How to Ride Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)

Four Parts:Planning Your TripAt the StationTaking the TrainMaking smart choices about travel times and routes

BART, or Bay Area Rapid Transit, is a train system that serves San Francisco and the East Bay. BART can be a great way to avoid driving and spend less time sitting in traffic. It can also be a good alternative to finding and paying for parking in San Francisco.

Part 1
Planning Your Trip

  1. 1
    Review the route map and find the stations nearest where you wish to go. There are five lines, referred to by their end points (not by their colors).
    • Richmond <> Daly City - Millbrae
    • Fremont <> Richmond
    • Fremont <> Daly City
    • Pittsburg / Bay Point <> SFO
    • Dublin / Pleasanton <> Daly City
    • The Richmond <> Daly City - Millbrae line terminates at Millbrae on weeknights before 8 PM. At all other times except Sundays, this line terminates at Daly City. This line does not run on Sunday.
    • The Fremont <> Daly City line does not run on Sunday.
  2. 2
    Find the stations nearest your starting point and your destination, and determine the trains to use to get from the former to the latter. You can use BART's "Find Closest Station" feature.[1] Then check the schedule (keep in mind that the schedule differs for weekdays and weekends).[2] Decide when you wish to arrive at your destination and work back from that.
    • The BART schedule is very complex. Some lines change destinations based on time. All lines have variable schedules based on day and time. If you are unfamiliar with the BART schedule, check online first. Once you enter the station, there are station maps within the station that you can access.
  3. 3
    Find out the fare required for the trip you will take. BART determines fares based on the point of entry and exit, and one-way fares range from $1.95 (for stations that are within 6 miles of one another) to $15.70 (between the San Francisco International Airport and the Oakland International Airport). You can use the fare calculator on the BART website.[3][4] (note that the image accompanying this is a fare chart from 2014, and does not include the Oakland International Airport).
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    Alternatively, use route-planning tools such as Google Maps[5] or competing services, on the web or an appropriate app on your phone. When using these services, you may need to select the public transit option, and you may be shown options other than BART. Google Maps also includes a fare when it shows routes. You may also use the Google Maps Schedule Explorer to get a clearer idea of additional options and their timings.

Part 2
At the Station

  1. 1
    Go to the BART station where you start your trip. You may use your mapping tool to guide yourself toward the station. Look for the BART logo (a prominent ba, similar to the favicon on the BART website) to identify the station. In the case of underground stations, look for staircases or escalators leading down.
    • If you will park a car at the BART station, be aware that parking at some locations fills up very early on weekdays. Also, some stations charge a nominal fee to park. Reserved parking, daily parking, and long-term airport parking permits are available for purchase. Note that not all stations have parking. In the BART system map, stations that have parking are designated with a P.[6]
  2. 2
    Buy a ticket. Ticket machines at each station take cash and change as well as credit and debit cards. Many retail locations near BART lines also sell tickets.
    • Tickets are sold according to how much money you put on them. You can add fare to a ticket while you are inside the BART system.
    • Check to see if you are eligible for any of the discounts. Students, seniors, and "persons with disabilities, Medicare cardholders and children 5 to 12 years old" are eligible.
    • You can put enough money on one ticket for multiple rides and use it several times.
    • BART charges your ticket based only on where you enter the system and where you exit the system, so there is no charge for changing trains. You need to use your ticket or card at both entry and exit.
    • When making a roundtrip, if you know exactly how much you will spend on the roundtrip, add enough fare for the roundtrip when buying the ticket. This will reduce your time spent waiting in line on the return journey.
    • If you are a one-time BART user and are not sure what your exact fare should be, it is better to underpay initially and use the Add Fare gate if you have insufficient balance to exit.
  3. 3
    Check for announcements about system-wide delays before entering the station. Such announcements are available on BART's website[7] and will also be displayed at the station. This is particularly important if it is very critical for you to be at your destination by a specific time.
  4. 4
    Place your ticket into the turnstile in the direction shown to enter the station. Walk through and collect it. Keep your ticket with you, since you will need it to exit BART on the other end.
    • Walk on the left side of escalators, and stand to the right. Do not bring strollers, bikes, large suitcases, etc on escalators.
    • Follow the signs and listen carefully to the announcements. Generally, the automated announcements for trains in one direction are made by a male and the automated announcements for trains in the other direction are made by a female.
    • BART etiquette is to leave a space for passengers exiting the train, and then board.

