The Great Bay Area Experiment: MUNI, BART, Caltrain, Amtrak

During the first month of my first job in San Francisco, four friends graciously let me sleep on their couches all around the Bay, allowing me to experiment with these four public transportation systems to decide which I wanted to live with for my foreseeable future. Which would prevail as the best option: MUNI, BART, Amtrak, or Caltrain?

(Psst…these amazing stickers are from Transit Supply.)

And the results are in:

  • Shortest commute was MUNI (but I couldn’t afford SF rent).
  • Cheapest (in terms of rent + fare) was BART (but definitely not the nicest).
  • Nicest was Amtrak (but I could only occasionally work out of our East Bay office and it was unsustainably expensive).
  • Best balance was Caltrain (but it took SO long without an express train).

Which would you choose? Can you guess which I chose?

How many keys to different places can one need in one month?

Well, my cheap ass chose the cheapest option: BART! (To be fair, the opportunity to live with some of my favorite people in the world was also a factor.) For the first two months, I believed I had made a grave mistake: over an hour’s commute time one-way, compounded by problems like delays, people on the late trains I would rather avoid, the stench of brake fluid burning, overcrowding, and more. Oh, how I wished I had put up the money for SF rent to ride MUNI.

After two months, however, I discovered all the tips and tricks to riding BART to make it more tolerable, including always bringing something to do on the train (sleeping is a TOTALLY valid activity, in my book). Delays appeared to lessen as well, whether that be because they actually lessened or because I became less bothered by them.

Every now and then, though, I still wonder if I should just fork over the cash to rent a place in the city. I can always fantasize.

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