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Running to San Francisco Airport

Author: Matt Schutz

My last post for Transporting Cities I had flown into Oakland Airport and taken the BART into San Francisco. This time, I was leaving SF via San Francisco’s main airport so I was going to make a proper comparison. As I left my hotel I got a notification that my connecting flight had been cancelled so the race was then on to get to the airport ASAP to get on another flight to Europe. Navigating the BART is definitely fun when you’re running to catch a flight!

My daytime train terminated at SFO BART station so it was easy enough to work out which train to board from downtown as the train was described by the route rather than a colour. The train had a lot of space for luggage but it wasn’t very clean and the seats meant that I was awkwardly sitting up against someone’s knees.

Thankfully, when it arrived at SFO airport, the platform signage was easy enough to follow to the EXIT, I didn’t slow to look around but I assumed that this included the little airport trains that I knew I needed anyway. Further down the platform, there was more information on this AirTrain route, including the fact that passengers to the International terminal can walk to their terminal whereas all other airline passengers need to board this extra AirTrain.

Going up the escalator to the AirTrain, I passed a lot of information on the BART that would be available to arriving passengers but I thought it funny how visitors are supposed to read the tiny matrix of fares that is stuck on the front of the ticket machine. There’s no fare for ‘Downtown San Francisco’ so visitors are expected to work out what station is relevant to them before they can get on with their journey – at least the fare to Oakland Airport is clear!

I waited on the AirTrain platform, eager for it to turn up as I was now seriously short of time to try and make another flight. Getting off at Terminal 3, I had to walk up a flight of stairs with my bag before being directed back down a ramp into the terminal building.

Inside the terminal, I was walking to the check-in area and I looked back to see the signs pointing to the train from inside. It’s odd that they point to BART/Caltrain when Caltrain doesn’t go to the airport. The sign says to use AirTrain but hides the fact that Caltrain is 2 trains away via AirTrain and the BART, I didn’t even see it mentioned in the BART station.

Apologies for the short article but you’ll be pleased to know I caught the flight! So can recommend BART as nice and convenient, especially if you’re in a rush.

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