Getting from SFO to Berkeley on the BART

This post gives instructions on traveling from the San Francisco International Airport to Berkeley using Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART).  Since I’ve given these instructions to multiple people recently, I thought I would post them here to make things easier.

The SFO BART station is located inside the airport next to the International Terminal. If you are arriving from any other terminal you will need to take the Blue AirTrain line to get to the BART station. The AirTrain is free and runs between the various airport terminals.

Once you arrive at the BART station, look for a ticket machine. (If you have already procured a Clipper Card, which I highly suggest, you can skip this step and go straight to the turnstile.)

The ticket machine looks like this:

BART Ticket Machines

Once you get to the ticket machine, insert a credit card to begin.  (You can also just insert cash if you’d like.)

BART Ticket Screen

Next you’ll see the following screen, which allows you to specify the amount of money to place on the ticket.  

Add or Remove Funds

It defaults to $20, but you should put the exact amount you need on the ticket unless you plan to use the ticket more than once.  The fee is based on both the station from which you entered the BART system and the station which you are exiting the BART system.  Above the screen should be a table of current fees.  BART also has an online fee calculator you can use.  As of May of 2014 the fee for a one way ticket from SFO to Downtown Berkeley is $9.25.  The fee for a one way ticket from SFO to North Berkeley is $9.30.

Once you’re done, press the ‘Print $9.30 Ticket’ button (which will display whatever the amount is that you are purchasing) to receive your ticket, which looks like this:

BART Ticket

Now look for the turnstile so you can enter the BART system.  It looks like this:


If you have a printed ticket, you place it into the slot to the right of where you plan to walk.  Notice that the green arrow points to the place where you will walk.  If there’s no green arrow, then that stall is not open or it is open but in the opposite direction.

Once you insert the ticket, it will pop up from the top of the turnstile.  When you take the ticket the turnstile will open so you can walk through it.

Ticket Return

If you are using a Clipper Card instead of a printed ticket, touch your card to the Clipper logo on top of the turnstile.  The turnstile will beep and open.  Again, this should be the turnstile on the right side of where you plan to walk.

Clipper Card

Once you are in the BART system, board the SF/Pittsburg/Bay Point train.  There is only one train line that services SFO, the yellow line, but during the regular work day it runs in two directions.  If you get on the Millbrae train you will be going the wrong way!  In the evenings and on weekends it only runs in the San Francisco direction, so that makes things easier.

BART System Map

Next you’ll ride the BART for about an hour.  You’ll be underground for a large portion of that and will even travel through the Transbay Tube, which is a tube sitting on the ocean floor!  Afterwards you’ll come out above ground in West Oakland and then go back underground for the 19th St and 19th St stations.

When you arrive at the 19th St/Oakland station you’ll exit the train and walk across the platform to board the Richmond train (orange or red line).  The 19th St/Oakland station has blue brick walls.  (The 12th St/Oakland station has red brick walls to help you easily tell the difference between the two!)  Usually these trains arrive at the same time and wait for passengers to shuffle across from one to the other, but sometimes you’ll off board and then have to wait five minutes or so for the Richmond train to arrive.  If you’re meeting someone at the North Berkeley station, then this is a good time to call or text them and let them know to head out to meet you.

19th Street Oakland BART Station

Once you’re on the Richmond train you will stay on until you arrive at either the Downtown Berkeley Station or the North Berkeley Station, depending on your final destination.  Once you arrive head up the stairs and find the turnstiles.  Since the fee is based both on where you entered the system and where you exited the system you must present either your printed ticket or your Clipper Card the same way you did when you entered the system.  If you are using a printed ticket that has the exact amount of fare on it then the turnstile will not return the ticket to you, it will simply open.  If there is any money left on the ticket then it will be returned to you.

If you’ve arrived at the Downtown Berkeley station you’ll need to head up one more flight of stairs to exit the station, but if you’ve arrived at the North Berkeley station you will see the exit immediately in front of the turnstiles.

Welcome to Berkeley!  I hope you have a safe and fun trip!

Downtown Berkeley


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