Commuting between the East Bay and San Francisco

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How is your commute to SF, and solo-parenting?

March 2014

I'm a Southern girl, who's been living in SF for nearly 9 months while we solve whether or not we'll stay with this job. If we do, we'll move to the East Bay. However, I have to face a very simple reality: I have issues with the long commute and my husband being ''trapped'' across the bridge.

I'm a SAHM to a 4-year old. Montessori school is extremely important to me, and I haven't been able to locate anything in the City that's good AND affordable. As I've been trying to find one that would make me happy in East Bay, I'm feeling very stressed about the commute.

Many tell me ''it's just part of Bay Area life.'' Really, is it?? I have a hard time wanting to ''solo parent'' while my husband works long hours in the City, makes it home after bedtime, and leaves early in the morning. Meaning, he really only gets to be daddy on Saturday/Sunday. Anyone who does this, how have you managed?? What has helped you with your sanity?

We are considering areas further East closer to Walnut Creek, or moving Southward to Pleanton. I'm not at all familiar with these areas, just going on recommendations from other SAHMS\xc3\xa2\xe2\x82\xac\xc2\xa6as I'd really need a great support system while being a ''solo parent.'' I really like a walkable area, but not the fast-pace of it all. SDoes that exist anywhere in the Bay Area (sahms, walkable, slower-paced)??

Sigh. This is really hard for me, to adjust to this very crazy, intense lifestyle. But, my husband loves his career and is very happy here, so I'm doing my best to be supportive. confused and stressed

My impression is that the areas with worse public schools have more Montessori going on. Like Oakland, Berkeley. Somewhere like Walnut Creek or Pleasanton, I'm not sure whether there is so much Montessori, and that is getting to be a long commute to SF. In general lots of private schools in Oakland, Berkeley. Not a bad commute on BART. Slower paced - Peninsula if you have the money. Also Alameda, Lamorinda When you get to more small town like, like Moraga, there is not much to walk to, and in Moraga you are paying the housing price for the good public schools--not a good deal if you are going to do Montessori. When to get to more walkable like parts of Berkeley or Oakland, it is faster paced. Good luck! It is a fun place to grow up, I hope your four year old has lots of fun! Try doing some mom-and-me classes like Music Together etc. anon
You don't mention your budget and what kind of housing you're looking for, but if the commute is a concern, I would definitely take a look at the closer-in East Bay communities--specifically Alameda, Berkeley, Albany, and Oakland. All have great Montessori options and SAHP communities (though you may have to seek them out, they are definitely there). Much more manageable commutes to SF than Walnut Creek or Pleasanton, and very walkable. Main downside is that these areas are pricier than the communities farther out, which perhaps is why you've ruled them out--but I might consider revisiting how big a place you need and weighing that against the shorter commute and walkability factors. Good luck with the decision! Another East Bay parent
You won't be solo parenting. Your husband will be a few moments away. You or you and your child can visit him at work sometimes. Actually,that is a great idea wherever he works. It keeps the marriage and family bonded and lets him know you love him and are proud to be partnered with him. He also can visit you during the day sometimes. Take a special part of the day to come be with you and or the child. There is BART which travels all over the Bay Area. There are busses and taxis and ZipCAr. Try to relax and reconsider your ideas about your daily life. Mary
HI there - I feel your pain. We're about to leave the city for Albany. My husband will be commuting and I will be handling drop off / pick up at school. Most are 9 - 5 (but you can sometimes go 8 - 6).

One thing to think about is that pre-schools in the East Bay aren't necessarily any cheaper. I've been paying $1150 at Montessori House of Children on Geary and Franklin for 9 - 2:30, after care is $180 and morning care is $100 = $1430 all in. It's got it's plusses (wonderful teachers, diverse community, great for working families, great price) and minuses (small rooms, difficult to meet other parents). Check it out

The school we're enrolling in in Albany is $1000 / month for half days, $1175 / month for 9 - 3, and $1475 for 8 - 6, plus there are a lot of building fees and parent participation involvement you have to pay. This was pretty standard - if not cheaper - than the other Montessori schools I toured in the Berkeley / Albany area.

So it's something to think about when you make your decision. You'll likely spend more time commuting and your pre-school costs could be higher. Hope that helps Julie

Alameda! Pretty, highly walkable and bikable, many resources for families with young kids (Parks & Rec is the BEST) and easy commute to/from the city. My husband takes a transbay bus near our home in central Alameda, 45 minutes door-to-door. Granted, he works pretty standard hours in the financial district downtown, so your husband's commute may be affected by his location/working hours.

I can't speak to quality of the Montessori schools available; I know there are a few preschools, however not many (if any?) options for elementary Montessori. It is a great city for establishing or joining a community. Best of all, we just got a Target!

One negative though if you're used to a southern climate: Alameda is definitely more ''SF'' than ''Walnut Creek'' where weather is concerned. Summers have been particularly cool recently, although to my mind that's preferable to being stuck inside due to oppressive heat. Island Girl

Sorry to tell you but people who have said ''this is life in the Bay Area'' are right. It is difficult for many people to afford the house they want, near the job they want, near the schools they want all at the same time. For many it is impossible which is why so many people have commutes that are ridiculous by most non-bay area people's standards. Berkeley/Rockridge areas have many great things to offer as far as walkability but for a quieter and slower pace you'll need to go east of the tunnel which means an even longer commute for your husband. bay area trade offs...lots of 'em
We really love Albany.

