Lake Merritt, Oakland, near City Center
Bus Connections to BART
Mural at Richmond BART Station
Cars v. Transit (time, money and fun)
Following are some sample trips. I wanted a regional tour of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area and I wanted to do it entirely in transit systems, by bus, train and ferry. I had to discover the possible routes and schedules before the trip and revise it all along the way. It meant on-line research, Google Maps, and the obvious search terms to start. And it meant talking to people, other travelers on buses, in stations, on trains, who are usually a great source of information, as well as conversation. Figuring out how to ride the next twenty five miles turned out to be a pretty interesting part of any trip.
“How do I get from here to there by bus or train?” should be a simple question to answer. But if you ask a driver, they usually either give you driving directions or say you can’t get there without driving. Those are the people who only drive. So before you ask directions, find out if the traveler is driving or riding. The increasing numbers of public transportation riders are much more knowledgeable, with extra information on toilets, restaurants where to buy water, where to wait. They put their heads in the game right away and together, we all come up with the next part of the trip. They seem to be thinking that it might be useful to them some day as well.
What follows are stories of some enjoyable jaunts within the Bay Area, with comparative travel times, transit vs. automobile. I offer them as an example of how there are different ways to travel without driving.
These travel times are estimates and vary according to traffic conditions or transit emergencies. The times given are approximate averages, obtained from Google Maps and by personal experience.
San Jose Diridon Station
Driving v. Transit Times
- San Francisco to San Jose/Diridon Station: (48 miles: Driving time 1 hour)
The trip from San Francisco to San Jose, a distance of about 48 miles, would take around 1 hour by car, possibly in tense traffic. Instead, take Caltrain (1 hour 25 minutes). Stop in San Jose (There’s a free DASH shuttle to downtown) and have lunch at one of the San Jose eateries.
- San Jose to Monterey (72 miles-Driving Time: 1 hour 13 minutes)
55 Express Bus: 1.5-2 hours
Continue on to Monterey, another 1 hour and 30 minutes, to 2 hours, riding on the comfortable express 55 bus through the agricultural valley. Monterey has a great aquarium and stunning bay views. You can also take a local bus (couple of bucks) for wine tasting in the Carmel valley.
- San Francisco to San Rafael Transit Center (18.7 miles-Driving time: 33 minutes. The drive can take longer if there is traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge. )
# 101 Express Bus: 1 hour 10 minutes. Views from the bus are sensational.
- Oakland via Richmond to San Rafael (22 miles, driving time 26 minutes if no traffic)
City center to Richmond via BART, about 30 minutes then #42 bus to San Rafael transit center – 40 minutes. Total 70 minutes). Crossing the Richmond San Rafael bridge is much more fun if you’re just looking out the window and not driving.
Richmond BART Station – Transfers to Marin
- Oakland to San Jose: (Driving time 1 hour)
Capitol Corridor train: 1 hour 27 minutes
- Oakland to Sacramento (Driving Time 1 hour 24 minutes)
Capitol Corridor train: 2 hours 57 minutes
- San Jose to Sacramento (118 miles – driving, about 2 hours).
Capitol Corridor train: 4 hours and 12 minutes
- San Jose Diridon to Stockton (73 miles – Driving Time: 1 hour 18 minutes)
Ace Train, about 2 hours
Stockton Station for ACE Commuter Trains
- San Jose to Santa Cruz (32 miles – Driving Time 40 minutes)
#17 express bus: 1 hour 20 minutes
- San Francisco to Santa Cruz (73 miles – Driving Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes)
Caltrain to san jose, 1 hour 25 minutes, then #17 bus to santa cruz, about 1 hour 20 minutes, total: approximately 3 hours.
The East Bay has some very scenic bus rides as well, with AC Transit and very convenient transfer points to Marin Transit, Caltrain, Capitol Corridor (Oakland, Sacramento). There are also ferry boats to Sausalito and San Francisco. Here are a few fun bus trips:
- Oakland City Center up the hill to Montclair (#18 bus, 36 minutes)
- Oakland City Center to Berkeley (#18 bus, 28 minutes)
- Oakland City Center to Oakland Coliseum (via BART, 14 minutes, or the #1 bus if BART’s on strike)
Yes, it takes longer to take transit than to drive, but maybe not as much longer as people think. And at what cost? The price of the car, insurance, repairs and gasoline versus a single inexpensive ticket. Look at fellow passengers on these trains, reading, working on their devices, reading papers and books, and snoozing, or just looking out the window. They are having a good time!
Muni Bus at TransBay Terminal
Have your own chauffeur- Muni Bus to Treasure Island
As a veteran driver, having experienced heavy traffic and long monotonous drives across the country many times, I am always greatly relieved to have my own private chauffeur on the train or bus. It feels like travelling with 7 league boots. Striding across great distances in a single bound. Look out the window at passing landscapes and daydream, or read a book, take your shoes off, and you’ve already traveled a great part of your trip.
Public Transportation has direct connections to the downtowns of many cities and even to their airports. Pack light and you can avoid taxis. These bus and train rides are often very scenic and enjoyable. It’s a great way to discover the city you are visiting. Listening in to commuters’ conversations and looking at the different neighborhoods. I hope this small sample of the tours available on public transportation will whet your appetite. There are many more carfree and carefree adventures awaiting throughout the world. Maybe we’ll look at trans-Atlantic cruises next? Pack your swimsuits.