Destination: UCSF Parnassus

After realizing that a good number of interviewing applicants are not Bay Area locals, I thought it would make sense for me to dedicate a post to unraveling the enigma that is Bay Area public transportation.

The main building of interviewing interest will be the Medical Sciences Building Lobby at the UCSF Parnassus Heights Campus, located at 513 Parnassus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94131. A good number of you may be flying in to San Francisco Airport (SFO) and then taking public transit to get to UCSF. This will require a good amount of time spent on BART and MUNI. What do those acronyms stand for, you may ask?

BART stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit (, an aboveground/underground rail system that spans a good part of the Bay Area. BART runs on a fairly predictable timetable that can be found on the BART website, or will generate automatically if you use Google Maps. Information on how BART works can be found at The key points are:

  • You need a BART pass, which you can buy at any station.
  • The pass must be fed into the turnstile upon entry and exit.
  • BART will cost you anywhere from $2 to $11 one-way.

I would highly recommend using Google Maps to plan your visit since it will tell you when to board, which train to board (yellow line headed to Pittsburg/Bay Point from SFIA/Millbrae aka SFO), and which stop to get off at to transfer to MUNI (Civic Center, Montgomery, Powell, and Embarcadero are all valid).

MUNI is San Francisco’s Municipal Railway (, a complex creature that acts dually as a bus and a subway. MUNI also encompasses regular buses and cable cars, but you’ll be dealing with the light rail. There are a few phone apps like Transporter that list MUNI arrival predictions, but I’ve never had any luck in planning perfectly timed transfers from BART to MUNI and vice versa. MUNI’s operations are a bit peculiar, so I would recommend reading to familiarize yourself. The key points are:

  • You need a MUNI pass, which you can buy at any BART/MUNI station. If you happen to hop on to a MUNI line within the city, board the first car so that you can buy a ticket from the train operator.
  • In a station, the pass must be tapped on the entry gates upon entry but not upon exiting (just keep walking through the gates when leaving–they’ll open automatically for you).
  • Each MUNI ride costs $2.25 regardless of distance, while transfers within 90 minutes are free. Make sure to always tap your MUNI card at the station or in the MUNI cars themselves and hold onto your card because MUNI police check for payment every now and then.  You must tap your card each time you board.

You transfer from BART to MUNI at the Civic Center, Powell, Montgomery, or Embarcadero BART Stations. Take the stairs or escalators to exit the BART subway level through the turnstiles, and enter through the MUNI payment gates and walk down stairs or the escalator to the MUNI level. Make sure you’re standing on the side of the station for the outbound trains, and board the N-Judah (also shown as NN on the MUNI display sign) OUTBOUND.

The MUNI ride will be around 15-20 minutes. You’ll be exiting at the UCSF stop on Irving Str and 2nd ( Out of all the stops, the UCSF stop is most distinguishable because you will feel two right-angle turns—one to the left and one to the right. After the turns, pull the wire for the stop, and huzzah, you’ve arrived at the UCSF MUNI stop!

Walk across the street to the big parking structure. At this point, you have two options. You can choose to make an immediate right turn to follow an ambiguous pathway to 2 elevators. You can also choose to walk a few more feet on the left to a nicer lobby with 6 elevators. Whatever the choice, you’ll press the button for B1 and head all the way up. Keep heading upward and outward until you see across the street. Walk into the building, and the Medical Sciences Building Lobby will be right in front of you.

From my experience, SF residents are more than happy to help you find your way, so don’t be afraid to ask for directions. Hope this helps!

Bon Appétit,


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