Commuting with Kids
Hello! We will begin commuting to SF from Oakland for my 20 month old toddler's daycare (at my place of work). Up until now I've been taking a combination of casual carpool/Transbay Bus/BART to-and-from work, but clearly casual carpool will no longer be an option. I'm a huge fan of the Transbay Bus but I wonder if other parents have taken their children on the bus? I'm nervous mainly about safety. Secondly, if you have any advice taking a stroller on BART during rush hour (both directions!). We can do a combination on any given day, but I think I'd prefer the bus if the general consensus is, ''yes, we've done it, and it's safe''. Thanks! Commuting Momma
My wife and I have taken our son on the Transbay bus a bunch of times. He's a hit with the other passengers and loves to look out side. Sometimes he sits in his, other times he sits next to us. There's other parents who take their kids on the bus. You'll be fine. ajp
I hate commuting to and from SF on public transit. I would choose carpooling over AC Transit or BART but my hours are always changing and I don't work near downtown SF, so I just drive with my child. He can eat in the car, unlike on the bus or BART and it's quiet enough to talk to him, sing, or listen to music while we commute. If your hours are constant, my first suggestion would be to try finding a car or vanpool by signing up for 511 Ridematch.
My experience with Transbay is that the buses are often delayed by rush hour traffic more than BART is. That said, I prefer the bus because my toddler could look out the window and we talked about the cars, trucks, construction vehicles on the new bridge, boats on the Bay, and everything else there is to be seen.
BART is not only crowded, but loud. Too loud to read books or sing songs and not much to see once you are in the tunnel. My son would often cover his ears through the tunnel. Unless your BART or bus stops on both sides of the Bay are still relatively empty when you get on, I would not recommend a stroller for either unless it is a light umbrella stroller that folds easily while in transit.
I wore a backpack and had my little guy in an Ergo or carried him, but always thought a rolling backpack would be nice. AC Transit riders seem to move or give up a seat more readily for a parent and child than BART passengers. I often had to specifically ask people to allow my child to sit down on a crowded BART, then either sat with my child on my lap or stood up with all of our stuff.
I have never felt unsafe on either BART or AC Transit with my child. I took Transbay from North Oakland/Emeryville and BART from Ashby or MacArthur. Commuter mama and toddler
I live in East Oakland and work in Berkeley and normally commute by BART. My 8 mo. old is in daycare near my home, but because the daycare hours are short, I'm considering trying to find daycare in Berkeley (or close to a BART station in between) instead. But I don't want to drive to work if I can help it. But the train I normally take at 8am is pretty crowded. I'm not sure how people would respond to a stroller on the train at that hour. I could possibly use a carrier. Another thought was (when she's over a year old) taking my bike on the train with her seat if we need it on the other end, but that seems like it would be even more annoying to people. Does anyone have experience with this? Thanks. anon
Hi! I commute from Fremont BART to Civic Center BART two days of the week. I've been commuting with my now 10 month old baby since March and it's been interesting. Sounds like your BART ride won't be too long though (less than an hour I hope!). Although the train is not crowded when I get on at 7:00am, it gets progressively more busy as we make our way to the city. In the mornings, people seem to zone out/sleep/read/listen to music. I haven't really had any problems with other BART patrons either in the morning or afternoon. I bring cheerios and water in a sippy cup along with 2-3 toys, one book, and have used my phone or iPad to keep him busy. I also wear the baby carrier for when everything fails and the baby wants out. He'll fall asleep sometimes if he's missed his afternoon nap at daycare.
If your commute is short and your back can handle it, I would suggest using the carrier if the train is going to be packed in the morning and the evening commutes. It might literally be impossible to get the stroller on the train if there are too many people. If you have to use a stroller, get an umbrella one. People are less annoyed with the smaller stroller versus something like a BOB. I've found the front of the train or the back of the train to be less crowded. Be prepared with distractions and snacks for the baby. Also, don't be shy about singing if your baby likes that (reminder that I have to learn more songs besides Old McDonald and the Wheels on the Bus). Also, keep baby wipes and hand sanitizer ready as well as tissues and plastic bags. Not sure about the bike since I don't really ride one; be aware of restrictions for bikes on BART during busy commute hours though. Good luck! Commuting Mom
I wouldn't worry about inconveniencing other people on BART--you'll all be commuters, your baby no less than anyone else. But I would probably use a carrier so you and your baby feel as safe and as inconvenienced as possible. I take BART a lot with my baby and it isn't a problem. BARTers
A baby carrier works MUCH better than a stroller for riding BART (or any public transit) even when it's not crowded. During commute hours I can't even imagine wanting to try to drag a stroller onto the train!