1. Fast commute. My husband walks 2 blocks to the transbay express bus and is in the city in 30-35 minutes.
2. Nice small community. Plenty of sahms, especially when their kids are little.
3. Very walkable.
4. Great schools.

If you stay in SF, your husband may have a long commute within the city, depending upon where his work is in relation to your home. If you go out as far as Walnut Creek, he will definitely have a long commute. East Bay all the way

The part about your post that I think I can help out with is your devotion to Montessori. I wanted to let you know that there are two excellent Montessori schools in San Francisco in case you haven't already checked them out. Our son went to them many years ago, over a decade. But I can tell you that they were both very very good schools. One is called Montessori Children's House and it's on Lake Street at Arguello. The other is called Montessori Children's Center and it's an AMI accredited school and it is in the Lake Merced area or it was at the time. I don't know how late in childhood the programs they offer are at this time but both schools are definitely worth checking out. I hope this helps. Montessori Mom
When I was a child, my dad worked long hours and my mom managed the household, kids, etc. (without a complaint as I recall) Today men are expected to be both the money makers and the very present dads. I think you are putting your husband in a difficult situation. Do you want him to be happy in his career? Or do you want him to work part time and you work part time and then you can both be present in the child's life? I think you need to take a step back and decide what works for your family. Does your husband's job pay for you and your child's lives? do you value that? if so please let him have his career and please find your day time rhythm. Find friends and activities and greet your husband happily when he comes home from his long day at work. Remember that he is doing this for all of you.... the anti-berkeley response
I'm sorry that I could not understand whether or not you had a choice to live nearby where your husband will be working. It sounds like you have to choose between which is more important to you; Montessori school, or having your husband around the family for more hours of the day. For me, that would be a no brainer, and I would go for having hubbie home more. But, we all must choose. If you lived closer to where your husband works, you could even go meet him more often for lunch! Bring kiddo along and make it fun, like once a week if possible. I don't know how ''bay area'' your husband's job is, meaning does he have to sit at his desk and eat? good luck with your choice
I dislike the solo parenting aspect of my life but I will say it is way better here in Alameda than it was even in the western parts of San Francisco. The commuter bus takes less than forty minutes to get my husband to work and this town is full of friendly parents, and many of us are sahm/wahm. Off topic, there are lots of Montessori schools here too, but be careful which one you choose. The one with three locations that will pressure you to sign TODAY is probably going to look too good to be true when you visit. That's because it is. anonymous
Check out Glenview / Upper Dimond in Oakland (If you can afford it). Excellent Montessori schools, walkscore, etc. etc. Easy / fast commute to SF via express bus ('V') or casual carpool on Park Blvd. -- Andrew
If Montessori is very important to you, note that SF Unified School district operates a public Montessori for K-5 (with plans to expand to K-8) . Admission is based on lottery so it's certainly no guarantee, but perhaps it's worth it to check out the school and see if it even appealed to you. SF Parent
Hi Confused and Stressed, I think you're either going to get a ton of responses, or none at all - because you're asking about 3 questions at once. I'll break it down:

Q1. Is it possible to work at a job in SF, live in the East Bay, and not have a commute?

A1. No. If your husband is going to continue to work in SF, you (as a family) need to be flexible on the school issue or on the commute issue. That said, if you want to *minimize* your husband's commute, you should consider places that are closer to SF and, assuming he works downtown, places that are near a BART station. Commutes from Berkeley, Oakland, Albany, and El Cerrito will be shorter than from Walnut Creek, and all of those will be shorter than from Pleasanton.

Q2. Do people really live in the East Bay and commute to SF?

A2. Yes. Lots of people do this. Not to state the obvious, but if there weren't so many people doing it, there would be a lot less traffic. In many families, *both* parents commute to SF (or elsewhere). Some of us aren't interested in living in SF, some of us couldn't afford it, some of us live elsewhere for better schools.

Q3. I'm a lonely SAHM, and new to the area. How can I make friends?

A3. This answer is asked regularly - many are more qualified than I am to respond, but basically: talk to people, join groups, go places, be patient.

