Holiday Brings Transit Adjustments, Turkey Trots, Tree Lightings

Bob Pryor
November 26, 2019 - 1:24 am
Christmastime in Union Square, San Francisco

(Getty Images Plus stock)

Happy Thanksgiving, Bay Area readers. There are a lot of family-friendly events on deck, including an array of Turkey Trots and the annual tree lighting festivities in at Union Square in San Francisco. San Rafael holds its own Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland too. 

If you're looking for traffic and transit tips, don't forget that service will be altered on most mass transit systems. The VTA, for instance, will roll out a revamped network on Thanksgiving. If you're driving, you won't see many orange construction cones this weekend. Caltrans is suspending routine road work from 3pm Wednesday until 8am Monday. On the other side of the spectrum, motorists may notice that the California Highway Patrol is out in force as part of their anti-drunk driving MEP or maximum enforcement period from 6pm Wednesday to midnight Sunday. 


If you're driving around the city, keep in mind that on Thursday there will be no enforcement of parking restrictions for parking meters, street sweeping,  and residential parking permits

Fri, Nov 29 from 5:30pm-7:30pm: San Francisco’s Union Square: Macy’s 30th Annual Tree Lighting celebration takes place. The entertainment program will begin at 5:30pm, with the actual tree lighting taking place at approximately 6:50pm.

  • Pro tip: It’s a short 3-block walk from the Powell Street BART/Metro station to Union Square. Adding to congestion will be the fact that the “Winter Walk” holiday pedestrian plaza will be opening today (on Grant Avenue between Geary and Post) and the Chase Center has a concert at 7pm (The Chainsmokers, with supporting acts 5 Seconds of Summer and Lennon Stella).
  • Areas and roadways affected: Street closures in the immediate vicinity of Union Square will likely be in place from 3pm to 9pm, providing all the more reason to take transit.


On Thanksgiving Day, Valley Transportation Authority will be running on a Sunday/Holiday schedule. On Black Friday, they’ll be on a modified weekday schedule. But that’s only the beginning of the story: On Thanksgiving Day, VTA will be, in its own words, “rolling out a more frequent bus network, improved bus routes, and a new light rail line [with] shorter waits, 20 all-day frequent routes operating every 15 minutes or better, and streamlined connections to regional services.”

  • Pro tip: If you read nothing else, go to the page on Light Rail Changes, where you’ll find that the Blue Line and Green Line have been joined by an Orange line and a couple of stations are undergoing a name change (Montague Station is being re-named Milpitas Station; and the existing I-880/Milpitas Station is being renamed Alder Station).

Thu, Nov 28 from 7am-Noon: The Silicon Valley Turkey Trot is the biggest of the many Bay Area charitable-fundraiser "trots,” drawing 25,000 to 30,000 runners to Downtown San Jose. The run starts on West Santa Clara Street and concludes with a part at the Guadalupe River Park and Arena Green.

  • Areas and roadways affected: A comprehensive list of street closures (and times) can be found by clicking here. Be sure and read to the bottom of the list to see the Highway 87 ramps that are affected.


Thu, Nov 28, Thanksgiving Day at 8:30am: There will be runners and walkers spread out for the Oakland Turkey Trot around Lake Merritt on Thursday morning. 

  • Pro tip: This being Thanksgiving morning, parking meters are free and there’s ample street parking available along Lakeshore and Grand Avenue. However, organizers strongly suggest carpooling and arriving early, so they can close streets and start the race on time.
  • Areas and roadways affected: Road closures will include portions of: Lakeshore Ave; First Ave; Lake Merritt Blvd; Lakeside Drive; 19th Street; Harrison Street; Grand Avenue; Perkins Street; and Bellevue Ave. Roads are expected to reopen by 9:30am.


Sat, Nov 30 at 1pm: Stanford Stadium: The Cardinal finish out their 2019 season playing at home against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

  • Pro tip: It’s a short walk from Caltrain’s Stanford Station to the Stadium but make sure you’re on a train that makes the Stanford stop. Also, there are no ticket machines at Stanford Station, so don’t forget to use the mobile ticket app or purchase a Day Pass before heading out to the game.
  • Areas and roadways affected: Expect game-day traffic on Embarcadero Road, Oregon Expressway, University Avenue, Galvez Road, and El Camino Real from mid-morning to game time and again after the game lets out.



Thu, Nov 28 thru Sun, Dec 1, from 11am-5pm daily: At the Golden Gate Bridge: In order to prevent traffic backups, personal vehicles will not be allowed at either the Vista Point parking lot or the Welcome Center parking lot. Tour buses will be allowed to park at both the Welcome Center and Vista Point lots. Taxis and rideshare vehicles will be allowed to pick-up and drop off passengers at the Welcome Center lot, but they will not be allowed to enter Vista Point. In addition, no taxi or rideshare staging or waiting will be allowed and ridesharing vehicles will need proper identification.

  • Pro tip: There are actually a surprisingly large number of ways to get to Vista Point and environs without getting into a car and virtually all of them are laid out in detail here.

Fri, Nov 29 from Noon-8pm: Downtown San Rafael: the Parade of Lights and Winter Wonderland takes place, rain or shine, on Fourth Street from B Street to Lootens Place and on A Street from Fifth Avenue to Fourth Street from noon to 8 p.m.

  • Pro tip: There will be no snow sledding for kids this year, according to organizers. "We are sorry to report that due to weather changes and lack of funding to create the Snow Hill we are not able offer the snow sledding for this year," said a message on the even'ts website. "We will be offering a variety of new activities in its place for kids of all ages."


Thanksgiving day:

BART is on a Sunday schedule with service starting at approximately 8am. Parking is free at all station, but all parking rules still apply.

CalTrain is on a Sunday schedule.

San Francisco Bay Ferry has no service on any of the ferry routes.

Friday, November 29:

BART is on a modified weekday schedule. In anticipation of light ridership, BART is canceling many commute trains on the Yellow (Antioch) Line. Riders should expect trains to run at least every 15 minutes. Station parking today is not free; payment is required.

Caltrain is on a modified schedule.

San Francisco Bay Ferry will have no service on the Harbor Bay, Richmond, and South San Francisco routes while the Vallejo line follows an enhanced weekend schedule and the Alameda/Oakland ferry follows a normal weekday schedule.