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Travel to San José
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SMOFcon 28 - December 3-5, 2010 - San Jose, California

Travel to San José

Do you know the way to San José? If not, we attempt to explain all of the travel options here.


If you have any specific questions, please ask them in comments below.

Getting Your Bearings

The convention will be at the Sainte Claire Hotel in San Jose, California (See map below). San José is the largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area (San Francisco itself, being hemmed in on three sides by water, has limited options for growth). San José is approximately 50 miles (80 km) south of San Francisco. It is not in Southern California! There are infamous stories of people not realizing how long California is traveling to the Los Angeles area and expecting San Francisco to be a short distance away. Don’t make that mistake.

The convention site is in downtown San José. If you attended the 2002 Worldcon, you will remember this hotel as one of ConJosé’s hotels, located between the Convention Center and the Fairmont Hotel.

By Air

The Bay Area has three major airports: San Francisco (SFO), Oakland (OAK), and San Jose (SJC). Mineta San Jose International Airport is only about 3 miles (5 km) from the downtown hotels. If it is at all convenient, we recommend flying to San Jose. The other two airports are around 40 miles (65 km) away, and getting from them to San Jose can be time-consuming and inconvenient. However, we recognize that, particularly for people traveling from outside the USA, SFO is a better choice due to being able to get a direct flight. Just bear in mind that the time you save in the direct flight to SFO may be eaten up by getting from SFO to downtown San Jose.

Getting from SJC to the Hotel

Taxis and Shuttles: There is no hotel shuttle. Your options for getting from the airport to the hotel include a taxi or shared-ride shuttle ($20-$25). You could also rent a car, but we don’t recommend this unless you need it during the convention; however, our hotel does offer free (valet only) parking. if you don’t want to park your car with the valet, you’ll need to park in one of the nearby lots or garages (see below).

Public Transit (VTA Light Rail): For the economy-minded, there is public transit available, in the form of the free #10 bus (catch the bus marked “Light Rail” on the headsign) to the Metro/Airport light rail stop, then catch a light rail train heading downtown (headsigns for “Winchester” or “Santa Teresa”). Light rail fare is $2 (buy a ticket from the vending machine at the station) and light rail stops in front of the Convention Center, one block from the hotel. Leave a comment expressing interest and we’ll expand on the detailed steps on how to use the bus/light rail connection.

Getting from SFO to the Hotel

Taxis and Shuttles: A shared-ride shuttle will cost approximately $30-$40 one-way, while a taxi will be at least $75 (not including tip). Renting a car is usually the fastest (and most expensive) option, but is cost-effective if you’re traveling in a group. Remember that the only free parking is the hotel valet parking.

Shuttle services serving the San José area from SFO include SuperShuttle ($39 for one person) and South & East Bay Shuttle ($28 for one person). As with all such services, both offer better rates the more people are traveling together. If you are with a large group, you can even travel in style cost-effectively by renting a limousine.

Public Transit (BART/Caltrain): The least expensive but most time-consuming way to get from SFO to downtown is to take the train(s). The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system does not go to San Jose, but you can use it ($4.00 fare) to get from the airport to the Caltrain commuter rail line, then ride Caltrain to San José ($6.00), then take a taxi, light rail, free downtown connection bus, or even walk the 0.8 mi (1.3 km). One of the webmasters here is a transit buff and will post detailed directions for using BART/Caltrain if there is any interest. (Short version: Take BART from SFO to San Bruno, change to a BART train to Millbrae; take Caltrain south to San José; take VTA light rail to Convention Center.)

You can also use the 511 transit system to map out a ride on Bay Area public transit: Use “SFO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, San Francisco” and “SAN JOSE CONVENTION CENTER, San Jose” as your start and end points, then provide your expected time you will leave SFO as your start-of-trip time to get an idea of the cost and time your travel will take; also, the Transit Planner may want to have you take a bus rather than light rail between San José Diridon train station and Convention Center station depending on the exact time of day; we recommend sticking with light rail when possible. A typical trip is expected to cost about $12 and take around 2 hours, but times vary considerably depending on when you arrive, and may not be available for very late night arrivals at SFO. (Check the BART and Caltrain schedules if you’re going to arrive after about 8 PM to make sure you don’t spend two hours waiting for a train at Millbrae.)

Note: public transit fares are subject to change, and may increase by the time of the convention. We recommend checking the BART, Caltrain, and VTA web sites before you travel to confirm the latest fares. Unfortunately, all three of the transit systems involved here are independent of each other, and there is no combined fare for them; you’ll have to buy separate tickets on each separate system before boarding, as there is no way to pay on the trains.

Getting from OAK to the Hotel

Taxis and Shuttles: Taxis and shared-ride shuttles from Oakland International to downtown San José will cost approximately the same as from SFO, and a rental car presents the same challenges as well.

There are two public-transit alternatives from OAK. Both require taking the AirBART shuttle bus ($3) to the Coliseum/Oakland Airport BART station. From there, you have two choices, one relatively frequent and one that only works at limited times of the day.

Public Transit (BART/VTA): Take a BART train from Coliseum (trains run at least every fifteen minutes) to the end of the line at Fremont ($3.60), then catch the 180 or 181 bus operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) ($4.00). This bus will drop you off within a block of the hotel. Be sure to check the schedules before making your plans, especially if arriving late at night.

