Advice about Commuting to SF with Kids by Car

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Carpooling with infant to SF from Oakland

Aug 2010

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 or (look for Rideshare tab) to find a regular carpooler that would match your origin/destination and schedule. anon

Commute to South SF from Berkeley with 3-month-old?

March 2008

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

Commuting to SF with 3 yr old

March 2004

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

Bay Bridge commute and school pick-up time

Jan 2005

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 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.

Maximizing quality of commute with a toddler

September 1998

Does any one have suggestions how to maximize the quality of time spent in the car with a toddler? My son 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