The cheapest deal in Bay Area public transit takes you ten miles for a measly dollar, as a little-known Caltrans shuttle offers $1 dollar trips between Pier 30 and MacArthur BART, and it’s been quietly running for almost 45 years.
With the price of gas currently higher than ever in the Bay Area, and the Bay Bridge toll now as much as $8, people who commute between Oakland and San Francisco may prefer to BART. That ride is currently priced $3.95 each way between downtown SF and the MacArthur BART station, or a nearly $8 round trip.
Gas prices are high and Bay Bridge tolls are $8. But you can still commute from Oakland to SF for a price that hasn't changed in 35 years --> $1— Eliyahu Kamisher (@eli_kamisher) March 7, 2022
This shuttle also intersects with local bike advocacy history & has led to at least one marriage https://t.co/ifEuWUeldj
That seems affordable, but get this — there is a far cheaper version than that, and hardly anyone knows about it, though it has been running since 1977. Bay Area News Group reports on the existence of a $1 shuttle between SF and Oakland, which is cash-only, and runs from Pier 30 (near Red’s Java House and the Hi Dive Bar) to MacArthur BART, or vice versa, 14 times each weekday.
It only took me 4 years to discover the best way to get from Oakland to SF: the CalTrans Bay Bridge Bicycle Shuttle pic.twitter.com/JdwpH85AwC— Matt Drange (@mattdrange) September 17, 2016
The Caltrans Bay Bridge Bike Shuttle is a no-frills proposition seen above, it’s just a large Caltrans van with a sizable back rack in tow behind it, and there are no creature comforts. But it is one measly dollar, the same price it has been since 1987, though when it launched in 1977, the cost was just 25 cents.
The above image shows the Caltrans Bay Bridge Bike Shuttle schedule (“Last Updated 8/21/13”). You’ll see there are not a ton of options, so it might be good to get there for an earlier shuttle in case you get bumped when it hits its capacity of just 14 riders.
Same goes for the evening schedule, seen above. The rides generally take 25 minutes, but it’s the Bay Bridge, so traffic can be a variable. While the shuttle is intended exclusively for those with bicycles, the news group reports that “the bike-only rule has become more flexible” during low ridership pandemic times.
There are some downsides to the shuttle, as covered in a smattering of Yelp reviews dating back to 2006. One reviewer points out that “it's not guaranteed that you'll get a space,” another says that “the ‘trailer’ scratches up your bike and it's rarely on time,” and “the ‘5:30’ shuttle didn't show up until after 6.” So the affordability comes with a reliability trade-off.
The Caltrans Bay Bridge Bike Shuttle is a holdover from the days when you couldn’t take a bike on BART during commute hours. But considering the price hasn't gone up since 1987, it's a transit option worth considering, though likely requiring some patience.
Image: @mattdrange via Twitter