How to Ride

You're too young to drive or too old to wait around for someone to take you to school, the library, that first job, the mall, the movies or to visit friends. SamTrans can help you gain the independence and freedom to go where you want to go.

Riding SamTrans is a safe and an inexpensive way for you to get around San Mateo County and parts of San Francisco and Palo Alto. With 48 routes, SamTrans can get you to or near your destination.

New to SamTrans? No problem. This guide shows you how to ride the bus in five easy steps.

  1. Planning Your Trip
  2. Boarding the Bus
  3. Paying Your Fare
  4. Take a seat
  5. Getting Off the Bus
  1. Planning Your Trip
    SamTrans travels throughout San Mateo County and into parts of San Francisco and Palo Alto via 48 routes. To plan your trip, look at the SamTrans System Map to see which bus routes serve the areas you want to travel. Then, look at the route’s timetable. Each route has an individual timetable .

    Reading a Timetable
    Each timetable lists key stops, known as time points, along the route. The timetable also includes a basic map of the route . For our example, we will take a trip from Foster City to the Hillsdale Shopping Center and plan to get there for lunch.


    • Locate a time point on the map near the point where you want to board the bus.
    • Find the same time point on the timetable. The bus serves the stop at the times listed below the time point. Please note: timetables only list time points; the stops in between the time points are not shown.
    • Find your destination time point and verify that the bus you board will stop there by reading across.
    • You can board the bus at 12:38 p.m and arrive at the shopping center at 12:50 p.m.
    • If your trip requires transferring or if you have questions, call SamTrans Customer Service at
      1-800-660-4287 (TTY 650-508-6448 for hearing impaired).

    Copies of the SamTrans System Map and timetables are available on buses, at SamTrans headquarters and at key civic centers and pass sales outlets throughout the county.


  2. Boarding the Bus
    Be at the bus stop a few minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. As the bus approaches, check the electronic sign on the front or side of the bus to verify the route number and destination. Allow passengers to get off the bus before you board.

    SamTrans buses have a kneeling feature that lowers the front end making the first step easier to reach and also are equipped with lifts or ramps for those who have difficulty climbing steps or who use a mobility device, such as a wheelchair.

  3. Paying Your Fare
    Have exact change ready to pay your fare, the operator cannot make change. You can use tokens or a Monthly Pass, which are sold at a discount compared to a one-way fare. SamTrans offers a discount to youth, seniors, persons with disabilities and Medicare cardholders.

  4. Take a seat
    The seats nearest the bus operator are designated for seniors and people with disabilities. If you choose to sit in them, be prepared to move if someone who needs them boards the bus. For safety, always remain seated or hold onto the bar or straps when the bus is moving.

  5. Getting Off the Bus
    Pull the yellow cord near the window or push the strip on the side of the window to signal the bus operator that you want to get off at the next bus stop. You also can ask the bus operator to call out your stop.

Other Things to Know
Many SamTrans buses feature the latest safety and comfort advances in public transportation. All SamTrans buses are equipped with security cameras. Major intersections and transfer locations are automatically announced. The green SamTrans passenger shelters have solar-powered lighting.

Key Destinations
SamTrans is your ticket to work, malls, libraries, appointments and fun destinations. SamTrans makes daily trips from Palo Alto to downtown San Francisco and connects you to hundreds of other places throughout San Mateo County, including Caltrain and BART.

Check out our Key Destinations site for a list of key locations served by SamTrans.

Real Time
SamTrans predictive departure time equipment installed at transit centers will let you know when the next bus is coming to your bus stop.

511 Trip Planner
You can plan your trip with the interactive Trip Planner on the transit.511.org website.

Thank you for riding SamTrans.

03/11/10 - msk