We’re now in a new year, which hopefully means new public transportation passengers on SamTrans and Caltrain—the bus and rail networks that operate along the San Francisco Peninsula. If there are transit neophytes just getting their start on these systems, we can offer up some helpful hints.


  • Know where you’re going: Caltrain operates a regular schedule between San Francisco and San Jose, with limited service all the way to Gilroy. There are dozens of stations along the Caltrain corridor, with southbound and northbound trains stopping on opposite sides of the train tracks. Before you board Caltrain, know which direction you’re traveling, when your train will arrive, and where you should get off.
  • Make sure you get that ticket: Caltrain is a proof-of-payment system, which means you have to purchase your fare before you board the train. Passengers can buy various types of tickets, including one-way and day-passes, through vending machines located at Caltrain stations. Clipper card holders can also use Caltrain, but they should remember to tag-on and tag-off before and after their trips. To do this, you’ll need to scan your card at the Clipper card readers at each station. More information about using Clipper on Caltrain is available here.
  • Behave yourself: Once you board the train, there is an expectation to follow the rules for traveling on Caltrain. Passengers should refrain from talking loudly on their cell phone, putting their feet up, or placing a bag on a seat that could otherwise be occupied by a customer. Be mindful of the “public” part of public transportation—we’re all riding on Caltrain together.
  • Riding a bike? No problem: Each Caltrain line is equipped with room for at least 72 bicycles, so there is plenty of room to store your two-wheelers. Just find the designated bike car and park your wares in the appropriate fashion. Additional details on the correct rules and regulations for bike storage can be found here.
  • Sit back and enjoy! With 92 trains running every weekday, Caltrain offers a hassle-free alternative to the traffic and parking headaches that go along with automobile commuting. Sit back, read a book, crack open your iPad, listen to tunes, or catch some Z’s. Just make sure you wake up before your scheduled stop!


  • Plan out your trip: SamTrans buses travel all over the San Francisco Peninsula, traversing east-west routes to connect neighborhoods, and making long north-south trips for commuters going to job centers. Passengers should check out the agency’s system map to see which routes go where, and then consult a timetable to know your bus will be picking up passengers at a stop near you.
  • Pay your “fare” share: Unlike Caltrain, SamTrans tickets can be purchased onboard. SamTrans farebox machines are located at the front of the vehicle, and they accept bills, coins, tokens and Clipper cards, making it easy for you to pay your way. The fareboxes are usually easy-to-use and pretty self-explanatory, but if you need a little more input on how to pay, visit here.
  • Grab a seat: SamTrans offers comfy seats and clean interiors, so traveling on the bus is always a pleasant experience. Passengers who are using the bus can grab a seat once they’ve paid their fare, but they should be mindful that the spots closest to the operator are designated for seniors and persons with disabilities.
  • It’s ok—you can yank that cord: It’s easy to relax and chill on SamTrans, but if you’re too zoned-out, you could miss your stop. Bus operators will only make their designated stops if there is a person waiting, or a passenger pulls down on the yellow cord next to their seat. When you pull that cord, it alerts your bus driver that your stop is next.
  • Again: got a bike, not a problem: Each SamTrans bus is equipped with a loading rack on front, capable of carrying two bikes. To load your bike, squeeze the lever located on top and pull the rack down horizontal. Place your bike so that the front wheel is in its designated spot, and then swing the support arm up and over the front tire as close to the frame as possible. A nice little video tutorial of loading your bike is available here.

Hope that helps and hope to see you on Caltrain and SamTrans in 2017!

Caltrain and SamTrans in 2017!

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