Advice about Commuting to SF with Kids on BART or Bus

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Commuting on Transbay Bus with Toddler

Oct 2012

Hello! We will begin commuting to SF from Oakland for my 20 month old toddler's daycare (at my place of work). Up until now I've been taking a combination of casual carpool/Transbay Bus/BART to-and-from work, but clearly casual carpool will no longer be an option. I'm a huge fan of the Transbay Bus but I wonder if other parents have taken their children on the bus? I'm nervous mainly about safety. Secondly, if you have any advice taking a stroller on BART during rush hour (both directions!). We can do a combination on any given day, but I think I'd prefer the bus if the general consensus is, ''yes, we've done it, and it's safe''. Thanks! Commuting Momma

My wife and I have taken our son on the Transbay bus a bunch of times. He's a hit with the other passengers and loves to look out side. Sometimes he sits in his, other times he sits next to us. There's other parents who take their kids on the bus. You'll be fine. ajp

I hate commuting to and from SF on public transit. I would choose carpooling over AC Transit or BART but my hours are always changing and I don't work near downtown SF, so I just drive with my child. He can eat in the car, unlike on the bus or BART and it's quiet enough to talk to him, sing, or listen to music while we commute. If your hours are constant, my first suggestion would be to try finding a car or vanpool by signing up for 511 Ridematch.

My experience with Transbay is that the buses are often delayed by rush hour traffic more than BART is. That said, I prefer the bus because my toddler could look out the window and we talked about the cars, trucks, construction vehicles on the new bridge, boats on the Bay, and everything else there is to be seen.

BART is not only crowded, but loud. Too loud to read books or sing songs and not much to see once you are in the tunnel. My son would often cover his ears through the tunnel. Unless your BART or bus stops on both sides of the Bay are still relatively empty when you get on, I would not recommend a stroller for either unless it is a light umbrella stroller that folds easily while in transit.

I wore a backpack and had my little guy in an Ergo or carried him, but always thought a rolling backpack would be nice. AC Transit riders seem to move or give up a seat more readily for a parent and child than BART passengers. I often had to specifically ask people to allow my child to sit down on a crowded BART, then either sat with my child on my lap or stood up with all of our stuff.

I have never felt unsafe on either BART or AC Transit with my child. I took Transbay from North Oakland/Emeryville and BART from Ashby or MacArthur. Commuter mama and toddler

Commuting on BART with infant

Aug 2011

I live in East Oakland and work in Berkeley and normally commute by BART. My 8 mo. old is in daycare near my home, but because the daycare hours are short, I'm considering trying to find daycare in Berkeley (or close to a BART station in between) instead. But I don't want to drive to work if I can help it. But the train I normally take at 8am is pretty crowded. I'm not sure how people would respond to a stroller on the train at that hour. I could possibly use a carrier. Another thought was (when she's over a year old) taking my bike on the train with her seat if we need it on the other end, but that seems like it would be even more annoying to people. Does anyone have experience with this? Thanks. anon

Hi! I commute from Fremont BART to Civic Center BART two days of the week. I've been commuting with my now 10 month old baby since March and it's been interesting. Sounds like your BART ride won't be too long though (less than an hour I hope!). Although the train is not crowded when I get on at 7:00am, it gets progressively more busy as we make our way to the city. In the mornings, people seem to zone out/sleep/read/listen to music. I haven't really had any problems with other BART patrons either in the morning or afternoon. I bring cheerios and water in a sippy cup along with 2-3 toys, one book, and have used my phone or iPad to keep him busy. I also wear the baby carrier for when everything fails and the baby wants out. He'll fall asleep sometimes if he's missed his afternoon nap at daycare.