Depending on the time of day you travel, instead of taking BART, walk over to the Amtrak station (connected by pedestrian skybridge) and ride an Amtrak train to San José instead of having to change to a bus in Fremont. (See below)

Amtrak Capitol Corridor: The Amtrak Capitol Corridor service runs seven trains per day that stop at Coliseum Amtrak (connected to the BART station by pedestrian skywalk) and to to the San José Amtrak/Caltrain station (“Diridon Station”). See “By Train” below for more information. Fare from Coliseum station is $14 (buy a ticket from the vending machine in the Amtrak station).

By Train

San José is served by Amtrak’s long-distance Coast Starlight as well as the Capitol Corridor trains from Sacramento. In addition, there is frequent commuter-train service to San Francisco that is a good option for people coming to the convention who might want to head up to San Francisco for the day without having to drive and find parking in The City.

San José Diridon Station is 0.8 miles (1.3 km) from the hotel. On weekdays, the DASH bus provides free service from the train station to downtown points, including the hotel. Alternatively, you could take a short taxi ride, hop on light rail, or even walk.

Long Distance Trains

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight (Los Angeles-Seattle) serves San José daily. In addition, the California Zephyr (Chicago-Emeryville) will get you to Emeryville (near Oakland), where you can connect to a Capitol Corridor train for San José.

Amtrak Capitol Corridor

The state-sponsored Amtrak Capitol Corridor runs seven trains each way daily between Sacramento and San José.

Caltrain Commuter Rail

Caltrain runs at least half-hourly (less often nights and weekends) throughout most of the day between San José and San Francisco. The San Francisco station is at 4th & King Streets, where you can take a San Francisco Muni light rail train downtown and connect there to take you to many of San Francisco’s famous sights.

Altamont Commuter Express (ACE)

Altamont Commuter Express runs a limited weekdays-only commute-direction-only service between Stockton and San José. This would probably only be useful for someone coming to the convention from the Stockton area who planned on arriving Friday morning and leaving Monday afternoon.

VTA Light Rail

Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s light rail system runs through Downtown San José. The Sainte Claire is located one block (about 500 ft/150 m) east of Convention Center station.

By Car/Parking

The Saint Claire is in downtown San Jose at 302 S Market St (see map below). The only parking at the hotel itself is the hotel’s valet parking garage, which is free for registered hotel guests. However, there are numerous downtown public parking facilities, including surface lots (no height restrictions) and garages (height restrictions as low as 6’3″/1.9 m), detailed at the San José Downtown Parking web site. Different lots and garages charge different rates. Most of the surface lots and garages near the hotel allow overnight parking, but you need to check the individual lot to confirm this. In some cases, the lots’ booths are unattended, but you will find an envelope on your window that you’ll need to use to pay the parking cost at the slot at the exit. Parking conditions change from time to time, so we cannot guarantee the exact arrangements at all parking lots.


5 Comments so far ↓

  • Suzle

    I’d be inerested in nore info on the light rail. May not be able to manage with luggage, but knowing more would help. Thx.

  • Kevin

    More about light rail from SJC:

    From the terminals, go out to the curb and look for the signs for VTA (Valley Transportation Authority). There is only one bus route that serves the airport: Route 10. However, Route 10 goes two different directions: Caltrain and Light Rail. Take a bus with a headsign of 10 LIGHT RAIL. This bus is free and will take you the short distance to the light rail station on 1st Street.

    When you get off the bus and are standing on the curb facing the light rail tracks (which are in the median of the street), you want the platform on your side of the street: downtown is to your right as you face the tracks. The light rail platform is split here, with the platform for downtown-bound trains on the track closer to you.

    Cross the street and go to the platform. Buy a ticket from the vending machine (currently $2, but subject to change). VTA, like Seattle and other light rail systems, is a “proof of payment” system, where you must buy your ticket before boarding and display the ticket upon request (and there’s a big fine for not having a ticket).

    Light rail trains run about every fifteen minutes (different frequencies at different times of the day). With rare exceptions at the very end of the day, trains calling at this platform all go downtown. Board the train and ride it to Convention Center station. You’ll see the San Jose McEnery Convention Center here when you get off the train. Cross the tracks toward the Convention Center and turn left, then walk one block: the hotel will be in front of you at the corner of Market and San Carlos.

  • Ray Cyrus

    Please, during a week day (mid-morning to early afternoon), what is the time comparison for travelling by taxi and light rail?
    Thank you.

  • Kevin


    I have to admit that I’ve not compared the two. Taking a taxi will be faster because you won’t have to wait for the connecting bus from the airport, walk from there to the light rail station, and take the next light rail train. Checking the light rail schedule and the #10 Airport Flier bus schedule, it appears that the travel time between the airport and light rail station is about eight minutes, and the travel time from there to downtown is between 15-20 minutes. The Airport bus and the light rail run once every 15 minutes. That makes your total travel time between 30 and 60 minutes depending on your exact timing and how long it takes you to get from the bus to the light rail stop across the street from each other. The taxi ride is about five miles and will probably take less than fifteen minutes.

  • Ray Cyrus

    Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for a speedy response.

    Motive behind the question was to see if light rail was a viable option for timely (possible) participation in the Distillery Tour.

    Light rail works only if my plane is on time (or early) and I make all connections with little wait.


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