San Francisco After Dark
June 18, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

What should I know about getting around San Francisco/Bay Area via public transportation between 6 pm and 2 am on a semi-regular basis? I can get system information online, but what experience should I expect riding those systems?

I am on disability, and I want to move to SF to be near its music scene. I don't drive, but I walk good. (Budget is not an issue.)
posted by Ardiril to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you're from NYC, you'll be disappointed. If you're from anywhere else, it'll be a step up.

BART stops running between 12 and 1, depending on your stop. MUNI runs through the night, but after 10PM, things start getting scarce. Cabs exist, but outside of the well-trafficked areas, you might be waiting a while.

My advice? Do what I do. Live in the city, close to a BART stop. Those are your hubs, and will give you the most options. I've been living here nearly 2 years and I don't have a car. I do just fine.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:06 PM on June 18, 2011

As Afroblanco says, BART stops running between 12 and 1. So if you're specifically moving because you want to be in SF late at night, then you don't want to live in the East Bay. (I personally do live in the East Bay and don't mind that I have to turn into a pumpkin around midnight, but that's me.)
posted by madcaptenor at 12:14 PM on June 18, 2011

I don't know Muni well, but there is Transbay service that runs all night. San Fran living will give you the most options, especially as you said budget wasn't an issue, but if you like the East Bay for other reasons, live somewhere near a BART Station and a stop on the All Nighter network (AC Transit's line 800) would work, particularly if the shows are near the Transbay terminal, or if you are willing to take a cab there.
posted by salvia at 1:08 PM on June 18, 2011

You probably want to be near a main transportation line. SF Muni has 'owl' service, which is the all night service but it's limited to key streets.

Civic Center, parts of SOMA, Hayes Valley, even the Mission are areas close to Market street, muni metro (underground), BART and central transport arteries (Market Street, Van Ness, Mission). We bitch about SF's transport system but it still works way better than most other places.

I would not recommend most of the East Bay since the public transportation is not nearly as good as SF. You may be able to get to BART but you also need to be able to buy groceries, go to restaurants and bars, shop, or visit friends without it turning into a day trip. This is not true of all areas but it's definitely harder overall to get around on public transportation.

Zipcar and Car Share are both good programs. I love Zipcar and use it all the time.
posted by shoesietart at 1:37 PM on June 18, 2011

Agree that you should find someplace on a hub near both BART and a Muni Owl line. My only personal experience with Owl service is the N-Owl (or the "NOW-L, as my friends like to call it, because when it's that late, you want it to come NOW). I used to live in a place really close to the N-line, and for all of the N's issues during rush hour, it was really nice to know that I could get home 24/7. It's generally pretty chill except during the changeover between regular streetcar service & the Owl, which is a bus and has different stops in certain spots along the route. Some of the craziness is not knowing if you've missed the last streetcar if you're at a ground-level stop, and some of the craziness is the rush of people coming back from parties, closed clubs, and bars.

If you have a smartphone, an app like RoutesySF is wonderful and would have saved me much late-night public transit angst back in my barhopping days.
posted by smirkette at 1:55 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

We generally take public transit to the venue and a cab home. If you are going to take the bus home, I highly recommend checking Nextbus to avoid standing at a cold bus stop for 40 minutes. Cabs in SF are a whole other discussion, but they're usually easy enough to hail as a show is letting out. There are only a small handful of venues that we ever drive to, and they are all outside SF -- Shoreline, the Greek, etc.
posted by gingerbeer at 3:00 PM on June 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Uptown Oakland has excellent BART and AC Transit connectivity to SF, and may be a good option for you if you decide not to live in the city. Citycarshare is magic (despite the terrible phone reservation system) and has excellent overage in SF, Berkeley, Oakland, and elsewhere. Parts of central Oakland are better-connected to the music bits of SF than the Outer Richmond or Sunset neighborhoods. This map showing travel times may be useful.
posted by migurski at 3:26 PM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: This all great stuff! Thanks. How is security generally? Maintenance? Seasonal variations? Fog alerts?
posted by Ardiril at 4:32 PM on June 18, 2011

Response by poster: That Citycarshare looks good, and brings to mind: alternative transportation?
posted by Ardiril at 4:34 PM on June 18, 2011

Fog alerts? No, we don't have those in the city or Peninsula (I can't speak to East Bay). San Francisco drivers are used to fog, which is rarely bad enough in or around the city to warrant such a thing (it's not the nasty tule fog you get in the valley).

Security is what it is during the day: pretty thin, mostly unneeded provided you don't engage with people who may pose a threat. Wearing headphones are good for this (even if you're not actually listening to something), with a book, or even better, a knitting project (sharp pointy sticks!).

Cabs in SF are viable if you stick to the neighborhoods with a nightlife. Otherwise, an available can is a unicorn: largely talked about, highly sought after, and rarely seen.
posted by smirkette at 5:02 PM on June 18, 2011

Nextbus and a smartphone isgreat for when you know where you're going. You could also use to check the potential travel times for favorite music venues back to certain neighborhoods.

Late night travel can be slow. Here's the OWL map for the 1am to 5am service in SF. It says that the lines run either every 30 or 45 min - I don't know how accurate that is in reality. Like other transit in SF it's the transfers that will really slow you down.
posted by oneear at 5:53 PM on June 18, 2011

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