For an easy and often fun way to get around California’s larger cities and communities, do what an increasing number of locals do and hitch a ride on a bus, subway, ferry, or light rail system. Using public transportation can be an efficient, affordable, safe, and eco-friendly option, particularly in areas where roads, parking, and urban traffic can be confusing and frustrating. Some transit systems let you buy multi-day passes; check ticket options online before you arrive to get the best deals. Also available is a Go Pass, which offers deals on local transportation options in the San Francisco Peninsula and Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley).
True to the spirit of nature conservation that inspired its founding, Yosemite National Park has its own public transportation: Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System. YARTS buses travel from Merced, Mammoth Lakes, Sonora, and Fresno, as well as many smaller towns along the way, into the park. There are also shuttles from Visalia to Sequoia National Park and a free in-park shuttle that makes several stops, including all the campgrounds.
Buses are ideal for longer trips around the state too. Greyhound is the nation’s primary long-distance bus company, offering routes linking big cities and rural destinations statewide (and heading out of state too).
Amtrak’s extensive network of rails and thruway buses is another easy and efficient way to see the Golden State without your own vehicle. Particularly notable lines for visitors include the San Joaquin line, which will take you straight into Yosemite, the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains that roll along scenic routes up and down the coast, and the Capitol Corridor which travels east-west in the northern part of the state. Though it’s the most extensive, the Amtrak isn’t the only rail service. Caltrain operates in the Bay area and Metrolink connects much of Southern California.
Below are links to California’s major regional transit organizations; most offer a variety of travel options, such as buses, subways, and light rail, trains, and in some cases, ferry boats. For more local information on transit options in Northern California, visit 511.org.
Buses & Subways; Northern California
Buses and Subways, Southern California