If your commute is short and your back can handle it, I would suggest using the carrier if the train is going to be packed in the morning and the evening commutes. It might literally be impossible to get the stroller on the train if there are too many people. If you have to use a stroller, get an umbrella one. People are less annoyed with the smaller stroller versus something like a BOB. I've found the front of the train or the back of the train to be less crowded. Be prepared with distractions and snacks for the baby. Also, don't be shy about singing if your baby likes that (reminder that I have to learn more songs besides Old McDonald and the Wheels on the Bus). Also, keep baby wipes and hand sanitizer ready as well as tissues and plastic bags. Not sure about the bike since I don't really ride one; be aware of restrictions for bikes on BART during busy commute hours though. Good luck! Commuting Mom

I wouldn't worry about inconveniencing other people on BART--you'll all be commuters, your baby no less than anyone else. But I would probably use a carrier so you and your baby feel as safe and as inconvenienced as possible. I take BART a lot with my baby and it isn't a problem. BARTers

A baby carrier works MUCH better than a stroller for riding BART (or any public transit) even when it's not crowded. During commute hours I can't even imagine wanting to try to drag a stroller onto the train!

So, yes. Use a carrier. And minimize the amount of additional stuff you need to carry back and forth by leaving a stock of diapers, food, etc. at the daycare, if at all possible. (Ask if they can wash your bottles, too, so that you can leave each day's milk with them at pick-up for feeding the next day, and pick up clean empties in the morning at drop-off for the day's pumping.)

If you don't already have a carrier you love, I would suggest a sturdy mei tai (like Kozy or Bamberoo) or a buckle carrier that works well for a front carry (like Pikkolo or Dream Carrier), because that will be safer in a crowd than a back carry. With either type, once you find one that fits you well, you won't have any problem continuing to wear her for your commute until she is in preschool.

The other thing you might think about is whether you can adjust your work hours (and her daycare hours) so that you are riding the train before or after the peak rush times. That may or may not be possible or practical, of course, but it's worth doing if you can arrange it. Good luck! Holly

I vote for carrier. With the escalators and stairs, strollers are a pain in my experience. You either have to fold them up anyways to get down the stairs/escalators, or you have to get in the elevators (stinky!!!). I don't know what time you'd be commuting, but bikes aren't allowed on the trains during peak commute times. Good luck! BART riding mama

BART commute to SF with 3-year-old

May 2010

I commute to SF with my almost-3-year-old four days a week and am thinking of ditching the carpool lane for BART. With the new carpool fee coming in, the cost of BART v. driving carpool and paying for parking is no longer a wash.

So... can anyone weigh in on what it's like to BART in with a toddler?! When we lived in SF I took my older kid (then 2) in on Muni, so I'm not new to commute hour + kid. We were usually offered a seat for the 15-30 minute rides we took.

Also, we'd have to drive to BART -- either MacArthur or Rockridge. Is it possible to get BART lot parking around 8:30/9 and if not, is all-day street parking available and safe (i.e. little risk of car break-ins). Thanks! Anon

I used to commuted to SF every morning via MacArthur BART, now I use Rockridge. The Temescal lot is full by 7:45/8am, Rockridge is full by 7:30/45am. There is some street parking around MacArthur, you have to watch for street cleaning days, but most are 'all day' spots. Those are usually full shortly after at 8ish. Rockridge is harder, most spots are only 2 or 4 hour spots. If I get there after 7:30am I'm usually out of luck and I just part in a 'permit only' spot and pay the $25 ticket fine. (I figure paying the bridge toll and daily parking in the city will equal out and I really hate dealing with traffic.)

If you can get a permit, for either lot, there are open spaces until around 9:30/10am. I don't know how much permits cost or if there's a waiting list, but you can find that info on the BART website. alexis

I can't answer your specific questions but I will tell you that the undivided attention you can give your child is invaluable. No distracts for even 15 or twenty minutes is like a special gift. been there

I happily commuted on BART to SF with my child from age 1 - 5, and I highly recommend it. First, parking--I doubt you will find spaces at 8:30 or 9 at many stations, but you have some options. First, get on the lists to get a reserved parking spot at any of the locations that are accessible to you. It will be worth driving out of your way a bit to have the reserved spot (so, look at Rockridge, Ashby, MacArthur, and North Berkeley). You can also get per day reserved spots, but the cost will add up. The waiting lists for reserved parking can move pretty quickly (e.g. one or two months before you get offered a spot), and just get on all of them. If it's confusing how to do that, just call their help line and let them tell you how!