So, yes. Use a carrier. And minimize the amount of additional stuff you need to carry back and forth by leaving a stock of diapers, food, etc. at the daycare, if at all possible. (Ask if they can wash your bottles, too, so that you can leave each day's milk with them at pick-up for feeding the next day, and pick up clean empties in the morning at drop-off for the day's pumping.)
If you don't already have a carrier you love, I would suggest a sturdy mei tai (like Kozy or Bamberoo) or a buckle carrier that works well for a front carry (like Pikkolo or Dream Carrier), because that will be safer in a crowd than a back carry. With either type, once you find one that fits you well, you won't have any problem continuing to wear her for your commute until she is in preschool.
The other thing you might think about is whether you can adjust your work hours (and her daycare hours) so that you are riding the train before or after the peak rush times. That may or may not be possible or practical, of course, but it's worth doing if you can arrange it. Good luck! Holly
I vote for carrier. With the escalators and stairs, strollers are a pain in my experience. You either have to fold them up anyways to get down the stairs/escalators, or you have to get in the elevators (stinky!!!). I don't know what time you'd be commuting, but bikes aren't allowed on the trains during peak commute times. Good luck! BART riding mama
I have a newborn son's daycare is in SF. I need help looking for an individual who would be willing to take a ride across the bridge M-F 8am. I am uncomfortable picking up people who are total strangers or just don't like kids, and bothered by an occasional cry. I would be willing to pick up and drop off. I live in lake merritt, and my sons daycare is close to civic center, would be willing to take whomever all the way to work! Anyway does anyone know a forum? Or any other resources to help find a carpooler!? Or interested in a free ride to and from work depending on location. Alexandra
FWIW, I wouldn't worry about having an infant at all. I pick up passengers every day with my 3-year-old in the car and nobody has ever been bothered about a child in the car. If anything a few passengers simply haven't been around kids, and try to have adult conversations with my son or chatter on about kids and developmental stuff that is way off sync. (Yes, I find passengers do find a child a license to chat to me, but it doesn't bother me.)
As for crying, my kid has wailed on occasion, or wanted me to get something from the backseat that I obviously can't get while driving. But he usually settles down or passengers help out.
Only once was he squalling so badly that I pulled up before the carpool line and waited for him to stop. Eventually I just drove up, hoping the distraction of a passenger would stop the tears (it did -- but only sort of) and when the first passenger poked his head in the door I said he should feel free to get in the car behind if a crying child bothered him. Turned out he had kids the same age. In fact, you may well find many carpoolers have their own kids and fully understand that they cry sometimes.
If you're concerned about stinky diapers, why not just be sure to change the baby before you leave? It's only a 20 minute drive from Lake Merritt so chances of a stinkbomb can't be that high... Kid carpooler
You can try zimride.com or 511.org (look for Rideshare tab) to find a regular carpooler that would match your origin/destination and schedule. anon
I commute to SF with my almost-3-year-old four days a week and am thinking of ditching the carpool lane for BART. With the new carpool fee coming in, the cost of BART v. driving carpool and paying for parking is no longer a wash.
So... can anyone weigh in on what it's like to BART in with a toddler?! When we lived in SF I took my older kid (then 2) in on Muni, so I'm not new to commute hour + kid. We were usually offered a seat for the 15-30 minute rides we took.
Also, we'd have to drive to BART -- either MacArthur or Rockridge. Is it possible to get BART lot parking around 8:30/9 and if not, is all-day street parking available and safe (i.e. little risk of car break-ins). Thanks! Anon
I used to commuted to SF every morning via MacArthur BART, now I use Rockridge. The Temescal lot is full by 7:45/8am, Rockridge is full by 7:30/45am. There is some street parking around MacArthur, you have to watch for street cleaning days, but most are 'all day' spots. Those are usually full shortly after at 8ish. Rockridge is harder, most spots are only 2 or 4 hour spots. If I get there after 7:30am I'm usually out of luck and I just part in a 'permit only' spot and pay the $25 ticket fine. (I figure paying the bridge toll and daily parking in the city will equal out and I really hate dealing with traffic.)
