Best public transit route from Berkeley to Menlo Park, CA
January 30, 2015 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm in Berkeley right now (near the Ashby BART station) and am headed down to Menlo Park this afternoon/early evening (today, Friday). It looks like there are two ways I can go: through San Francisco via rail the whole way, or along the East Bay via rail and then via bus across the Dumbarton Bridge. What's the easiest and/or quickest way?

I'll have a carry-on-sized suitcase and a backpack with me. Thanks.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell to Travel & Transportation around San Francisco Bay Area, CA (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Traffic is a bitch during commute hours, especially on the bridges. I'd stick to rail. It will still be crowded but you won't be stuck in traffic.
posted by radioamy at 1:51 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I would BART across the water into downtown SF, and then get a car or MUNI to the Train, and then Train into Menlo Park.
posted by justalisteningman at 1:58 PM on January 30, 2015


BART to the city, then take the CalTrain down the peninsula. I love the train, it's so great. Get a cocktail and drink it on board, buy a tube of Flicks as a snack. Plus, there are expresses!

I'm not fan of the Dumbarton bridge.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:05 PM on January 30, 2015


Take BART to Millbrae, switch platforms to Caltrain, and take Caltrain to Menlo Park. It takes about an hour and a half.
posted by gyusan at 2:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


You could also BART all the way to Millbrae (instead of downtown SF), then switch to Caltrain to Menlo Park. I'd avoid the bridges too.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 2:07 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Bart to Millbrae definitely.
posted by rhizome at 2:08 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Seconding all the folks who suggest Milbrae -- avoiding Muni from Embarcadero to 4th/King is easily worth the extra time on BART. But since your profile says you're not from around here, I'll add a little more detail.

Buy a $5 BART ticket. That's exact fare from Ashby to Millbrae. Get on a train market Millbrae. Do not get on a Fremont-bound train.

Exit BART by following the signs to Caltrain. You will exit onto the Caltrain platform if you go out the correct way. If you're lost, ask... people here are friendly.

Buy a $5.25 Caltrain ticket from one of the automated machines on the Caltrain platform (you're traveling two zones). Tickets are no longer sold on-board.

Take a Southbound Caltrain to Menlo Park. Bring a beer or cocktail, which you can't drink on BART, but can on Caltrain.

BART schedules are here, and the trains generally run on time.

Caltrain schedules are here, and the trains mostly run on time.
posted by toxic at 2:19 PM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]


toxic gave a great step-by-step.

If you're not familiar with BART, it's a little jarring to go from reading the map to standing on the platform. The map delineates the lines by color...but then when you get to the station, the trains aren't colored! They're designated by the end point. There's also multiple trains that run on each track in most stations. So at Ashby just look for the train marked "Millbrae" and you're good to go.
posted by radioamy at 2:44 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh also if you want to know exactly when the trains are running, there are several great free apps that all use the same 511 data. If you have an iPhone I recommend Routesy, it's great.
posted by radioamy at 2:45 PM on January 30, 2015


Toxic's answer was extremely helpful. A few things I learned along the way:

1) At Millbrae, to transfer from a southbound BART train to a southbound Caltrain train, you need to go up and over the Caltrain tracks. (If you go directly to the Caltrain tracks, you'll wind up on the northbound side.) I asked a helpful stranger who directed me the right way.

2) As a New Yorker, my instinct is always to head toward the rear of any train, since those cars tend to be the least crowded—particularly when shlepping luggage. I did so on BART and was rewarded with a seat the whole way from Ashby to Millbrae.

But this turn out to be a mistake on Caltrain, because the rear car is the bike car! (I don't think we have these in the NYC area.) It wasn't too bad—I just stood in the middle of the car (all the seats appeared to be taken) and tried to make myself, my backpack, and my suitcase as unobtrusive as possible as bikers piled off and on. But in the future, I definitely will avoid the rear car.

3) Though toxic was kind enough to provide a Caltrain schedule, I neglected to look at it before starting my trip, meaning I didn't realize something very important (and very "duh"): Some Caltrain trains run express! I boarded the first train that showed up at Millbrae, but then quickly realized we were not going to make every stop along the way, including Menlo Park, where I was headed.

Again, a helpful stranger provided guidance, and I called the friend who was picking me up and asked her to meet me in Palo Alto. So that accidentally turned out to be a good move, because I got to (roughly) where I was going much more quickly, and I got out just one short stop away from my intended destination.

All in all, an easy trip. Thanks yet again, my fellow MeFites!
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:52 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


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