The best kept secret in getting from downtown San Francisco to San Francisco International Airport just got easier Saturday. Starting today, June 1, you can carry luggage on the SamTrans KX bus. SamTrans finally eliminated the arcane rule that barred luggage.
As the San Francisco Examiner reported, the rule stemmed from a legal challenge by the now defunct San Francisco Airporter bus company that charged unfair competition because if the KX bus and all SamTrans lines are publicly subsidized. The Airporter bus hasn’t operated since 2006 but the rule still remained in effect. SamTrans said that after getting an inquiry from a passenger it finally got clearance from the Federal Transit Administration to lift the ban as long as the passenger’s luggage doesn’t inconvenience customers or take up needed seat space. Again, that ban is lifted effective today, Saturday, June 1.
SamTrans vs BART
SamTrans is a faster and cheaper way to get to SFO from downtown San Francisco. And yes, it is faster than BART unless there is a traffic jam on Highway 101.
The KX bus is the best-kept secret for getting to and from San Francisco International Airport. It takes about 22 minutes. From San Francisco, the bus leaves from a stop a half-block from the Temporary Transbay Terminal on the west side of Main Street between Folsom and Harrison Streets. It makes a few stops along Mission Street before turning left on 10th Street and going nonstop to SFO. It conveniently lets you off right at the curb in the lower level of the airport. It first stops at the International Terminal then heads on to the domestic terminals.
BART officially takes 36 minutes but it is about 10 minutes longer when you consider the transfer to the AirTrain and the hike from the AirTrain to the terminal. That extra time will be less if you happen to be going to the International Terminal where BART stops.
The KX bus fare is $5 compared with BART’s fare of $8.25! That’s right. BART charges $3.25 more for a longer ride. BART takes longer than SamTrans because it goes to downtown San Francisco in a roundabout way. It goes west from the bay to Colma and Daly City before heading back east and north to downtown San Francisco.
The KX bus only runs about once every hour. Hopefully, the luggage un-ban will prompt more people to take the bus and pressure SamTrans to in crease its frequency. Here is a link to the KX bus schedule.
An alternative is the 292 SamTrans bus but it takes almost an hour from downtown San Francisco to San Francisco International Airport. The fare is when going from SFO to San Francisco is $2. and $4 when going from San Francisco to SFO. The 292 schedule is here.
Unlike the KX bus, the 292 is not an express bus. It takes a lot longer to get between SFO and downtown San Francisco.
The 292 and KX buses don’t run overnight, so if you need to catch a 6 am plane, either bus will be too late. The first 292 doesn’t arrive at SFO until 5:34am. The first KX arrives at 6:01am.
The alternative is the 397. It runs every hour from the Transbay Terminal from 1:05am to 4:06am. It is the “owl” bus and runs all the way to Palo Alto from San Francisco in a little more than 2 hours. The fare is the same as the 292. $4 out of San Francisco and $2 to return to San Francisco. The 397 bus schedule is here.
Like the 292, it is not an express bus. It takes nearly an hour to get to SFO. Another catch is that it is a homeless bus. Most people who take the bus are homeless people with drug and alcohol issues. They ride the bus for the warm two-hour ride to Palo Alto. When the bus reaches the end of the line, they get off and get back on again. The best advice is sit near the front of the bus where it won’t smell as bad. The bus is also sometimes slowed down when homeless people get on and off and take a long time to do so because they are carrying a lot of stuff with them. Sometimes they have to make a couple of trips. But fortunately, most just get on at the beginning and stay on until Palo Alto.
The best San Francisco airport bus by far is the SamTrans KX. It is the best bus for getting between San Francisco International Airport and downtown San Francisco. The KX bus is cheaper and faster than BART.