How much do you save by taking BART instead of driving to San Francisco?

How much do you save by taking BART instead of driving to San Francisco?

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Photo of Amy Graff

A passenger waits to board a BART train in San Francisco on Feb. 15.

A passenger waits to board a BART train in San Francisco on Feb. 15.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Skyrocketing gas prices — driven up even higher due to the war in Ukraine — have led many people to rethink their mode of transport and seek out less expensive alternatives. BART is among the more affordable options. The Bay Area transportation network that was undesirable amid the pandemic, when everyone wanted to avoid crowded places, is appealing again.

Taking the train has long been less expensive than driving when considering bridge tolls and parking — and now it’s an even more affordable option when you consider most Bay Area gas stations are charging more than $6 a gallon. 

But just how much less expensive is it? We did some math on the cost of traveling round trip between Fremont and San Francisco’s Financial District.

A round-trip fare between the Fremont and Montgomery stations is $13.30. Add on $3 a day for parking at the BART station, and you’re looking at $16.30 total.

The cost of driving includes $11.25 for gas (if you consider a 75-mile round trip in a car that gets 40 mpg and gas at $6 a gallon), $20 for parking (all-day early bird special at the city-owned Golden Gateway Garage) and a $7 toll to cross the Bay Bridge. The total to drive is $38.25, and that doesn’t take into account wear and tear on the car or the cost of owning a car. It’s more than twice as much as taking BART.

What if you’re traveling between Daly City and downtown San Francisco? The BART fare is $7 round trip. Parking at the Daly City BART station is $3. Gas is only $2.70, as your round trip is just 18 miles, and there’s no bridge toll. But if you’re still paying $20 for parking, it brings your total for driving to $22.70.

Another route: Walnut Creek and San Francisco. BART costs $11.40 round trip, and parking is $3, adding up to $14.40 total. Driving again is more with gas at about $7, bridge toll $7 and parking $20 for a total of $34.

You can bring down the cost of taking BART a little more by purchasing a high-value discount ticket on your Clipper card, giving you a 6.25% discount: You pay $45 for $48 in value or pay $60 and receive $64 in value. You can get BART high-value discount tickets only by setting up autoload or purchasing them through your employer’s transit benefit program. You can also save through the Clipper START pilot program that offers single-ride discounts to eligible riders.

If you take BART regularly, you may consider paying for reserved parking, which is $105 a month, or $6 a day. This can increase your BART expense but makes it more convenient. You can drop the cost of parking at BART entirely by walking to the station or biking. A few stations, including Downtown Berkeley and Fruitvale in Oakland, have free valet bike parking. Some stations also have controlled access parking for bikes at 3 to 5 cents an hour.

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