This article was updated on December 10, 2018
Between parking fees, traffic delays, and bad weather, holiday travel involving a trip to the airport can quickly become an unpleasant experience. Not so on the Capitol Corridor. By taking the train to the airport, you’ll be able to sit back and relax while we get you to your flight.
With our connections at Richmond BART and Oakland’s Coliseum BART, the Capitol Corridor is a convenient way to reach two of Northern California’s major airports, San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Oakland International Airport. At the Oakland Coliseum Station riders can transfer to the BART Oakland Airport connector for a quick, eight-minute ride to the terminal. If your air travel has you departing from SFO, you can get off at the Richmond Station, board a Millbrae or Fremont BART train, and then transfer to an SFO Airport train.
Your Vacation Starts on the Train
Taking the train to the airport is like getting a head start on your vacation. Socialize with your travel companions, have a bite to eat, or finish some last minute gift wrapping. With our Friends & Family discount, the train is an affordable way for your whole family to travel. Here’s the story of a group of riders whose European vacation began and ended on the Capitol Corridor. Even though their trip was during the summer, their experience applies any time of year.
Mike Sullivan hates traffic. Especially after a long international flight, the thought of sitting on a congested Bay Area freeway is as nightmarish as it can get for this well-seasoned traveler.
And he is not alone.
According to a study by Auto Insurance Center, the San Francisco Bay Area ranks #2 in the nation for worst traffic. This makes travel planning a challenge when figuring out how much time to allot for parking, shuttling to the airport, and going through security.
But this is no longer a concern for Sullivan. This summer, he and 11 travel companions organized a three-week European vacation, and made it stress-free by taking the Capitol Corridor train/BART connection to San Francisco International Airport [SFO] starting in Sacramento. They not only avoided traffic on the way and made their flight on time, but also thoroughly enjoyed the journey.
It all started when Sullivan and his neighbors decided to embark on the European excursion together. Once they agreed on the itinerary of Paris, Provence, Cinque Terra, Tuscany, and Florence, they held regular meetings to discuss trip details. They designated specific organizers, assigned tasks, and even took French lessons to prepare. And since Sullivan regularly flies out of SFO himself, he volunteered to arrange the travel to and from the airport.
While detailing his plans, Sullivan recalled the nightmare scenario from the last time he drove to and parked at the airport. His 15-hour flight had landed at SFO at 4pm on a Tuesday. Knowing it was rush hour, he tried his best to determine the fastest route home. He first attempted to cross the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, but due to heavy traffic, he re-routed and headed towards the San Mateo Bridge. Then, there was an accident near Livermore, adding an additional two hours to the ride. From this experience, Sullivan learned that the more reliable option is to take the Capitol Corridor train, transfer to BART at the Richmond Station, and then head directly to SFO — “a completely stress-free way to go,” he said.
Knowing it might be difficult for everyone to reach consensus on the airport transportation plan, he offered his travel companions two options — renting a large shuttle van or taking the Capitol Corridor train/BART connection. Without hesitation, the group unanimously agreed on the latter.
With consensus reached, Sullivan went online to buy Capitol Corridor train tickets for the group. On July 5, 2016, their journey began at the downtown Sacramento train station. They loaded their luggage into the train’s baggage car and settled into comfortable seats for the scenic, hour-and-half ride to Richmond.
Seamless Connection to BART
At the Richmond Station, they got off to make the easy transfer to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system, which provides regional transportation for the San Francisco Bay Area, including service to SFO. Since BART is not part of the Capitol Corridor system, passengers must purchase their BART fare separately, either as a paper BART ticket or on a regional Clipper card; there is a $.50 surcharge for each trip paid for with a paper ticket. All BART stations have ticket vending machines; however, for added convenience, the Capitol Corridor sells regional Clipper cards in the Cafe Car — the card is pre-loaded with $11 of value and teh capitol Corridor waives the $3 new card fee that is normally charged at other Clipper card retailers or even at the BART station. Not only did Sullivan’s party save money by purchasing their fare on board, but they also avoided having to buy their BART tickets at the Richmond BART Station with all their luggage in tow.
From Richmond BART, which runs every seven to 20 minutes depending on the time of day, it takes a little over an hour, with a timed transfer at the MacArthur Station, to get to the airport. And since the Sullivan group was taking an international flight, and BART’s SFO stop is at the International Terminal, “it couldn’t [have been] any easier,” explained Sullivan.
After three fabulous weeks in Europe, the return trip to Sacramento was equally seamless, with an extra bonus. During their time in Europe, Sullivan and his companions had really missed Mexican-American food, so they planned a quick stop at the taco truck right by the Richmond Station and bought burritos to eat on the train. Sullivan said they were so well fed, they slept the rest of the way to Sacramento. Now that’s something you can’t do if you’re driving a car!
The Consequences of Not Taking the Capitol Corridor
Not everyone in the group had it so easy! For three of the neighbors, who had left at a later date and joined the rest of the group already in Italy, the trip from the airport did not go quite as smoothly. They had driven to the airport and therefore, couldn’t join their friends on the restful train journey home. Because of heavy freeway congestion, they stopped in Burlingame to have dinner, but were unable to avoid traffic along the way.
“The great thing about riding the Capitol Corridor is that the service has few delays, and BART trains run frequently wherever you’re going,” Sullivan explained. “It was perfect because from both directions, we didn’t have to worry about anything. You can walk around on the train, get a bite to eat, and look at the sights. A lot of people in our group had never ridden on a train before, so they were all very impressed because the ride is beautiful all the way to Richmond.”
Sullivan described the overall experience of taking the train/BART connection to the airport as not only “relaxing and enjoyable,” but also memorable. By the end of the trip, everyone was sold on it, even those who have never taken trains before said “this is how I am going to San Francisco from now on. I am never traveling any other way!”
Visit the Airport Connections page of our website for details on taking the Capitol Corridor to San Francisco Bay Area airports.
Written by Sylvia Sheehan
Photos courtesy of Mike Sullivan