historic Streetcar lines in San Francisco with one being the F line which runs from Market Street down to Fisherman’s Warf. The first of these streetcars, though now being decommissioned, was from Hamburg, Germany, and was acquired by the city in 1979.

Emergency Ride Home

This is quite the interesting service that I haven’t heard of being offered in very many other cities. If you regularly use public transport to commute to work or somewhere similar, and you have an emergency (some emergencies are qualified for this program and some are not), you can send the receipt for the cost of public transportation that you use to get home at that time. Qualified Emergencies include

  • Illnesses and family crises.
  • When your carpool or vanpool rides end up being unavailable and you weren’t notified in advance.
  • If your bicycle breaks down or you get a tire flat
  • If you are required to do unexpected overtime and can get proof of it
  • If you have a home emergency such as a break-in, flood or fire.

Getting a Taxi in San Francisco

San Francisco has a well-regulated and relatively green taxi system. Your options when it comes to getting a cab are either to hail one from wherever you are or to go to a taxi stand. Something good to know is that if you leave something on your taxi, San Fran actually has a Taxi lost and found at which you may be able to recover your item if you are lucky.

Biking in San Francisco

San Francisco just so happens to be one of the most bike-friendly cities in the U.S.. In fact, in recent years the city has attempted to become even more bike-friendly, by adding more bike lanes and attempting to increase safety for everyone who has to share the road.


San Francisco is actually quite walk-able. Having traveled there myself and walked from one side of the city to the other (including having walked the entirety of the Golden Gate Bridge on foot), I can say that the city makes it pretty easy to get around on humanity’s earliest form of transportation. There are signs and sidewalks nearly everywhere. Just make sure to plan out plenty of time beforehand to get to where you’re headed because San Francisco is a huge city.

Moped Sharing

An even more eclectic form of transportation available in San Francisco is moped sharing. While this is not an option unless you are part of an organization with a permit that allows you to use the shared mopeds, it is an option to look into if you are in charge of some sort of organization that could benefit from this. The cost per moped (you have to pay per user) is $100 a year, and the mopeds are exempt from most parking restrictions and costs that would otherwise apply around the city.

Car Sharing

There is also a car sharing program in San Francisco, which operates similar to the moped sharing. The idea is that you can park in certain places around the city without paying additional parking fees.

Related Topics:

If you like the article above, here are some other similar articles you should check out!

Is There a Lot of Crime in San Francisco?Opens in a new tab.

13 Best Family Neighborhoods in San FranciscoOpens in a new tab.

17 Reasons Not to Move to San FranciscoOpens in a new tab.

Nathan Aydelotte

Hello! I'm Nathan, the lead editor for Suggested by locals. I grew up in the Boise, Idaho area and have lived here most of my life. I enjoy being close to the mountains where I can go hiking, camping, and mountain biking.

Recent Posts