San Francisco Airport Looks To Reward Passengers Opting To Take Public Transport

Airport visitors increasingly use ride-share transportation to and from airports, leading to heavy traffic congestion at some of the largest hubs in the world. The increase in ride-share customers has also led to fewer people using public transportation systems. In San Francisco, the city’s public transportation service has put forth an idea that may address both issues at the same time. Simple Flying reports on a potential agreement between San Francisco Airport (SFO) and the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

Passengers making use of BART may soon be rewarded with priority access at SFO. Photo: Chris Martin via Flickr

San Francisco Airport traffic

San Francisco Airport is a major air hub in the Bay Area and serves as an important domestic and international flight connection. In 2018 alone, SFO serviced more than 57 million people. The sheer volume in numbers led to the BART transportation service expanding its network in 2003 to include the airport, allowing visitors direct access to both domestic and international terminals.

In a bid to address traffic congestion and delays, SFO recently opened a designated area for ride-share companies such as Uber and Lyft to operate from. This was designed to prevent traffic build-up on the curb outside terminals, and is a good way to open up routes around the airport. The same strategy will be followed by LAX from the end of October.



The impact of ride-sharing companies has been felt by the public transportation systems as well as commuters around airports. The BART system has seen a rapid drop in users in recent years and it has created the knock-on effect of increased congestion at SFO. Taking these issues into account, BART has come up with a plan that will be mutually beneficial to both the transportation system, as well as the airport.

The BART system operates routes to both the SFO international and domestic terminals. Photo: Charles Haynes via Flickr

BART has proposed that those who make use of the transportation system to the airport may enjoy added benefits when arriving. BART wants to offer users the incentive of priority security screening on arrival, enabling passengers a smoother and quicker processing time for departure.

By using BART’s TVT, passengers may be eligible for priority security. Photo: Antti T. Nissinen via Flickr

In order to successfully implement the strategy, BART is further developing its trip verification technology (TVT). SFO staff will be able to use scanners on users’ BART mobile applications to verify whether a passenger made use of public transportation to get to the airport. Successful verification will clear passengers to proceed to the priority line for the Transportation Security Administration screening checks.


When will the plan be rolled out?

Discussions between BART and SFO are ongoing, but at the time of writing there has been no confirmation on when the plan will be implemented. The development of BART’s TVT is the first important step to ensure the system works properly, before a pilot program may be launched. If it is successful, it opens up further opportunities for collaboration between BART and other traffic-dense locations such as sporting stadiums and major events. Simple Flying has reached out to BART for comment on a potential time-frame.


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I would rather prefer them to remove an airport surcharge on BART fares.
Such surcharges should be outlawed everywhere.


One of the key issues with BART at SFO is that it doesn’t service Caltrain very well, and Caltrain, not BART, is the commuter train service for all of the Silicon Valley, and it passes right beside SFO. If you want to take Caltrain though, you have a couple of options, but they’re mostly ridiculous. The first is that you can get off Caltrain at Millbrae, take BART to San Bruno, and then transfer again to a south bound SFO train. This will set you back about $5. The second option is that you can take the free-ish SamTrans bus… Read more »