If you can get a permit, for either lot, there are open spaces until around 9:30/10am. I don't know how much permits cost or if there's a waiting list, but you can find that info on the BART website. alexis
I can't answer your specific questions but I will tell you that the undivided attention you can give your child is invaluable. No distracts for even 15 or twenty minutes is like a special gift. been there
I happily commuted on BART to SF with my child from age 1 - 5, and I highly recommend it. First, parking--I doubt you will find spaces at 8:30 or 9 at many stations, but you have some options. First, get on the lists to get a reserved parking spot at any of the locations that are accessible to you. It will be worth driving out of your way a bit to have the reserved spot (so, look at Rockridge, Ashby, MacArthur, and North Berkeley). You can also get per day reserved spots, but the cost will add up. The waiting lists for reserved parking can move pretty quickly (e.g. one or two months before you get offered a spot), and just get on all of them. If it's confusing how to do that, just call their help line and let them tell you how!
As far as the journey itself, I usually tried to take just one seat and have my child sit on my lap, and we would read books (I would always carry three or four different choices). Since we had been doing this for so long, there were very rarely issues with wiggliness or patience, because it just was what we did. Another tip is to always get in the same car. Eventually, people who don't want to be bothered by a child on their commute will realize that you are going to appear in a particular car each day, and they can then choose to start using another car if they want to. This way you end up with relatively tolerant fellow passengers. Over the years we came to have what we called our ''BART Friends''--people who we recognized and who were watching my child grow up! I believe it was a nice experience for everyone!
I was never able to commute with either of my children but I think it's a great idea. I used to take bart from El Cerrito to SF every day and would see other people with their children. My only question is: do you think you will get a seat? if you NEVER get seats on your line, then obviously it's a little more difficult with a child. But it is more time with your kid. You are not distracted and you could read stories or just talk or just hold hands. Plus you are a good role model about public transportation & saving the earth. And remember, kids love busses, trains, etc. commuter mom
I commute to SF on BART with my 2.5 yr old and commuted with my older child from when he was 1 to almost 5. We get on at MacArthur and the trains are usually crowded.
Seating: Often someone will offer a mother and child a seat, or we got good at asking people to give up their seat if we needed a seat for our child. Sometimes my son would sit on the floor. We don't usually get 2 seats (one for parent, one for child) but we sometimes share a seat with our child or just stand and let him sit. For my 2.5 yr old, and until about 3 yrs old with the older child, we usually have a stroller with us and the kid just sits in the stroller if there are no free seats.
Parking: We walk to BART so this isn't really an issue for us, but for parking at Rockridge you'd need to get a monthly parking pass or pay $4.50 for a daily parking pass for each day that you need it. You have to reserve ahead of time, but I've always been able to get one for the next day at Rockridge when I've needed it. At MacArthur you can do the same or may be able to find street parking still at 8:30. I recommend parking north of 40th (41st and up) as the neighborhood is better. (I live on 41st) There are many streets with all day parking west of MLK. Spots do fill up but I still see spots at 8:30 if you're willing to walk a few blocks.
Entertainment: We entertain the kids on BART with books, coloring and other activities like that, food, an iphone and patience. Its not bad. Sometimes they take the rest of their breakfast to eat on the train. When my son was 4 we did a lot of activity books. We bought a clipboard that has a storage compartment to hold papers & pencils in and kept it stocked with activity sheets we printed off the internet. Brain Quest was another fun activity for a while. Played lots of thumb war too. Its not bad and it entertains the other passengers too.
