You never know what could happen on 80 on any given day between Sacramento and San Francisco. Avoid the uncertainty and stress of 80, and take the train instead. Amtrak is safe, reliable, clean, and comfortable.

 

With meetings about once per week in the Financial District, I rely on Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor to get me there on time, safely, and relaxed. This might seem overwhelming at first, but once you do this a couple of times, it becomes second nature.

Basic trip planning:

  1. Start with the specific end in mind. What time do you need to be settled at your destination, including time to use the facilities and grab a quick bite?
  2. Find the transit option that will get you closest to your destination. This could be the Amtrak bus stop at the TransBay Temporary Terminal or a BART or Caltrain stop.
  3. How close will you be? Is the rest of your route walkable? If not, you can take a cab, Uber, or Lyft the rest of the way. If it’s walkable, is it safe to walk during the time of day you will be there? What will the weather be like? Do you need to carry anything heavy or awkward?
  4. Read the timetable to determine when you need to arrive to allow enough time for the walk or ride to your destination.
  5. If you need to transfer from a different transit system or rail line, build in enough time to get to where you need to go in the station.
  6. All of the above can be done automatically for you using the Swiftly app or comparable trip planning app; however, it’s important to know how to do this on your own because it’s a basic life skill.

Booking your trip on Amtrak from Sacramento:

  1. Follow the above steps.
  2. Log onto Amtrak.com or download the app (easiest option).
  3. The most user-friendly option is to take Amtrak to Emeryville, then transfer to the Amtrak bus into San Francisco. If you book an Amtrak ticket from Sacramento to one of the stops in San Francisco, it automatically books your bus ticket. The Emeryville train station is tiny. It’s about a 50-yard walk from the train platform to the bus transfer. The Amtrak buses are new, clean, safe, and comfortable. The drivers are consistently friendly, helpful, informative, and patient with any questions. Note: Many are advocates of booking Amtrak to Richmond, then transferring to BART. It depends on where you need to go. This is the end of the line, so you’ll be on an empty train on the way to your destination, but it might be jam-packed for your trip back. Also, the Amtrak-BART connections could leave you on the platform for a while. There are no amenities at the Richmond BART station. It’s up to you. See #5 in this section for more details.
  4. The Transbay Temporary Terminal in San Francisco (station code SFC) offers the most stops per day. There are also stops in the Financial District and Fisherman’s Wharf, but there aren’t as many time options for those.
  5. You can also transfer to BART at the Richmond Amtrak station, so this is handy to get elsewhere in the Bay Area. It’s about a five-minute walk in the Richmond station to transfer between the two systems. They’re on different floor levels from each other. If you’re transferring to BART, Caltrain, or other transit systems, you can buy a Clipper fare card on board in the Amtrak café car, and this will make your transition easy!

The actual trip from Sacramento to San Francisco:

  1. Before your trip, download the ParkMobile app and input your vehicle and payment information. The Amtrak lot is Zone 293.
  2. The train will leave on time, so you need to be on board and in your seat at the scheduled departure time.
  3. Wear shoes that are comfortable for walking, as the platform is an easy quarter mile walk from the parking lot, and parking can be scarce, so you could be walking about half a mile from your parking spot to the platform. Note that the walk includes a section that’s a gradual decline of about 50 yards, then a gradual incline of about 50 yards. If you aren’t able to get yourself from your vehicle to the platform, be sure to arrive at the station about 30 minutes prior to departure, then go to the area behind the station where the buses are lined up, and there is a sign of where to meet the cart that will take you to the platform.
  4. You don’t need to show your ticket to the conductor before you get on the train. Once you’re on board, the conductor will come around to scan your ticket. I always use the app, and the conductor scans the QR code on my phone. If you don’t use the app, there’s also a QR code on the PDF version of your ticket, so you can bring that up on your phone, too, or the conductor can scan a paper version.
  5. Unless you have a physical need to be on the first floor, sit anywhere you want upstairs. The seats are big and comfortable.
  6. Trains are equipped with power outlets and wifi.
  7. The conductor will announce which car is the café car, in case you want to grab a drink or bite.
  8. There is plenty of room for luggage on board.
  9. Be considerate of other passengers. Time your conference calls so you’re not talking on your phone during your ride. Keep to yourself. If you’re traveling with friends or colleagues, keep the conversation quiet.
  10. Relax and enjoy! Think of all the traffic you’re avoiding!
  11. Once you arrive at Emeryville, it’s an easy transfer. Get off the train, then head to the front of the Emeryville station. You will not have time to use the restroom.
  12. Take note if more than one bus is outside, as one might go straight to the TransBay Terminal, while another might go straight to the Financial District (in front of the Hyatt). If you’re not sure, just ask someone. There are plenty of regulars who are happy to help.
  13. If you’re going to be using Lyft or Uber, the TransBay Terminal address is 200 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94105. I recommend inputting this and ordering your ride as your bus is pulling into the station. Once the bus has parked, go into the bus station, and out the front door, and that’s where cabs and ridesharing service pick-ups are available. Similarly, if you’re being dropped off in the Financial District, use the Hyatt Regency at 5 Embarcadero Center, San Francisco, CA 94111 as your pickup spot.
  14. If you’re the type to grab a coffee before your next destination, use the Peet’s app or Starbucks app to order your drink as you’re getting off the Amtrak bus so it’s ready (or nearly ready), as there are many Peet’s and Starbucks locations nearby that use their respective apps.