Part 3
Taking the Train

  1. 1
    Board the correct train and ride BART to your destination.
    • Trains are supposed to stop so that the doors of the train align with the black demarcated areas in the yellow strip adjacent to the tracks on the platform. During crowded hours, people generally form lines in front of the black areas.
    • Trains vary in length from 3 to 10 cars. Each station can accommodate a ten-car train in each direction, and has twenty designated black demarcated areas where train doors may open (two per car). Trains with an even number of cars stop leaving an equal amount of space at the front and back (so for instance an 8-car train will leave 1 car of space in front and 1 car at the back when it stops). Trains with an odd number of cars leave an additional car's worth of space in the front than in the back (so for instance a 7-car train will leave 2 cars of space in the front and 1 in the back). Downtown San Francisco stations have markers on the walls indicating the beginning and end of the boarding zone for trains of different car lengths, but not all BART stations have these markers. Both the automated voice announcements and the automated displays include the number of cars in the train, so use this information to position yourself within the platform.
    • A good rule of thumb is that, generally, the middle cars of a train are likely to be the most crowded, because most stations are designed so that the entrance to the platform is in the middle, and most people don't walk over to the ends of the platform. To maximize the chance of getting seating space or comfortable standing space, board the front or rear car of the train. Note, however, that bicycles are not allowed on the front car.
  2. 2
    Practice good train etiquette.
    • Do not stand in the doorway for long, or try to walk through the doors as they are closing. Be particularly careful about rushing bikes through doorways. Jammed doorways can hold up the train for you and your fellow passengers, and also prevent additional trains from arriving at the station.
    • The seats closest to the doors are for the elderly, pregnant women, and handicapped people. Please yield these seats to those in need of them. If there are other vacant seats, use them so that you won't need to vacate your seat on demand.
    • Some seats on the train face other seats. These usually have less leg room, so avoid these seats if you care about leg room.
    • Keep your belongings off the seat next to you and off the aisles. Place them on your lap or under your seat. If you are standing, you have a backpack and the train is reasonably crowded, take off your backpack and place it between or next to your feet, so as to make more space for others.
    • If standing, do not cluster near the doors if there is space elsewhere within the train. Move to the middle or ends of the car. Do not lean against the doorways. If standing near the doors, keep in mind that doors open on different sides at different stations.
  3. 3
    Exit the train.
    • Keep in mind that doors open on different sides at different stations. On two-track island platform stations, doors open on the left, whereas on stations with separate platforms for each side, doors open on the right. At timed transfer stations such as MacArthur, 12th Street, and 19th Street, there are island platforms where both trains are traveling in the same direction, so one of them has doors opening on the left and the other has doors opening on the right. Also keep in mind that unlike many other train systems, the direction in which doors will open is not announced by the train operator, so you need to pay attention to the station geography or other people's behavior.
    • If you are far from the car door, make your way to the door in advance of arriving at the station.
    • Check for all your personal items before making your way to the door. If you are missing a personal item, take a little time to search for it. You can report lost items to the station agent or recover them from the BART website.
    • If you miss getting off at your designated station (either because you don't notice it, or it's too crowded, or you are looking for a missing item) stay calm and get off at the next station, then ride a train in the opposite direction. You will not be charged extra for doing so.
  4. 4
    Insert the ticket into the turnstile (or touch your card) on your way out. If any fare is left on the ticket, it will be returned to you for further use
    • Do not exit through an emergency exit, otherwise you might be charged a much larger fee a few hours later as BART does not know where you exited.
    • Since exits tend to be clustered at the times when trains arrive at the station, you may need to wait in line to exit. Be sure to keep your card or ticket out and ready to use for when it's your turn, so as not to waste other people's time.
    • Sometimes, fare gates don't work, and say "See Agent". Before seeing an agent, try an alternative fare gate. If the alternative fare gate doesn't work either, then see an agent. Do not just leave the station through an emergency exit.
    • If you see an "Insufficient value on card" message at the fare gate, use the AddFare booths inside the station to add value. Note that these booths can only be used to add enough value to exit the station. You need to use the booths outside the paid area of the BART system to add more value.