Good luck and we'll probably see you on BART. Chris
Hi, I will be commuting to SF from Castro Valley starting September 1, with a 7 mo. old. We're just moving to Castro Valley in a couple weeks, so I'm unfamiliar with the options for commuting, other than BART (but it looks like there's a waiting list for the all-day parking) or the NX4 Transbay bus. So far it's looking like the NX4 might be the easiest way to go, since it's just a couple blocks from our house to the stop. I'm hoping someone might have advice as to other options, as well as if there's a monthly pass or something like that that I could buy? Just to make one step of the commute process easier? And from the Transbay Terminal in SF, I'll have to get on another bus, the 9, which I imagine will be pretty crowded. Does anyone else do this with a baby? If so, I would really love to hear how it can be done!!! I want to bring him with me so I can have a couple extra hours with him everyday, as opposed to leaving him at daycare for 11 hours a day. This commute seems really daunting to me. I'm not sure I can do it.
I commuted on BART to SF for 4 years with my child (from age 1 to 5), and I highly recommend it. First, I think that any public transit option is better than driving because it is actually interactive time (when driving even though you're together, it is not as truly interactive).
I suggest trying all of your options out and just figuring out the balance between expense, time and simplicity. For me the bus just did not work at all, even though the Transbay bus stop was half a block from my house--there was one day when there was so much traffic on the bridge it took almost 2 hours to get home, and waiting in the Transbay terminal with a baby is much more unpleasant than waiting in a BART station during a similar delay.
I would suggest getting on the waiting list to get a monthly parking permit at a BART station. I believe you can get on several lists at once, and some of them move pretty quickly. In the meantime, you can just do the single day reserved parking option--it is more expensive than the monthly fee, but this will allow you to figure out if it works for you logistically.
There is not going to be a single way to commute that works perfectly, but I really enjoyed commuting on BART with my child. Transit lover
Hi, My husband, 3 month old son and I have outgrown our home in SF mission district and are seriously considering purchasing a home in Berkeley. We both work in SSF so our current commute is only 15 minutes. When I return to work, our LO will stay home with a nanny. If we move to Berkeley, we will take BART and then a shuttle to work which would increase our commute to an hour and 15 minutes. We aren't sure if LO will commute in with us and go to a daycare near work or stay home with a nanny or daycare near home. I guess I'm wondering if the commute and time away from our family is worth the lifestyle and community feeling we lack in the mission district but may find in Berkeley. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Katrina
My husband and I both work near the Civic Center in SF and live in Berkeley. Our son is in preschool in SF. We mostly drive and use the carpool lane (3 persons in car, no toll) so it is about 30-40 minutes door to door (one way) unless traffic is bad. Other times we use BART, which is about 60-75 minutes door to door (one way). The additional time is mostly due to the walk from BART to office with a dawdling toddler. The good: I get to spend my commute time with my son, and no worrying about late pick up fees from preschool due to traffic. The bad: BART days can be a little long, especially when my son is cranky due to end of day, however, I find most BART patrons to be incredibly tolerant (many even smile) as I am singing the A-B-C song or some Music Together tunes to keep my son distracted until we get home. a
I recommend you consider Alameda. I grew up in Berkeley, and love it, but we found Alameda to be more affordable and liveable. Very neighborhood and community- oriented. As for what childcare works best, I have done all 3 options you describe and they each work best for different ages. Since you both work near each other, if you can find good childcare near your work, that might work best for you with your baby. The benefits are peace of mind of being close to baby during the day, confidence that you will be able to get to him by pick-up time, and flexibility after work if the 3 of you decide to have dinner in SF. With our 2nd baby, we decided to have a nanny take care of her at our house and who could also pick up our older child from school. Now that 2nd is in preschool, she is in a school near our house to develop friendships with local kids who she can see on weekends and will go to kindergarten with them. Both my spouse and I have commutes that take an hour or so, and we find the quality of life in Alameda to be well worth the extra time. Good luck with your decisions! --commutin' mama
This commute sucks. I did it for about 1 1/2 years, because I really really needed a job at the time. I commuted from central Berkeley, only 5 minutes from Ashby on-ramp to SSF-Grand Ave exit and it was sometimes (rarely) as quick as 30 minutes, but usually closer to 45 minutes getting there, and 1 hour coming home. This was driving. Tried the BART/bus thing, and don't fool yourself, this is supposed to be close to 1 h 15 min but never seemed to be less than 1 h 30 min each way. Think about it, that's 3 hours everyday wasted on commuting! Even if you have your baby with you, is that how you want to spend your time together? I know it's difficult to give up the idea of owning a home in a town that is a great place to live, I still live here, own a home, and I absolutely love living here, but no longer have the SSF commute. I got a job that provides a reverse commute North which is much more livable! Think about getting new jobs in a reverse or no commute before moving over here, like I said I did it for about 1.5 years, and it was AWFUL!!!!!!!!Terrible!!!!!!! Oh, did I say it was just dreadful?!! anonymous
Don't do it. That sounds awful. --I want my off time ''off'' not commuting
You and your husband now spend a total of 1 hour a day commuting. If you move so that you're 1 hr and 15 minutes away from work, you'll be losing a total of 5 hours a day, between the two of you. You'll regret it!
