Transportation Facilities

San Mateo County’s spectacular growth during the last ten years, when it has almost quadrupled in population, has been made possible by steadily improving transportation facilities which now serve every portion of the county. These bring the majority of the desirable locations, homesites and places of interest, within a little over a half hour’s trip from San Francisco; while the further and more inaccessible portions in the county are about an hour’s ride from the business center of the metropolis, thus bringing the advantages, charms and opportunities of this region within easy reach of the business man, homeseeker and farmer.

There are virtually five transportation systems that serve the county and peninsula. These are the Southern Pacific Railroad, constructed through the county in 1852-53; the United Railroads, in 1902.03; the Ocean Shore Railroad, in 1907; the Peninsula Rapid Transit Company which began operations in 1915; and a line of baygoing freighters plying between Redwood City and San Francisco points on a daily schedule.

The transportation companies out of San Francisco, in the order of passengers carried daily, are,-the Southern Pacific Company, with depot at Third and Townsend Street; the United Railroads with a terminal and transferring point at Fifth and Market Street; the Peninsula Rapid Transit Company, with one of its terminals at Fifth and Market Street; the Ocean Shore Railroad with depot at Twelfth and Mission Street; and lastly the newly created line of bay going freighters which ply from the San Francisco waterfront to South San Francisco and Redwood City on daily trips, and unlike the foregoing companies, carry only freight. Passenger traffic from the south through the county comes only by the Southern Pacific trains and the Peninsula Rapid Transit Company whose busses run direct from Palo Alto to San Francisco.

In addition to the regular lines through the county, there is a little electric line that serves the foothill region adjacent to Easton, and connects with the Southern Pacific at Easton Station.

The Southern Pacific gives the county the cheapest, the quickest and most comfortable steam train service in the United States. The imposing terminal at Third and Townsend Streets is a recently completed structure constructed in the old Mission style. From here, the “Coast Line” trains of the Southern Pacific run southward boundaries of San Francisco to Palo Alto.

To make this short and direct route possible, the company bored a series of five tunnels through the San Bruno Hills at an expense of millions of dollars. The old line, circling the hills by way of Colma and Baden, rejoins the main route at San Bruno.

Thirty-three suburban trains and twenty-one through trains are operated on these tracks each day-a total of fifty-four trains, north and south bound. The roadbed is particularly smooth, being rock-ballasted and equipped with ninety-pound steel rails. At regular intervals along the right of way are the automatic electric block safety signals. The engines arc all of the oil-burning type, and the steel coaches are fitted with comfortable cushion seats, and are well lighted and ventilated.

The United Railroads offers a cheaper single way fare than the Southern Pacific, and although it only penetrates the county as far as San Mateo, its cars are always well filled with passengers.

In 1901, when nearly all the street car lines in San Francisco were bought up by the United Railroads, the franchise for the San Mateo line was purchased and work immediately commenced upon its construction.

The first car carrying passengers over this line was operated December 31, 1902. On January 1, 1903, regular service was put on between San Mateo and Holy Cross Cemetery-with cars leaving every hour. These cars connected with the Cemeteries line for San Francisco at Holy Cross. In November of the same year, high speed double truck cars, with a seating capacity of 48 passengers, were put in service over this line running between San Mateo and Fifth and Market Streets, San Francisco.

In December 1907 the large interurban cars which are now being used on this line, were put into service. These cars have a seating capacity of 56 passengers, and leave each terminal on a twenty-minute headway through the week; a fifteen minute headway on Saturdays and ten minute headway on Sundays. This schedule is in force at the present time.

Actual running time between the San Mateo Depot and Fifth and Market Streets, San Francisco, is 60 minutes; the distance is 20 miles, and the fare 25c each way, which includes the 5c city fare entitling the passenger to a transfer to any part of the city.

When this line was started, it served a district which was practically unpopulated except for ranchers outside of San Mateo, Burlingame and Millbrae. The rapidity of the growth of this section was entirely unexpected by the United Railroads when the line was built.

The company runs a sufficient number of busses to maintain a half-hourly service between San Mateo and San Francisco terminal at Fifth and Market Streets; while an hourly service is considered sufficient between San Mateo and Palo Alto. Since its organization the company has manifested a steady growth, continually adding to and improving its service.

The busses ride smoothly along the polished surface of the State Highway, and are comfortably fitted and equipped. Each bus has a capacity of 22 passengers. The fare from San Francisco to San Mateo is 25c, and from San Mateo to Palo Alto 25c. Fares between various parts of the line vary from 5c up, according to the distance traveled. The time between Fifth and Market Streets, San Francisco to San Mateo is 60 minutes; from San Mateo to Palo Alto is 30 minutes.

The Ocean Shore Railroad, winding through one of the most picturesque regions of the world, is one of the important carriers of the county, from both a passenger and freight traffic standpoint.

The present terminal is at Tunitas Glen which is thirty-eight miles from the San Francisco station at Twelfth and Mission Street. There is promise in the near future of this road being extended through to Santa Cruz along the coast.

The company was incorporated in 1905; and the first cars were run over the road in 1907. The road operates under a daily week-day headway of two trains in the morning and two in the afternoon. On Saturday afternoon there is an extra train that leaves the San Francisco station at 5 P. M. to accommodate those who wish to spend Sunday fishing. On Sunday there are two extra trains,-one in the evening and one in the morning.

The Ocean Shore Railroad operates 27 passenger coaches, 2 observation cars, 10 engines and 139 freight trains. The freight rate on garden produce averages $3.00 per ton.

At Tunitas Glen, connection is made with motor busses to the popular seaside resorts at San Gregorio, Pescadero and Pebble Beach.

Toward the end of last year an adequate and well organized “jitney” service with branches throughout the county, sprang into existence. This service consists of several lines and a few independents, all of whom have their headquarters in San Mateo.

A regular line with terminals in San Francisco at Fifth and Market Street and San Mateo, maintains a half-hourly service daily except in winter when the cars run upon an hourly headway. Another firm runs a number of five-passenger cars every twenty minutes between San Mateo and Redwood City, and as far as Palo Alto. Other cars run only between San Mateo and Burlingame. Another line runs between Redwood City and Woodside. The Halfmoon Bay Stage makes several trips daily between that point and San, Mateo; and also makes a through trip from San Mateo to San Gregorio.


Alexander, P. W., Hamm, C. P. (1916). History of San Mateo County from the earliest times: with a description of its resources and advantages : and the biographies of its representative men. Burlingame, Calif.: Press of Burlingame Publishing Co..

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