Best way to commute...Palo Alto to San Francisco
October 4, 2012 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Have a (literally) last minute one week project in downtown San Francisco, Financial District, starting on Monday (hours 7am to 8pm)--I'm not from SFO. I'm going to be staying in Palo Alto. Suggestions wanted for "best" transportation to and from the project given those hours, eg car or mass transit or combo. I see daily parking rates there are $32/day or so. Any advice you San Francisco experts can offer???
posted by america4 to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco, CA (16 answers total)
Caltrain Palo Alto - absolutely
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 5:28 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah Caltrain.
posted by trip and a half at 5:33 PM on October 4, 2012

CalTrain for sure. Make them book you somewhere near the station.

If you do drive for some reason, take 280!!! 101 should be avoided at all costs.
posted by smirkette at 5:33 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by holgate at 5:34 PM on October 4, 2012

I agree with everyone else that you do not want to drive to SF.

If you really want to drive for some reason (is the car being provided for free?), you could drive to Millbrae and park at that BART station, then take BART to the Montgomery or Embarcadero stations, but I think Caltrain is probably the better option.

In terms of getting to the Financial District from the 4th & King Caltrain station, depending on where your office is located, you'll probably need to travel 1-2 miles within the city. You can take the N or T light rail lines (Muni) for $2 per ride. Muni is a good option, but if you prefer convenience and don't mind paying extra money, then you can also take a taxi or an Uber car (you have to create an account first).

You can check Caltrain, BART, and Muni schedules in Google Maps. Just select the transit option and Google will automatically tell you which trains to catch and when to be there.
posted by tantivy at 5:36 PM on October 4, 2012

It might make sense to take Caltrain to Millbrae and then change to BART there. You lose some time in having to change to BART, but the Financial District is quite a bit closer to the downtown SF BART stations (you probably want Embarcadero or Montgomery) than to the Caltrain station.
posted by madcaptenor at 6:03 PM on October 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

511 is also a good resource. Just plug in your start address, your finish, and your time of departure/arrival, and it'll tell you what you need to know. I find it does a better job around Palo Alto than Google Maps since it includes the Stanford buses.

I'd recommend against transferring at Millbrae. The station is unpleasant (very cold in the evening), and you never know when you're going to encounter a BART or Caltrain delay. Of course YMMV.
posted by dd42 at 6:13 PM on October 4, 2012

Is there any particular reason why you'll be staying in Palo Alto? It's going to add two hours to your day, whether you choose public transit or driving.

If you're starting your day in the SF office at 7 am, you're going to have to get on the 6:05 am bullet from Palo Alto to get to SF at 6:42 (and then get to the office). You won't get back to Palo Alto until 9:36 pm if you take the 8:40 local, which is an hour-long train ride making all stops. (If you miss the 8:40 local, the next train is the 9:40 local.)

You'd still need to leave PA around 6 am, maybe 6:15 to drive to the city (it's about 30-45 minutes if traffic isn't bad), but you could probably get back closer to 9.
posted by littlemisslaika at 7:15 PM on October 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cancel your Palo Alto hotel and pick something up in SF.
posted by b1tr0t at 8:08 PM on October 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

Agreed with the above - if at all possible, stay in the city instead.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:23 PM on October 4, 2012

If you're staying in Palo Alto because of issues with hotel room prices or availability, check out There might be more options there.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:46 PM on October 4, 2012

Definitely try and stay in the city itself but if you can't make that work a hotel near a bart station in Oakland or Berkeley would be much much faster than Palo Alto. I'm not actually super familiar with the east bay so no specific recs, sorry.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 10:38 PM on October 4, 2012

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm staying in Palo Alto as I have friends there and can stay for free, so that's not changing :)
posted by america4 at 4:13 AM on October 5, 2012

Caltrain and muni.

There's a bus from the train station to the financial district.

I kind of liked the train ride and the coffee at the train station is good.

Chronicle in the Morning, Examiner in the evening.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:37 AM on October 5, 2012

Ok, so after checking out the routes (going to 315 Montgomery), which makes more sense... taking train from Palo Alto Caltrain Station to Millbrae, then hopping on Bart and getting off at the Montgomery station...or...taking the train from Palo Alto Caltrain all the way to the SF Caltrain station, and then taking a bus from there?

Or is it a toss up?

Thanks for all your help.
posted by america4 at 3:40 PM on October 6, 2012

In my experience, Caltrain is much faster than BART, and the walk from the SF Caltrain station is long-ish but not too bad. If you are doing a formal client meeting, I'd take a bus or cab from the station to the office. Otherwise, I'd try to do the walk.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:49 PM on October 6, 2012

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