Part 4
Making smart choices about travel times and routes

  1. 1
    BART trains are more likely to be a little late than a little early. Therefore, it does not make sense to arrive at the station several minutes before the scheduled departure time of the train you want to catch. Rather, aim to arrive a very short time before the departure of an earlier train. This will protect you not just against missing your train but also against the train itself getting delayed after you board it. It also minimizes time spent waiting at the station.
  2. 2
    If you are boarding the station at a time when trains are crowded, and wish to use the front or rear car to maximize the chances of seating space, budget an extra minute to walk to the end of the platform.
  3. 3
    Check BART's Quick Planner to get their estimates of the crowdedness of trains. Estimates may not always be reliable but are particularly useful as first approximations if you haven't used BART for those routes at that time of day before. Note that crowdedness is a little less on Fridays than other weekdays, and also a little less in the days before and after major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, because some people take extended vacations around these times.
  4. 4
    If you are really interested in getting seating space and don't mind your commute being longer (for instance, if you'd like to sit and work on your laptop), and your direction of travel is crowded, consider riding in the opposite direction and then boarding a less crowded train in the direction you're going. You will not be charged extra money for this. However, keep in mind that you'll end up spending more time: twice the amount of time between your current station and the less crowded station.
  5. 5
    A scheduled transfer is a transfer between trains where both trains arrive at about the same time at a station, but the train being transferred to will not wait for the other train if it is delayed. A timed transfer is similar, except that the train being transferred to waits for up to five minutes for the other train. When using scheduled or timed transfers, keep in mind that a delay in either train could delay your commute, and therefore budget extra time.
    • Keep in mind that the number of cars as well as the crowdedness of the train you are transferring to could differ significantly from that of the train you are transferring from. Even if the first train you board is uncrowded, the train you transfer to may be quite crowded. Therefore, board the front or rear car of your first train so that you can more quickly switch to the front or rear car of the train you transfer to.
  6. 6
    Occasionally, the BART system encounters delays due to reasons ranging from medical emergencies on trains, equipment issues on trains and tracks, and police activity at stations. If it is very critical for you to be somewhere at a particular time, please aim to take a train that is expected to get you to your location well in advance.
    • If arriving at a particular time is critical, check before entering the system whether there are any system-wide delays. You can use the BART service advisories and also check for announcements displayed at the station.
    • If the BART delay occurs when you are already in a downtown San Francisco BART station and need to go to a location in San Francisco, consider using the Metro system (which shares station locations with the four downtown San Francisco stations). You can also consider using Uber, Lyft, or other car-ordering services. Order the service when you exit the train so that it arrives by the time you are out on the street. However, keep in mind that car-ordering services may experience significant surge pricing during system-wide BART delays, so check the surge multiplier before you use them.
    • Keep in mind that during system delays, stations can get very crowded. This can make them unsafe to navigate. It can also make it harder to get Internet access through your cellphone, because a large number of people stuck in a small geographical area may be trying to use the Internet to while away their time and communicate to their friends and colleagues that that they are stuck, thus clogging the network.


  • If you ride BART frequently, use a Clipper Card and get High Value Discount (HVD) tickets.[8] HVD tickets auto refill and come in two denominations: $45 for $48 of value and $60 for $64 of value. Simply using a Clipper Card without getting HVD tickets does not save you money but it is more convenient as it allows you to enter and exit the station more quickly.
  • Smoking, eating, drinking, gambling, and playing loud music are prohibited in trains and in the paid areas of the BART system (i.e., after you get through the fare gates).
  • For security reasons, restrooms are closed in all underground BART stations (here, "underground" means that the mezzanine level, where the fare gates are located, is underground).
  • If the train is very crowded, listen carefully to the announcements made by the train operator, who may provide information on how long to wait for the next train and whether that will be similarly crowded. You may be able to save yourself a bad commute by waiting for a few minutes.
  • Bicycles are not allowed in the lead car (front car) of the train or in crowded cars. Check BART's QuickPlanner to check if there is likely to be enough free space for you to board with a bicycle. Stations also offer bike racks and bike parking, so consider leaving your bike at the station. Read the bikes on BART guide for more.
    Woman with bike on BART
  • Do not stand in the doorway with your bike for a long time.
  • There is a designated area near the doorway for all bikes. Align your bike to the rail as directed, and monitor it throughout the journey. Do not leave your bike there and sit far away. If there are multiple bikes, communicate with the other bike owners so you can decide how to stack up the bikes to make exit easier for all.
  • If you are not a regular commuter, listen to all announcements made by the train operator. Operators announce the train's arrival at each new station, typically including the name of the station, the final destination of the train, as well as information regarding transfers that can be made at the station being approached. Unlike other train systems, the announcements are made by the operators rather than through automated systems, so they need more attention since different operators use different accents. Also pay attention to the signage at the station as you approach it.


  • Do not "swipe" in and out at the same station as BART will charge you a $5.75 "Excursion Fare". In the event that you realize shortly after entering the station that you shouldn't have entered it, talk to the station agent (whose booth is near the fare gates) so he/she can let you out without you getting charged.
  • Don't leave valuables in your car at a BART station.
  • BART Tickets are magnetic. Do not place them near any electronic device (Cell Phone, iPod, etc.) or near cards with magnetic strips, such as credit cards, as this may demagnetize the ticket, resulting in the gates not opening when you insert your ticket into the machine. If your ticket has been demagnetized, see the station agent.
  • Unlike some mass transit systems, BART does not operate 24 hours a day. The last departure happens around midnight and the last arrival happens around 1 AM. Service does not resume until 4am on weekdays, 6am on Saturdays and 8am on Sundays.
  • BART cars and stations have video monitoring and BART has its own police department. Conduct yourself accordingly.
  • Electric third rail.
    BART trains are electric. Never touch the tracks.
  • Wait behind the yellow line.
    As with all trains, BART moves quickly and can't stop in a short distance. Wait behind the yellow line, a safe distance from the tracks.

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