Let me enthusiastically recommend San Leandro! After 15 years in our Sunset district SF apartment we moved to the Estudillo Estates neighborhood of SL with our toddler last year and we couldn't be happier. Our commute to SF's financial district is actually SHORTER than when we lived inside the city: 5 minute drive to BART, easy parking, and a 25 min ride into Montgomery station. We also have a plush AC Transit commuter bus available with a stop just 2 blocks away that would get us in to work in about 40 minutes (with a nice comfy seat to boot). Everyone we've met is so friendly and helpful, the neighbors are warm and welcoming, and there's a real sense of community spirit in general. The weather's beautiful, the architecture's lovely, and the housing prices are more reasonable that much of the Bay Area these days. Now, I'm not a single mom, but day care options are great and significantly less expensive than they were in SF... and I really feel like SL loves kids (lots of play groups, activities, great children's library, etc.). I think you'd have a lot of support here. Good luck! - Happy in San Leandro
I totally feel your pain -- it sounds hard. But consider a couple things. You could live closer in (Berkeley, Albany, Oakland) and his commute won't be that long. He could go to work earlier and come home earlier, in order to spend evenings with you guys. I know it's not always feasible, but hopefully he is willing to make that effort. You didn't mention cost - is that why you are looking at the far out suburbs? There is still BART from Pleasanton and Walnut Creek, so he doesn't have to feel trapped by the Bridge. Or perhaps you are considering those places because you want a slower pace? I live in Berkeley, and it isn't really all that fast-paced here. Tons of stay-at-home moms and/or part-time-working moms (and dads, too!) hang out at parks with their kids during the day. It's very easy to meet people and wherever you live (pretty much) you'll be able to walk to parks and markets. I think I would be more stressed out by the car-centric culture of the far burbs. But you'll have to visit those places you're considering and make that decision! Maybe rent for a while in another place and then you can make a more informed decision. I wish we had rented for longer before we bought our Berkeley house! We realized our house is freezing cold and we're stuck here! Good luck!
Your friends are right--this is such a common situation in the Bay Area, or any area that has a similar lifestyle. There is such a tacit high level of expectation here, which has good and bad repercussions. I can't tell from your post what it is that you really want, and I'll throw that out as maybe the reason you are confused. You want your husband to have the job, you to have the friends and neighborhood and house and your kid to have the school and time with both parents. I also used to have a lovely vision of how I wanted my life to be--fulfilling careers, nice house, excellent schools, sane pace of life--and I could never figure out how to make it happen. We have done the crazy commute for my husband to make the money at a job he liked in order to afford the kind of house and neighborhood we thought we wanted, but then we never saw each other and never had energy to make friends. My kids saw their dad only on weekends for 6 years! Then we moved back to the midwest to have the slow pace, nice house, OK schools, but it was soooo boring. So we moved back. It is not a popular position, but for me what made it finally work was giving up the notion of having it all. I really believe a crazy commute is never worth it. We now rent a slightly cramped apartment in not a very walkable place, have less liquid cash, OK schools but we have time..a lot more time, and this has made our family happy. I have worked with kids professionally for 20 years and been an on/off SAHM and what really matters to your kids is that you have the time and energy to be there for them. The school is not so important, the nice house is definitely not important, a cute neighborhood is not important (safety is, though). What really makes smart, strong, resilient, happy, healthy families is the time and energy you can put into it. Maybe that is what you really want, too? my 2 cents
hi hi!

I hope you've looked into the SF Public Montessori: for various reasons, there are parents who are not crazy about it, but it should at least be part of your exploration. I think there is some kind of ongoing battle between parents and principals, which is really a cryin' shame.

I don't know why you're looking so far away from the city. Have you looked at El Cerrito and Albany? They are a little less expensive than Berkeley and have better (IMO) schools. They are walkable, sweet, and most importantly, they are on the BART line, which makes commuting much easier.

I live in Richmond, in the hills or ''heights,'' and I find it very quiet and beautiful. Richmond gets a bad rap because of certain neighborhoods, but we've got a great neighborhood school (Mira Vista) and if you plan it right you can have a walkable situation.

I think you're letting the worst stories scare you, mama. You been to the east bay? You wanna come visit? Hit me up @amythek [at] thought my life would end when i moved east

The East Bay is pretty close to SF. There are many means of commute such as ferry, bus and Bart. In some places the East Bay is cheaper to live than in SF.

I would focus more on the support network you are seeking and building on that then the stress about the commute.

Being a SAHM in the Bay Area is sometimes a luxury due to the cost of housing. Being a SAHM usually equals the husband working long hours and only being around on the weekends and evenings. I can relate as my husband has those hours and works in SF. But I don't worry about the commute and live in the East Bay where I have a support network.

In order to have our children have things like day care or Montessori I have worked part time on and off during the early years to be able to afford it. Took some pressure off of my husband.

To manage the husband and long hours and me staying home, I think of the long hours as a means to pay the mortgage and a means for me to currently SAHM. It helps alot.

Continue to be support to your husband who loves his career. That is great. I would join some meetup groups and see if you can meet other moms once you decide where you will land. Then you can swap with them (i.e., they watch your daughter a few hours and then you watch their child) and it is free. Maybe work part time and you can afford the Montessori. Think about hiring a mother's helper for the long days of ''solo parenting''. Hope it gets better

There are good public school Montessori options in San Francisco - an Early Childhood Education program, and a Charter public elementary school see: for information. zanzy
I wanted to add to the really good answers you got... there are two creative options to help make life easier - one is telecommuting and the other is ''off-shifting'' (altering your work schedule so that it is not during peak commute times). I realize telecommuting is not an option for all jobs, but there are many people in the Bay Area who have one day a week they work from home (or more). For many, that is Friday-- which is why the Friday morning traffic is a lot lighter. If telecommuting is feasible, a lot of employers actually like it as they realize that their employees are more productive when they are not losing 2+ hours a day in traffic.

