On the Move – Route 398: The Fastest Ride to SFO

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By Dan Lieberman,

Air travel in the 21st Century is a tedious miracle. It should be incredible that we can hop on a plane in South San Francisco and step off a few hours later on the other side of the country. Instead, it’s cramped, unpleasant and occasionally you get assaulted for sitting without permission and end up on the news. I don’t have a solution for any of that, but I can help with one vexing irritant; getting to the airport in the first place. Because rather than pay $25 a day for long-term parking, the 398 will get you from Redwood City to SFO in 45 minutes, and for a low, low price of $2.50.

The Redwood City Transit Center was quiet and warm, and more importantly was around the corner from my old burrito standby El Grullense. I boarded promptly at 2 p.m., and began my trek up El Camino Real. I was surprised to learn that Ike’s has expanded its empire onto Broadway. IMG_1302We passed House of Humor as I wondered whatever happened to the oversized foam cowboy hat I sported for much of my senior year. I noticed Ben’s Franks is still standing, as is that 50’s looking car wash. Two bikers had gotten on by then, and riders started cracking the windows to enjoy the breeze. We passed the San Carlos Caltrain Station at 2:11 p.m., and reached the Belmont station six minutes later, passing the Good Bites Café where I learned to love tocino in between.

Cruising into San Mateo we came upon Pilgrim’s Kitchen, Jack’s Prime, and the Yumi Yogurt that I assume will be there forever. After the last stop on El Camino by the Hillsdale Caltrain Station, we cut up Hillsdale towards Highway 101. We grabbed one last biker at 3rd and 101 at 2:32 p.m., and pushed northwards towards SFO. Approximately 15 minutes later, we pulled into SFO and made stops at each terminal. Surprisingly, few people got off at the airport, and most of those who did either worked there or were traveling light.

Our driver, Jose Morales, confirmed this, saying most of the riders were regulars and that he didn’t see many flyers taking advantage of the route. I found this puzzling, as we were literally stopping across the street from all three domestic terminals. Five minutes after pulling into SFO, we got back onto 101 heading north as it began to mist. I got off on San Bruno Avenue heading back towards El Camino. As I passed Mustang Brothers, two chatty gearheads started reminiscing about refurbishing cars built before I was born.

A few minutes later we were pulling past Tanforan to reach the San Bruno BART Station and the handful of my fellow riders departed. The trip back down was equally uneventful, with a similarly small amount of riders taking advantage of the access to SFO. I thought about everyone who’s ever hit me up for a ride to the airport and wondered why people didn’t know about this. I gazed out the window, wondering what nefarious conspiracy could have kept people from noticing this secret convenience. The next time you fly, check out all your options. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that there’s a quick, affordable option that passes by you on the hour.

On the Move is a monthly blog feature highlighting places to go and things to see on SamTrans bus routes. If you have a suggestion for a future route, please email Public Information Officer Dan Lieberman at liebermand@samtrans.com