You can rent a larger place in a nicer neighborhood in San Francisco, close to work. When your baby is old enough to want a back yard with a swing set (and after house prices have stopped plunging), you might have changed jobs and would need a house closer to your new job.
A nice thing about renting is that you can try out a new neighborhood for awhile before you buy a place there. Neighborhoods near elementary schools have more of a community feeling, because all of the parents get to know one another through their kids' activities. Walk to work
In June, I may have to start commuting with my 3 yr old daughter to San Francisco and would like to hear from any parents who have found themselves in a similar position. What strategies have worked best to ease the discomfort of long and daily car trip? (Occasional ferry trips from Alameda may be an option, but would require two bus transfers on the other side to reach the Presidio) Deirdre
I commute 30-35 minutes morning and evening by car with my 3.5 year old (and have been her whole life!). She eats breakfast in the car (toast, go-gurts, milk, juice, fruit) and listens to story tapes (e.g., ''Peter Rabbit,'' ''Curious George''). Sometimes she just likes to be quiet, or we talk about things we see (''There's our favorite delivery truck!'' ''Oh there's a dog on your side--how lucky!''). I have a potty that uses zip lock bags for roadside emergencies, and she usually brings one toy to cuddle. I've tried crayons but they tend to drop on the floor and cause fits! I always pack extra food, which she eats on the way home. Sometimes she says, ''Mom, this is taking a long time.'' And I just say, ''Yep, it is!'' All in all it's not too bad, and it actually provides some quality time for us. Commuter Mom
I did the opposite commute - from SF to the East Bay for three and a half years with my son, from when he was one to four and a half. Fortunately for me, that was against traffic. Still, we spent a lot of time in the car. (Thank goodness, we just moved to Berkeley!) Anyway, story tapes were a godsend. I'm talking mostly about storytellers on tape, telling traditional folk and fairy tales. Like stories about Anansi the Spider, or Coyote, or other such. I got the tapes mostly from the library and taped them. They're great stories, so even I enjoyed listening to them again and again. Also, because we already left our house so early - at 7 a.m., and had a long drive, we always ate breakfast in the car. I tried to remember to have snacks in the car for my son on the way home.! p; Good luck to you! Nanu
I would be very interested in hearing any tips about the Bay Bridge commute from parents who live in the East Bay, work in San Francisco and have children who attend school in the East Bay. My husband and I currently live and work in SF and have been trying to find a house to buy in Berkeley. We've found a school we like in the Berkeley area for our 4- year-old daughter, but I often need to be in SF until 4:30 or so and am worried I'll be stuck on the bridge and won't make it on time to pick her up from school.
How early does one need to leave SF to be in Berkeley by 6:00? What's it like being on the other side of the bridge from your child during the day? Are there any strategies you've found useful to lessen the stress of commuting? Thanks for any hints you can give.
I would not drive unless you can leave before 4 pm. It will be a crapshoot in terms of traffic. For 60 dollars, you can get reserved parking at BART, (or if both of you will be in the car on the way to BART, you can get a free parking permit for El Cerrito Plaza from the Carpool group: phone number is posted at El Cerrito Plaza BART) It took about 25-35 minutes to get from Embarcadero to El Cerrrito. And sometimes BART has delays. I found that if I was on BART by 4:15 I could get both kids (one in west Berkeley, one in North Berkeley) by 5pm or so. Paula
You can call 511 or go to traffic.511.org to get driving times from San Francisco to Berkeley, as well as lists of any accidents, etc. It won't help you if something happens once you're already in traffic, but if you check it about 30 minutes before you leave work, it can tell you what the current conditions are, which may help you plan your trip and/or reduce your stress level. Michael
Is your office in SF anywhere near a BART station? If so, I highly recommend the West Oakland option -- paying to park at a private lot at ! the West Oakland station, then taking any train in. It removes bridge traffic from the equation. It does, of course, add the BART commute variable to the equation, but, for all the complaining that people can do about BART, it's still a far far better bet than Bridge traffic, especially since you can take any train to West Oakland.