As for off-shifting, it can make a HUGE difference in one's commute to avoid rush hour. My husband used to leave at 6am instead of 8, because it cut his drive in half. Once again, many employers allow for flexibility in the schedule because they know people are more productive.

I would echo what many people said in the last set of postings, that most people have to live in the Bay Area with some sort of commute-- most people figure out some way of making it easier on themselves. Good luck! East Bay telecommuter

Commute from SF to Oakland at 5pm

Feb 2014

I am thinking about leasing an electric car, but it would only work if I could commute to/from my home in Oakland and my job in downtown San Francisco. My AM drive from Oakland to SF can be flexible, but in the afternoon I must be able to leave SF and arrive in Oakland with certainty absolutely no later than 6:00 PM. No flexibility there. How long does it really take to get from SF to Oakland at around 5:00 and how much risk of delay? Does being able to get on the carpool on-ramp in SF save much time? I hope there are folks out there who make this drive often enough to clue me in on what it really takes. Thanks!

When I need to get from home in SF to be in Oakland or Berkeley at 5 or 6, I leave at 300. Yes, really. There is a terrible rush of people trying to all simultaneously get to the Bay Bridge, and the rush starts about 300. You should consider just leaving very, very early, and you will be in Oakland at 400. The electric car is not a factor in these traffic jams at all. Regular Bay Bridge Driver
My partner leaves work in SF at 4 most days and drives home. She may be home by 4:45... or by 7. And the 7pm days are not that rare. If you really MUST be home by 6, I don't think driving is going to work. Hate riding BART, but hate traffic accidents more
I did this commute for 3 months with my husband from mission bay to north oakland in the evening, it was a nightmare. If you want to get to oakland by 6, you'll need to leave SF by 4:30 at the latest. The traffic to get on the east bound bay bridge is so bad, I would not wish it on my worse enemy. Even the carpool lane is generally super backed up, so don't count on it. It took us a while to figure out the the 5th street on ramps on are slightly faster than the 2nd street on ramps. In summery, avoid this commute by car if all possible. been there
Your commute will probably depend on where exactly in Oakland you are trying to get by 6 pm. My commute is a bit different, because I'm going to Berkeley. But having done the SF-East Bay afternoon commute for several years in the carpool lane, I can tell you that, unfortunately, for the afternoon commute, the carpool lane does not shave that much time off of your commute (but it's extremely helpful in the morning). And certain days (baseball games, weird protests or parades downtown), it's actually worse than getting on at say the 8th street entrance, because you have to drive so far down on the city streets before you can get on. My experience has been that the afternoon commute is always worse than the morning commute. While an hour is usually enough time, it's just barely enough time, and if I cut it close, I will be having a panic attack by the time I get to school for pick up. And there will be days where an hour isn't enough time, leaving the city at 5 pm...An unpredictable wreck or road work will just screw you up completely. So, if you can never leave the office before 5 and you MUST pick up by 6, I think you might feel like it's too close for comfort, depending on your destination in Oakland. I would definitely try the drive a few times before committing to anything. Commuter mom
You don't say which part of Oakland you're going to, so that could make a 20 minute difference. When you say downtown SF, I assume you are getting on the bridge at 1st St. which tends to move really slowly. I'd say most days you could get home by 6pm, but I wouldn't rely on it. Former commuter

0214>Commuting to SF General Hospital

Feb 2014

My husband, one year old daughter, and I will be moving soon from the East Coast to the Bay this summer. My husband is taking a job at SFGH and we are trying to figure out where to live (reasonably) nearby. We are big fans of the small town/beachy Alameda life but are worried about the commute. It just doesn't seem like there is an easy way to do it. Driving times during rush hour look like they could be an hour or more, and public transit options apear to be nearly as long and require several transfers. Anyone have experience with this commute (or a similar one)? Any advice will be greatly appreciated! Our other option is to look for housing closer to SFGH but SF itself just looks so expensive and impractical! hate commuting

I'm guessing SFGH is San Francisco General? If so, I think you should look down the peninsula a bit. The 101 goes right next to the hospital and in 10 minutes you can be in Pacifica, which is beachy and, while not as cute as Alameda, pretty darn close. You can also look at Brisbane - it's not on the beach, but in the hills, and is gorgeous and has a small-town feel (for better and for worse - our daughters went to a wonderful co-op preschool there called Silver Spot).
I commute daily between SFGH and Berkeley. With no traffic the trip takes 30 minutes by car and an hour on BART/Muni. The daily reality is a minimum of 1 hour by car in the am and 1-2 hours in the pm. BART/Muni is more consistent -- except when it is not -- police activity, mechanical problems, etc. If I am expected for a time sensitive meeting I allow 2 hours to avoid the embarrassment of arriving late. I also came from the East Coast and was attracted by the East Bay communities. If I could do it over I woud NOT live in the East Bay. The commute is grueling and adds 10-12 hours to my already challenging work week. No bridges no tunnels in my next life
Take the ferry and then cycle! I live in alameda and commute to CPMC this way every day. The ride is much hillier (top of Pac Heights) than to SFGH but about the same distance and I actually love my commute! Like you, I was daunted as how to make this work but the ferry is one of the highlights of the day; coming home and looking back over the bay! The only disadvantage is that the ferry only runs infrequently but the transbay buses take about the same time and are very efficient if less aesthetic and, so far, they've always had space for my bike out front on those days when timings go awry. Live in Alameda! Bay cycler
Congrats on getting a job at SFGH, where it's ''as real as it gets.''

