ALA Annual 2015

Getting Around San Francisco

Only a few weeks remain before the ALA conference draws thousands of librarians to San Francisco. San Francisco boasts a thriving literary scene, many exciting things to eat and do, and of course numerous ALSC events at ALA for learning, growing, and connecting.   But how will you get to and fro? Silicon Valley having yet to offer us a viable jetpack–they could call it Google Blast! Engineers, are you listening?!–check out the currently available options.

Transit tips from locals

  • Hold on to your ticket/transfer! Fare inspectors on MUNI may ask for proof of payment at any time, so don’t just drop it in the bottom of your conference tote bag.
  • Keep your eyes up and your phone and other valuables out of sight. Criminals love distracted riders.
  • The Google Maps, Routesy Free, and 511 transit apps can be very helpful in trip planning.
  • Due to the Pride Parade on Sunday, 6/28/15, all transit and traffic near Market Street will be rerouted. Expect major crowds and delays throughout the regional transit systems. If you are on foot and wish to cross Market Street during the parade, try crossing under instead: find a BART/MUNI station entrance, descend on one side of the street and come up on the other.

Getting around San Francisco


MUNI is San Francisco’s citywide system of buses, trolleys, and light rail. MUNI fare ($2.25) allows unlimited transfers between any regular MUNI vehicles for 90 minutes. While San Francisco’s signature cable cars are technically part of MUNI, they charge a higher fare and often have long lines. If you have the time, however, it will be $6 well spent: the cable cars have loads of charm and some lines offer spectacular views. Check out the SFMTA website for details on MUNI fares, routes, and schedules.

Taxicabs and ride services

Your best bet for hailing a cab is on a major street downtown or at a hotel’s taxi line. Otherwise, you can contact one of the taxi companies listed on SFMTA’s website here.   Besides licensed taxis, there are also private ride services such as Lyft and Uber where you will need to download the company’s app and create an account.   Remember that sharing a cab or ride service with a colleague is often safer, greener, and more affordable than going alone.


Didn’t bring your bike with you to SF? No problem: several companies offer bikes (plus helmets and locks) for avid cyclists. Try Blazing Saddles, Sports Basement, SF Bicycle Rentals, Bike and View or City Ride. A visitor favorite is to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and then take the scenic ferry back.   For short trips within the city, Bay Area Bike Share has numerous stations downtown and near the conference center.

East Bay, North Bay, and South Bay transit


BART is a commuter rail system that runs from Millbrae and the SF airport through downtown San Francisco and under the San Francisco Bay to outlying cities in the East Bay. A great option for traveling to either the SF or Oakland airports and for visiting East Bay destinations.


Caltrain, our other commuter rail, runs through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties in the south to San Francisco in the north. If you’d like to visit San Jose, Palo Alto, or other towns on the peninsula, Caltrain makes it easy.

AC Transit

While primarily offering bus routes throughout Alameda County (Oakland, Berkeley, Hayward, etc.), AC Transit also runs Transbay buses that connect San Francisco and the East Bay. This is your public transit choice if you have missed the last BART train across the Bay, since Transbay buses run all night.

Golden Gate Transit

Golden Gate Transit operates mostly north of San Francisco proper (Santa Rosa, Sausalito, San Rafael, etc.) and also runs bus lines across the Golden Gate Bridge. Visitors often enjoy taking the bus to one end of the bridge and walking back across it.


Ferries are a beautiful (if windy) way to travel from San Francisco to Oakland, Alameda, and Vallejo to the east (SF Bay Ferry) and Larkspur or Sausalito to the north (Golden Gate Ferry). There are also tourist ferries to destinations like Alcatraz as well as Angel Island and Tiburon.   Ferries offer unrivaled views of the bay; bundle up and give them a try!

Just for fun

And because we are children’s librarians, I can’t resist sharing two charming SF-connected children’s books about transit: Maybelle the Cable Car, written and illustrated by Virginia Lee Burton and Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña with Christian Robinson illustrations. Happy reading and riding!



Today’s blog post was written by Sarah Stone, a librarian in the Collection Development Office at the San Francisco Public Library, for the ALSC Local Arrangements Committee.

One comment

  1. crankypants

    Do not be appalled at the smell of urine that permeates MUNI and never expect to get anywhere on MUNI on time. And please, please, please – don’t hog all the space around you with your backpack.

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