As far as the journey itself, I usually tried to take just one seat and have my child sit on my lap, and we would read books (I would always carry three or four different choices). Since we had been doing this for so long, there were very rarely issues with wiggliness or patience, because it just was what we did. Another tip is to always get in the same car. Eventually, people who don't want to be bothered by a child on their commute will realize that you are going to appear in a particular car each day, and they can then choose to start using another car if they want to. This way you end up with relatively tolerant fellow passengers. Over the years we came to have what we called our ''BART Friends''--people who we recognized and who were watching my child grow up! I believe it was a nice experience for everyone!

I was never able to commute with either of my children but I think it's a great idea. I used to take bart from El Cerrito to SF every day and would see other people with their children. My only question is: do you think you will get a seat? if you NEVER get seats on your line, then obviously it's a little more difficult with a child. But it is more time with your kid. You are not distracted and you could read stories or just talk or just hold hands. Plus you are a good role model about public transportation & saving the earth. And remember, kids love busses, trains, etc. commuter mom

I commute to SF on BART with my 2.5 yr old and commuted with my older child from when he was 1 to almost 5. We get on at MacArthur and the trains are usually crowded.

Seating: Often someone will offer a mother and child a seat, or we got good at asking people to give up their seat if we needed a seat for our child. Sometimes my son would sit on the floor. We don't usually get 2 seats (one for parent, one for child) but we sometimes share a seat with our child or just stand and let him sit. For my 2.5 yr old, and until about 3 yrs old with the older child, we usually have a stroller with us and the kid just sits in the stroller if there are no free seats.

Parking: We walk to BART so this isn't really an issue for us, but for parking at Rockridge you'd need to get a monthly parking pass or pay $4.50 for a daily parking pass for each day that you need it. You have to reserve ahead of time, but I've always been able to get one for the next day at Rockridge when I've needed it. At MacArthur you can do the same or may be able to find street parking still at 8:30. I recommend parking north of 40th (41st and up) as the neighborhood is better. (I live on 41st) There are many streets with all day parking west of MLK. Spots do fill up but I still see spots at 8:30 if you're willing to walk a few blocks.

Entertainment: We entertain the kids on BART with books, coloring and other activities like that, food, an iphone and patience. Its not bad. Sometimes they take the rest of their breakfast to eat on the train. When my son was 4 we did a lot of activity books. We bought a clipboard that has a storage compartment to hold papers & pencils in and kept it stocked with activity sheets we printed off the internet. Brain Quest was another fun activity for a while. Played lots of thumb war too. Its not bad and it entertains the other passengers too.

Good luck and we'll probably see you on BART. Chris

Commuting from Castro Valley to SF with a 7-mo-old

August 2009

Hi, I will be commuting to SF from Castro Valley starting September 1, with a 7 mo. old. We're just moving to Castro Valley in a couple weeks, so I'm unfamiliar with the options for commuting, other than BART (but it looks like there's a waiting list for the all-day parking) or the NX4 Transbay bus. So far it's looking like the NX4 might be the easiest way to go, since it's just a couple blocks from our house to the stop. I'm hoping someone might have advice as to other options, as well as if there's a monthly pass or something like that that I could buy? Just to make one step of the commute process easier? And from the Transbay Terminal in SF, I'll have to get on another bus, the 9, which I imagine will be pretty crowded. Does anyone else do this with a baby? If so, I would really love to hear how it can be done!!! I want to bring him with me so I can have a couple extra hours with him everyday, as opposed to leaving him at daycare for 11 hours a day. This commute seems really daunting to me. I'm not sure I can do it.

I commuted on BART to SF for 4 years with my child (from age 1 to 5), and I highly recommend it. First, I think that any public transit option is better than driving because it is actually interactive time (when driving even though you're together, it is not as truly interactive).

I suggest trying all of your options out and just figuring out the balance between expense, time and simplicity. For me the bus just did not work at all, even though the Transbay bus stop was half a block from my house--there was one day when there was so much traffic on the bridge it took almost 2 hours to get home, and waiting in the Transbay terminal with a baby is much more unpleasant than waiting in a BART station during a similar delay.

I would suggest getting on the waiting list to get a monthly parking permit at a BART station. I believe you can get on several lists at once, and some of them move pretty quickly. In the meantime, you can just do the single day reserved parking option--it is more expensive than the monthly fee, but this will allow you to figure out if it works for you logistically.

There is not going to be a single way to commute that works perfectly, but I really enjoyed commuting on BART with my child. Transit lover