Nearly all of my colleagues and I live in the East Bay and commute to the General. I live in Berkeley, a mile from BART. I ride a bike to BART or drive if I'm dropping off my kid, and take BART to 16th or 24th Street. I then walk (from 24th st, it's about 20 minutes), or I take the UCSF Yellow shuttle from 16th St. to SFGH (15 minutes). My total commute is one hour. If you are coming from Alameda, you'll need to add at least 15 minutes to this figure in order to get to your closest BART station (likely Fruitvale). Your total ride on BART will be a half-hour. For more info on the UCSF shuttle, which runs the Yellow Express to and from SFGH during traditional commute hours, google up the shuttle schedule on the UCSF website. You can also explore organized or casual carpools in your area - there's a big carpool culture here because of the discount on the Westbound bridge toll provided to carpools. However, it's more difficult to find casual carpools for the commute home, as it's the toll-free direction and the carpool incentive isn't there.

If you are looking for a family-oriented neighborhood more convenient to BART, I suggest looking into Albany or El Cerrito. Albany has a great reputation for their public schools, and the price point is similar to Alameda. See you 'round the General! Happy NP

If you are looking for a small town/beachy lifestyle, check out Pacifica on the Pacific coast just south of SF. It can be foggy, but it definitely is more affordable than SF and has the beachy feel. Also the commute would not be nearly as bad to Sf General. I did the Daly City/Mission Bay commute on 280 for several years and it rarely took more than 30 minutes. Good Luck!
I am a longtime Alamedan, but given your commute, I would really suggest you expand your search. Yes, Alameda is a wonderful place, but there are many others in the Bay Area, and honestly, your quality of life is tremendously downgraded by having a bad commute.

To give you a perspective, when we first moved to Alameda, and did not have kids, my husband had a terrible commute to the Peninsula. He came home late every weeknight, and the only time we had together in town was on the weekends. Flash forward, he now can telecommute most of the time, which has transformed our life here. I have to tell you that if his work had not changed, we would NOT have stayed in Alameda once we started our family.

I know that Alameda is now a popular place to settle, but you will find there are other areas that are more affordable than SF and yet have a better commute. One area to consider is the upper Peninsula, below SF. Right now everyone wants to get on the ''Alameda bandwagon,'' but in addition to the fact that the real estate market is insane here and people can't seem to find available rentals, it is a better bet to look into other cities that have not been discovered yet where you won't spend hours commuting each way.

By the way, in terms of researching your potential commute, I don't know if you have looked at yet, but it has VERY accurate calculations of both driving and transit times. This is a great way to truly know what your commute would be like. Even better, when you come to look at neighborhoods, you should try to drive or take one of the transit routes to/from your workplace at commute time. Then you would have an idea of what it is really like.

I have one other suggestion, and that is to reach out to your new boss and find out where other of your future colleagues live and their relative commutes. That is often the best way to find this information. You might even get a lead on a place.

Look, it seems to be a common theme on BPN that people get their heart set on a community that speaks to them before they even get here. But the Bay Area is a big place, and there are many options on where to live. Personally, I would choose having a decent commute over the ''ideal'' town where I am stuck in traffic. Good luck with your move! Alamedan

There are pluses and minuses about every commute option to SFGH. If you live in the city and close to the hospital, the neighborhoods have crime. Not good for a family, but a zesty and interesting area.

If you live in the city in a nicer area, the commute can be loooong on MUNI, even if it is just several miles. Many areas would involve a long bus ride stopping every other block. Plus, the cost and public school situation in the city must be considered. So, you might end up driving across the city. If you live on the peninsula, the costs are high and the commute would also be long (if you lived further south), since the CalTrain station isn't that close to SFGH. San Bruno/Millbrae/San Mateo might be options.

If you live in the East Bay, you can get into the city easily on public transit (BART or AC Transit or Ferry) but SFGH has a big ''last mile'' problem as it isn't that close to BART or the ferry or the transbay bus terminal. I think you'd probably end up driving.

The drive from SFGH to Alameda is about 25 minutes without traffic (read: at 3 in the morning). The rest of the time, I'd plan for 30 minutes into the city and 1 hour home. On the way into the city, you can pick up casual carpoolers (strangers who get a free ride into the city) in exchange for getting to go in the carpool lane (no traffic) and a half price toll. Drop them off at the first off ramp in the city and then drive to SFGH. The way home can be brutal, and has been really bad since the economy picked up. The ''casual carpool'' isn't really an option going east, so you have to sit in traffic waiting to get on the Bay Bridge (and then sit in traffic once you actually are on the bridge.) We live in Alameda and I commute to an area near SFGH, and it is worth the hassle of the commute to live in lovely Alameda. But, prices are going up in Alameda so you might be wise to check out the mid-peninsula cities to see if they are a good fit, too.

