Tour Bus Information
San Francisco attracts thousands of sightseeing buses each year. Whether your bus is based in the Bay Area, elsewhere in California, outside the state, or even internationally, it is important to be aware of and in compliance with all local regulations. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has a strong commitment to Vision Zero, pledging to end traffic deaths by 2024, and tour bus operators play an important role in helping us achieve that goal.
Large Vehicle Urban Driving Safety
Driving a tour bus in a dense urban environment with high numbers of pedestrians and bicyclists like San Francisco requires a different skillset than driving in more suburban or rural locations outside the city. The SFMTA's Large Vehicle Urban Driving Safety Program has created a training video for drivers.
The SFMTA strongly encourages all tour bus operators to show this video to their drivers before operating in San Francisco. Tour bus and other large vehicle operators can help show their support for the SFMTA's Vision Zero goal of eliminating traffic deaths in San Francisco by 2024 by filling out the Large Vehicle Driver Training Program Pledge and sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The California Highway Patrol's Commercial Vehicle Section includes a Commercial Industry Education Program that offers free educational safety seminars for commercial vehicle drivers.
Narration by Driver
The San Francisco Transportation Code prohibits tour bus drivers from providing narration while the tour bus is in motion. In order to provide narration during a tour, tour bus operators must hire a separate, non-driving tour guide.
2Restricted and Recommended Streets
San Francisco has three types of street restrictions:
- Vehicles with capacity for 8 or more passengers
- Gross vehicle weight of over 3 tons
- Gross vehicle weight of over 9 tons (very rare)
Please see the map of recommended streets that can best accomodate large vehicles like tour buses while providing access to major tourist attractions.
3Parking and Loading
Tour buses may load and park in the following locations, subject to any posted regulations:
- Tour bus-only loading zones (see below)
- Regular white passenger loading zones and yellow commercial loading zones
- Metered parking spots, provided they pay at the meter for each space they are occupying
- Any other available curb space
Tour buses are never allowed to double-park, idle for more than five minutes, stop in red zones, including Muni bus stops, or stop in commuter shuttle-only white zones during their posted hours. Tour bus operators are strongly discouraged from travelling, loading, or parking on residential, non-arterial streets.
Tour Bus-Only Zones
San Francisco has a network of tour bus-only loading and parking zones near major tourist attractions, which you can find on the citywide tour bus loading and parking map. For detailed information on tour bus loading and parking around Fisherman's Wharf, visit the Fisherman's Wharf Community Benefit District website.
Tour bus operators in San Francisco may need a variety of different permits depending on where and how they operate. The most commonly required permit, applicable to almost all commercial passenger carriers, is that from the CPUC. See below to determine which may apply to your company.
Tour bus providers operating solely in the City and County of San Francisco are regulated by the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) . For more information on the SFPD tour bus permitting process, please contact the SFPD Permits Section at (415) 553-1115 or visit the SFPD Permits Section website. You can also see the table of permit fee rates on their website.
Passenger Carriers in California that operate in more than one county are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). To determine what type of permits and regulations apply to your company, read the CPUC's Basic Information for Passenger Carriers and Applicants document or visit the CPUC Transportation Licensing website.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) conducts inspections of CPUC-licensed Passenger Carriers at least once every 13 months and, together with the CPUC, enforces all relevant maintenance and operations regulations. More information is available at the CHP Commercial Vehicle Section website.
San Francisco law requires that amplified sound systems on unenclosed ("open-top") tour buses must not be audible from more than 50 feet away from the vehicle.
Any carrier operating an unenclosed tour bus in San Francisco with an amplified sound system must coordinate with the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH) to obtain an annual registration sticker that must displayed on each vehicle. Registration stickers can only be issued to operators for buses that pass an annual sound test and after receiving the annual registration fee for each bus.
For more information, see DPH's Guidance for Noise Management and Enforcement. To schedule appointments for tour bus registration and sound tests, contact the DPH Noise Program at (415) 252-3800.
Commercial carriers, including tour buses, are required to obtain a Commercial Use Authorization if they operate within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) more than one time per month. The GGNRA includes the Presidio, Fort Mason, and Lands End among other locations in San Francisco, along with several other sites across the Bay Area.
For more information and to acquire a Commercial Use Authorization, please visit the GGNRA Commercial Use Authorization website.