If not, 4:30 to 6 seems like adequate time for even the worst bridge traffic days, although a lot depends on how far off the Bridge you need to be at either end. For peace of mind, you'll want a ''Plan B,'' someone you can call if you are stuck in traffic, but as long as you have a trusted Plan B, you should be fine. commuter
One word - BART! Get a parking space at a BART lot (there are some where you can get a reserved space for a monthly fee - it's MUCH cheaper than parking the in the city.) That way your commute is not subject to the vagaries of traffic - far too stressful. My husband and I both work in SF and live in Berkeley. We take BART into the city every day, sometimes together, sometimes separately. If I leave the office at 5:15, I can easily be in the East Bay by 6 (and ten minutes of that is walking from my office to BART). As for anxiety about being on the other side of the bridge from my child, I have two trusted friends who are in the East Bay who could back me up in case of an emergency. Being new to the area, you may need to work on this, but there are so many great people in Berkeley, you'll find them. Fran
Maybe you've already ruled it out, but if you commute on BART you'll never, ever get stuck on the bay bridge. David
I generally leave work(near moscone center) just 10 min before 4, take the bus, and usually get to the Sac St/Cedar St neighborhood by 5 (often i get there much earlier. If you were in my neighborhood in SF and left a 4:30 by bus - it might take a little bit longer to get back, cuz more folks are one hte road. It depends where you work in SF and if you'll commute by car or pub transit.
I go in by N Berkeley BART casual carpool (love it) and come
back by AC Transit or BART. If you commute by car on your way home, you would have to leave more time for getting fromyour parking lot and on to the bridge. Have a cell phone on you, and if you leave work at a time when you will cut the pick up time close, you should call as you leave, and let them know you might be late, so they won't hear last minute. Most care givers appreciate the advanced notice.
Other hints..... Make sure you absolutely leave work on time to get your coworkers used to the idea. Don't cut it close everyday or you'll add too much stress to your daily routine. Work at home at least one day a week if possible. Make sure your child's care giver is able to reach you if your child is ill, as it may take you an hour mid-day to get there to pick your sick child up. Have your partner drop your child off in the a.m. so you can get in early enough to leave on time at the end of the day. Designate East Bay working friends and family on your regular and emergency pick up card. Get cell phone numbers of families you! get close to at your child's school, who pick their kid up around the same time, and help each other to pick up the other's kid on the few times you are running late. In summary - it actually works out fine, and lots of families do it.
Does any one have suggestions how to maximize the quality of time spent in the car with a toddler? My son Ricky is fifteen months old now, and we spend more than an hour in the car each day commuting together. That makes it a large chunk of his day, and our time together. I sing lots of songs for him, but I was wondering if any one has any other suggestions. Lisa
My kids, aged 6 to 11, adore hearing funny or cute stories about themselves when they were younger, about my sisters and me when we were children, or even about my mother when she was a child. After they've heard them a few times, they enjoy telling the stories back to me, or to others. Beverly
Suggestions about keeping kids occupied in the car: kids music (and story) tapes have worked really well for us since our 4-1/2 year old was less than a year old. Also food (like fruit or a bagel) is a good distraction if it happens to work in with your own meal planning. Karen
My ideas probably relate more to older children, but here goes. My son is in a carpool for about 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon. At first (kindergarten), there were often conflicts in the carpools. The families have treated things differently. At times we have had lots of art supplies (graph paper was often preferred to plain white paper). We listen to books on tape, often available from the library. Singing songs is sometimes fun. Playing I Spy is great (and when my son was learning isolated french words, it might be I spy with my little eye something. . .vert). We've also taken a portable tape recorder in the car for fun recording and playback, but have also used it to write books -- the kids brainstorm ideas into the tape and then I write them up. (And they are amazingly good, too!) This doesn't necessarily increase the time we communicate with each other, but just enjoying ourselves while we're in a small car has many benefits too! Wendy