A happy Alamedan (when not stuck in traffic on the east bound bay bridge)

You are correct, this commute is a recipe for disaster. I would suggest moving to San Francisco, if you can afford it, and trying to live in the Sunset or Lakeshore. If not, Daly City or even San Mateo or Burlingame would be an easier commute. Burlingame in particular has good public schools. Good Luck.
I have worked in SFGH for +5 years now and have many co-workers who live in the East Bay. Your commute really depends on what position you are in and what time you are starting. I am a registered nurse and we start early. Yes, there is traffic on the bridge during the week, people commute using BART to the 16th/Mission Station and then the Yellow free UCSF/SFGH shuttle, which runs from Monday-Friday. No shuttle on the weekends and Alameda does not have BART. Berkeley would be a better choice or around Lake Merritt. Parking around the hospital is hard and to get a parking card takes a long time, maybe over two years. You can park in the garage and pay $24 per day. If you work during the weekend as all RNs and MDs do, there is no traffic. If you have a regular 9-5 job and commute those hours are miserable. We live in SF with a child and it has been a great experience, a lot of things to do and I live 10 minutes from work. It is priceless. Krisztina

Commuting from Montclair to San Francisco

Sept 2013

I'm considering taking a job in downtown SF, and I live in Montclair. How difficult is it to park at the Rockridge or Orinda BART stations at 8 or 8:30 a.m.? From what I understand, the lots are full by 7:30. Is it hard to find spots on the street, and are there time limits that prevent commuters from parking in the surrounding neighborhoods? Would it be better to use MacArthur station instead? I've never commuted to the city before, but my impression is that the station parking lots get jammed up very early. What do late arrivers do? BART commuting newbie

Another option is the AC Transit Transbay service -- looks like the CB line runs from Montclair. I used to commute from Alameda to SF via AC Transit and it was a great option -- didn't worry about parking and always got a seat. I have noticed over the years that a lot of people don't think or know about this, so thought I would bring it up. Good luck in your decision! Former SF Commuter

Best times to commute by car from Berkeley to SF?

Aug 2011

It looks like I will soon be in a position where I need to drive from my home in Berkeley to my job in San Francisco (Civic Center) once a week for the forseeable future. I am trying to figure out how to make this as painless as possible, and am hoping other commuters out there can give me a few tips. [yes, I know all the public transit options -- I've done it for years and will continue to do so the other four days of the week!]

If I were to keep my current schedule on this car-commuting day, I would leave Berkeley (Ashby exit) around 8:20a, and leave SF to come home around 6p. I know these must be the worst possible commute times in terms of traffic. I'm sure something would have to shift, as I don't think I can get an 8 hour day in there with a crazy commute; but I'm also not sure how long the drive would actually take at those times. An hour? more? I'm also considering working a slightly different schedule when I do have to drive, in order to avoid the worst of the traffic. Is it better to shift to an earlier schedule, say 7:30a to 4:30p? Or should I go for a later day, like 10a to 7p? I'd love to hear what has worked for others out there. Thanks!! anon

I drive from Berkeley to SF at 9:10 - 9:30am once a week and it's not bad. Occasionally there's more traffic and it takes longer, but usually it's fine, just a few minutes (5-7) wait at the toll. One thing that helps is picking up commuters at one of the casual commute spots (, then you can sail through the toll and metering lights. Also, sometimes it helps to take 580 instead of 80.
If you must drive into SF during the am rush, the best way to do this is to pick up riders at one of the casual carpool sites. This enables you to use the carpool lane, so is faster, and the toll is reduced to $2.50. (Some riders contribute $1 each to the toll - it varies whether drivers demand this and/or riders offer.) You have to have a Fastrak to use this option. Riders are dropped off near the Fremont off-ramp, around Howard and Fremont. In the evening you are on your own - there is a pick-up spot downtown that allows you to use the car-pool only on-ramp, but it doesn't save much time unless you are starting out close to that point.

I've been doing this for almost 30 years - it's a great system. I'd be happy to answer questions. optimoms

If you need to commute in the morning during rush hour, I highly recommend you consider picking up some casual carpoolers:

I take it every morning from East Oakland and it takes about 20-30 minutes in the carpool lane (so fast!). I would never consider driving over the bridge in the morning without picking up carpoolers because there is NO WAY I want to sit in traffic!

Can't speak for the drive back as I take the transbay bus and I also live in Oakland, but there are casual carpoolers who ride back. Carpools rock!

My husband and I commuted from El Cerrito to Civic Center daily for about a year. I had to be at work at 8:00, so we were on the road earlier than you would be.

You will miss the worst of the 80 (the stretch past Berkeley) by getting on at Ashby, but you will still be subject to the toll plaza wait (10-20 minutes). We found that the best way to shorten our commute time was to pick-up a casual carpooler so that we could go around the toll plaza back-up. I'm not sure if there is a pick-up spot near Ashby, but it is worth looking into.

Coming back is often worse --- it routinely took us about 20-30 minutes to go from Civic Center to Ashby. The traffic starts at around 4:00 but lightens by 7:00. Sometime my husband would work late just so he could leave closer to 7:00 and get home faster.

