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Quick And Easy MUNI/BART Guide for Macworld!

This week, tens of thousands of folks will be descending upon downtown for Macworld, for what very well may be the last one ever, now that Apple has said it won't be participating in the future. For now, though, in addition to our normal level of MUNI & BART riding folks, we'll have more people added into the mix. For those of you new to our City, here's a simplified guide for MUNI and BART so you can get around and avoid paying huge parking fees and fines.

Macworld is located at Moscone Center, which is just a couple of blocks from the BART/MUNI Powell Street station downtown. If you follow the Wikipedia link, you'll find that pretty much every major bus and train line hits this station (or right above it on Market Street) so it's an easy way to remember how to get to Macworld. If you're staying in a hotel downtown, chances are you can walk to the show, and if you're staying a bit further away and it's raining, you have at most a short bus ride to get to the event.

If you're staying outside of San Francisco, you can either take any BART from the Peninsula or the East Bay to Powell Station, or you can take Caltrain and take an N-Judah train downtown once you're in the City.

There are some other lines that drop you off closer to the action, but after years of giving out directions to tourists I've found that this has been the easiest way to explain where they need to go, without a lot of gymnastics.

Paying for your ride: MUNI discountinued the old weekly pass, so your options are somewhat limited. You can either buy a monthly pass for $45 (which also allows for free rides on BART within the City of San Francisco) and unlimited cable car rides. However, you can also buy a MUNI Passport, for 1, 3 or 7 days. The advantage? Much cheaper than a monthly. The disadvantage? You can't use them to ride BART for free.

A special warning about BART ticket machines: Whatever you do, do not put a $20 bill in the machine to buy one ticket! You won't get all the change you're due, and unless you plan on keeping that ticket and using it until it gets down to $0, you'll be stuck with it. Instead, use a debit or credit card, and buy a ticket for the exact amount that you need. Or, use a bill changer to break that $20 so you're not stuck with an expensive souvenir BART card.

Likewise, if you're paying cash for MUNI, you can use a BART machine to change a dollar into quarters. Totally counter-intuitive, yes, but all you need to do is press the button in the lower right hand corner that says "change $1", then put in your dollar, and you'll have quarters! Yes, the UI and all sucks ,and frankly if someone hadn't pointed this out to me years ago I wouldn't have necessarily known it, and yes we're aware the City that Knew How blows in this regard, so just know we feel your pain, and use your knowledge to impress coworkers.

Since you're attending Macworld, you likely have an iPhone. If so, you should consider purchasing Routesy SF, which is a great way to find the nearest bus stop and figure out when the next one is due to arrive. Or, you can opt to use NextMUNI for free via Safari.

Likewise, you can get a free iPhone app for BART, iBart and use it to help plan your travel.

A word on taxis in San Francisco. You may be used to other cities, where cabs are abundant, and charge a reasonable fare. In San Francisco, you will pay much more than you would in say, New York City, and that assumes you can even get a cab when you actually need one. Convention time usually causes the cab system to freak out, and the difficulty of getting an expensive cab at rush hour, etc. just gets that much worse. Your best bet is to catch one at a hotel and hope for the best if you're trying to get back later in the evening.

As I said before, this is a very simplified guide to MUNI and transit. I'm aware of other options, but I find that for most people these options seem to work fine. Big conventions tend to overwhelm San Francisco no matter what, so you need to plan a little extra time if you're relying on mass transit.

Driving a car is not much better - if the streets are already crowded, having more cars will ensure it moves even slower. Plus the cost of parking meters, garages and tickets is through the roof - a friend of mine once actually spent more on parking than on a car rental, per day! So have fun at Macworld, enjoy all the freebies, and stay safe on MUNI.

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