Once you know that BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transport, it tells you everything to know.
But if you need more clarity, this is how it works. BART is a rail and subway system made up of 48 stations. It connects San Francisco and Oakland with Millbrae in the south, Richmond in the north and Antioch in the west.
It takes in both regional airports and is perfect for commuters and tourists alike. Paris has the Metro, London has The Tube, New York the Subway. San Francisco has The BART.
Compared to some of the cities mentioned above, BART is both smaller and more logical.
Even if you are in the San Francisco area for only a short space of time, it doesn't take long to become familiar with it. You will soon remember where the stations that you need are.
Until that happens, there are several ways that you can access all the relevant information.
The old school way is to carry a map. You can find these all over the city and it pays to slip one in your pocket.
BART also has a trip planner that you can access from this link https://www.bart.gov/planner. This clearly shows you where the nearest stations are.
BART stations are signed with their blue and black "b a BART" logo.
They are hard to miss.
If you are driving to the station, bear in mind that parking may be difficult and so allow extra time for this. In the more urban areas, BART stations are underground so prepare to take stairs or escalators.
Once out of the main urban areas, stations tend to be above ground and are much easier to access.
Like any subway or rail system, it is all about knowing which line serves which stations.
Throughout the center of the network, many of the lines run parallel and serve the same stations.
This means that changing lines is as easy as walking between platforms. If you wish to travel further out, it is essential that you know which line you need to be on.
There are mostly five lines that make up the network. Each line is colour coded for easy identification.
Most of these lines run directly through downtown.
As you become more familiar with the network, you will know which station to access which line for the fewest changes. Although a BART train tends to show up close to the appointed time, remember the network covers a busy region.
This can lead to delays. This information tends to be available on BARTs own website or via local travel apps. Check ahead for any delays or canceled services and plan accordingly.
All BART services ends at midnight and resumes at 4 a.m. on weekdays.
This changes to 6 a.m. on Saturdays, and 8 a.m. on Sundays except when special operating hours are in effect for events.
At such times you should check out any changes to the schedule online, in advance and plan accordingly.
Once you know which station you need to access, you then need to purchase a ticket.
In this automated world, this is done via a ticket machine, but it is all relatively easy.
You need to know your start and end destinations to make sure that you get the correct ticket. The easiest way to check you are buying the right ticket is by using the online fare calculator.
This can be found here - https://www.bart.gov/tickets/calculator
Even the longest ride doesn't cost that much.
A short trip is less than $2 and the longest rides are around $15.
Expect to pay the higher end price if you are heading to one of the airports. Machines take all notes as well as most debit and credit cards.
BART charges your ticket based only on where you enter the system and where you exit the system.
There is no additional charge for changing trains part way through your journey. You need to use your ticket or card at both entry and exit.
If you know exactly how much you will spend on your whole journey, add enough money to cover the total cost when buying the ticket. This will reduce your time spent waiting in line on the return journey.
BART tickets are valid according to how much money you put on them. You can top them up while inside the BART system and use them for multiple trips or extend journeys.
If you are a one-time BART user and are not sure what your exact fare should be, it is better to underpay initially and use the Add Fare gate if you have insufficient balance to exit. This will ensure that you don't pay more for a ticket than you use.
Once you have the ticket, you can use it to access the gates to the station and wait for your train.
Once on the station platform, you will find all the relevant information on scrolling overhead signs.
These will tell you the final destination of the incoming train. It will also include other information such as the number of cars making up the train or whether you can carry your bikes on.
If you have had experience using transport systems in other major cities, you will quickly work things out. Even if you are new to the idea, BART is straightforward to use.
If you are a tourist having a short break in the city, it is perfect for avoiding road congestion. If you are in town for business, it is the easiest way to get around.
Better than hiring a car and navigating the busy streets. If you are a more long term resident, it takes the strain out of commuting. Traveling around San Francisco and beyond is a work of BART!