Good luck. And I hope you have parking at Civic Center! civic center commuter

I have a similar commute. Best time to avoid traffic is to leave be at the toll plaza before 6:45am or after 10:10am. Return be on the bridge by 3:15 or after 7:10pm. Berkeley to Civic Center is an hour plus during commute times. Off commute it's 30-25 minutes.

Over the past three months the commute has become longer and there's a lot more traffic. I don't know what's going on because usually over the summer there's noticably less traffic. Fall/Winter is always the worst time of year for traffic. I can't imagine what's it's going to be like in a month or two. How I wish I could take public transit. ANON

To SF heavy traffic starts at 6:30 to 7:00AM ends by 10 AM From SF heavy traffic starts at 3:30PM to 4PM and ends by 6:30 to 7PM.

it takes less than 20 min from the Ashby ave on ramp to parking at UCSF Parnassus at 10:10 AM by motorcycle. not sure about the return elapsed time as I stop at the Zeitgeist on the way back.

go to sig and watch the traffic pattern for a few weeks after laborday Old Wise Guy

My husband commutes to SF and he leaves at 10 am to take advantage of lower bridge toll and easier traffic. Victoria

How to find a carpool from Berkeley to SF?

Jan 2011

Hello, I'd like to find a new or existing carpool for the Monday-Friday commute to San Francisco. I live in North Berkeley (near Zachary's on Solano Ave) and will be commuting to the Embarcadero/Montgomery area of Downtown SF. I'm happy to help pay for tolls, gas, parking etc. I can also meet up at various locations in the Berkeley/Albany/El Cerrito area. My work hours are generally about 9:30am to 6pm, but that schedule is fairly flexible. I've done casual carpool in the past, but looking for something more consistent. Thanks very much! -mark

Have you tried the casual carpool from North Berkeley BART? R.K. has a carpool-matching section. carpool fan

Commuting to SF from Berkeley as fast as possible

Aug 2010

I just got a new job and will be dropping my girls off on 7th st in Berkeley and commuting to SF. I want to get to my work in SF (near Embarcadero-California and Pine St) as fast as possible. If I drive, how long will the commute take me at 7 - 7:15 am (just me, no carpooler)? There are no parking passes left at the N. Berkeley Bart station which is close by to where I drop off. If I decide to Bart it, can I expect to find street parking close by the Bart at that time? Thank you! Never Done This Before

I bike through the N. Berkeley BART parking lot area nearly every morning, and usually if you get there before 8 am, it shouldn't be an issue to park. Also, check out AC Transit's transbay bus service. You may be able to park in west Berkeley and take one of the transbay lines into work (see which will get you to SF in as little as 20 min. Also, your SF employer should offer you a pre-tax commute benefit (typically in the form of a voucher or debit card that you can use for transit purchases). All SF employers with 20 or more employees are required by law to offer their employees a commuter benefits program (go to for more info). This can save you quite a bit of money on your transit costs. Good luck! -take bus or BART, don't drive
OK, this may not be workable for you, but the parking situation at the BART stations can indeed be tricky. I often bike to the BART stations, and I wonder if it would work for you to either go home and get your bike and return to the BART station or have your bike in the back of the car, park someplace in the neighborhood of the BART station, and bike to BART from there? I am lucky enough to be able to bike to work, and the only inconveniences I experience are bad weather for a short time during the year and having to wear bike-friendly clothing. Which is not a biggie for me, since I have extreme flexibility about work attire. But biking is definitely a good thing generally! gear-head
The North Berkeley BART lot typically has daily parking available for $1 per day, without a special permit, until close to 8:00. If you can get there before 7:30 I doubt you would have a problem finding parking in the lot. Street parking is often also available, although it will be several blocks away, since you need a residential permit to park within several blocks of the station. I ride BART most days, and I only have to use street parking if I arrive after 8:00 and before 10:00 and forget to buy an advance daily permit. anon
I commuted to SF from North Berkeley BART (mostly using casual carpool, but sometimes BART) for over a year, and never had any trouble finding a parking place even at 8:30 or so. I would park on Lincoln east of Sacramento -- no permits on that block. But if worse came to worst, I could always check on the east side of Sacramento across from the BART station or on the street behind the station. Both those places are permit-free. I recommend you do a reconnaissance mission to check out the permit-less streets, but I do think it's very doable. Much better than driving to the city! There is traffic already at that hour. (But you could pick up carpoolers at N. Berkeley BART?) Good luck!
One easy solution is to take AC Transit transbay buses. Two lines (the FS and the G) stop at 6th and University. The trip, even during commute hours, is about 15-20 minutes. You'd have to walk from the temporary Transbay Terminal in SF to Embarcadero, but it's not far. AC Transit Transbay buses are almost always a very pleasant commuting experience. Transbay bus fan

Commuting by car from SF to Berkeley

Jan 2010

I may have to commute from San Francisco to Berkeley for the next 3 years. I've heard the reverse commute through the bridge is not as bad, but I'd like to know the average time I should expect either way on an average day. Any input is appreciated. Bay Bridge commuter

