I expect to live in San Francisco but I have no clue if a car is necessary or if I can rely on public transportation system if there is any.

I plan to move in the city and in the Valley on a daily commuting basis. I would also like to explore the area beyond the boundaries of the city (I heard the north of the bay is nice). Are all these things possible with public transit system (no matter its cost or time)? Or is a car strictly necessary?

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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about living in the Bay Area and not about being an expat in the Bay Area. – StrongBad Mar 14 '14 at 17:12
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    I understand your point that it is not only for expats, but it is still useful to expats, and not obvious (not easy for an expat to find the right information as there are multiple transit organisations). – Vince Mar 14 '14 at 19:17

You can rely on public transportation within the Bay Area. The BART (metro) and CalTrain (train) are good for commuting or covering large distances. Each municipality has their own bus system, so you can get around within a city that way or better yet, via walking or bicycling. Note that you can take your bicycle on all means of mass transit, though bikes are forbidden from BART during certain rush hours. This will be easier than dealing with traffic or parking. Taxis are an expensive last resort.

The downside is that for getting out of the Bay Area, public transportation is more difficult. You can take a Greyhound bus or shuttle or Amtrak (train) to some places, but then you will definitely have to walk or bicycle, and the towns tend to be more spread-out. (I don't know about taking bike on Greyhound.) Also, even within the Bay Area, public transit can be relatively expensive and can be slow, depending.

One option is to purchase a motorcycle. The Bay Area motorcycle scene has a strong presence, there are many nice places to ride, parking is easier, and lanesplitting in California is legal (meaning traffic affects you less). Also, the good climate means you can ride year-round. This is my preferred solution.

  • good answer. could I take a bike on the bart/caltrain/city buses/greyhound? – Vince Mar 13 '14 at 0:24
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    Yes for city buses, CalTrain, and BART; don't know about Greyhound. Edited answer. – einnocent Mar 13 '14 at 0:44
  • I'm not sure if calling BART a metro would be accurate, as for most part it's routs are outside of city of SF. OTOH, there is another thing actually called Muni Metro – vartec Mar 13 '14 at 12:44
  • Whether or not one may technically define BART as a metro, those who have ridden a metro elsewhere (e.g., NYC subway, Paris metro, London tube, D.C. metro) will find the experience familiar. Note that the metros mentioned also serve locations outside their immediate city limits. – einnocent Mar 13 '14 at 15:15

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