I think the commute will obviously depend on where in the city you are coming from and where in Berkeley you are going to, but I have a colleague who carpools from Hayes Valley in SF to our office in Emeryville and she says it pretty reliably takes 25 minutes in the morning and about 45 minutes in the evening to get home (but that's with carpool -- could be worse if you are driving alone). Good luck! Alissa
Recently I started commuting from Bernal Heights (SF) to Berkeley with two children. Fun. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get into Berkeley, and 30 to 45 to get home in the evening. I use the car pool lane on the return trip because I have the kids- if I encounter traffic, it's usually once I get into SF from the Bridge because cars are merging onto 101 from downtown. (Does that make sense?) It's Not So Bad
I've commuted from SF to Berkeley for almost 3 years now and it's the easiest commute I've ever dealt with. It takes me about 17 minutes door to door, but I also speed and know all the freeway entrances in SF. Of course, the only times I had a problem was both times they closed the Bay bridge. I live in Pacific Heights so I literally shoot down Broadway (through the Broadway tunnel) take a right on the Embarcadero and then a right on Bryant (which is a carpool entrance but only from 4-7pm so no one even knows they can use it! :) All in all, I really don't think you'll dislike this commute. Good luck and Happy New Year! Gwen
I posted earlier about my commute with the two and four year old car poolers- it actually takes 30-35 minutes to get home to SF in the afternoon- a bit shorter than what I'd written originally! Every Minute Counts
The commute to the East Bay in the am and back to SF in the pm is much better than the other way around. At 8am it takes me 45 min door to door, my final destination being North Berkeley, and most of that time is spent sitting in traffic on University Ave. At 7pm the average door to door is 1 hour, but it has taken me up to 2 hours. Particularly on Friday nights and most recently with all the construction on the bay bridge. I recommend getting a Fastrak because without one you can easily tack on another 30-45 min to your commute in the pm. Stephanie
To the person who posted that the biggest part of her SF- Berkeley commute was on University Ave - you need to take an alternate route to North Berkeley! Marin is pretty fast (take the Buchanan St exit). Gilman isn't bad in that direction in the morning. And you could even get off at University and take the Frontage Road to Cedar. University is terrible, I agree! (Another alternative is taking University, turning left at Sacramento and right at Hearst.) Alexandra

Commuting from SF to UC Berkeley

Feb 2007

I might be doing my master's at Berkeley starting this fall. We live in the city, currently w/o a car. I am planning to get one, but I am scared of the commute to school. Am I insane to consider this? Will I spend my day in traffic. MCPM

All the students I know who commute from SF to Cal take public transportation. If you listen to the radio in the morning they tell us about all the accidents and tie-ups on various highways and then they almost always end with ''And BART has fifty-five (or whatever number) trains running on time.'' I know that not every neighborhood in SF is equally accessible via public transportation, but the university also offers deals on transit passes for the busses.

That said, you probably will be commuting against traffic in your car.

Good luck. public transport to the city

You don't say where in SF you live, which makes a big difference. But even if you have to get Muni to BART from where you are now, I'd say you're crazy to think about driving every day -- I'm guessing the master's program wouldn't be longer than a couple of years.

It's also obviously going to make a difference how many days you have to go in, but you should seriously consider using BART as your main way of getting in.

I commuted 2-3 times a week for a year from Noe Valley, which in SF meant either one Muni metro car, a bus and metro, or a long walk to BART. And then I had a hike up to the east side of campus. It wasn't that bad -- I got reading done on the commute in and some fresh air on the walk. And when I did occasionally borrow a friend's car to drive over, even the reverse commute in was a pain and coming back was SLOOOOW if I left after 3:30 p.m. -- and then I had to pay parking and bridge toll on top of that.

Nextbus ( or also makes taking Muni easier.

Good luck deciding! Happpy commuter

Don't do it. The commute to Berkeley is a reverse commute and shouldn't be too bad (though Bay Bridge work will present some problems in the next couple of years). But parking is impossible around campus, and expensive if you buy a reserved spot. Take BART or the AC Transit Transbay bus. You'll be glad you chose not to drive. Michael
I don't know where in San Francisco you live, but unless there's some really persuasive reason not to take BART (like I dunno . . . you have to carry lots of heay awkward equipment for your program? You'd often be at the library until after midnight? You have complex disability issues not noted in your post?), it's what I'd recommend. I lived in SF and took BART to Cal throughout my undergrad career, and found it great. You can study on the train (unlike driving, which is basically wasted time), and even in the most horrible weather, campus is a reasonable walk from dowtown. Or, you can always take the bus a few blocks.

I now live in Berkeley and BART to work in SF, and the few times I've had to drive really regretted it. Our transi system may pale in comparison to those of real cities like New York or London, but for getting from SF to Cal, it'll do ya just fine. BART evangelist

The commute from SF to Berkeley isn't so bad -- as long as you have somewhere to park. It's a ''reverse'' commute, so there tends to be less traffic heading that way during peak times. Also, depending on where you live in the city -- public transportation is great! When I was doing the school commute into SF from Berkley (to USF), I took BART and a bus and usually arrived within 45 minutes if I timed it right. Plus, when you're not driving -- you have time to read, study, zone out, etc.! Good luck!
Yes that is crazy. The traffic you will be sitting in is not so much on the bridge as circling the campus looking for parking, or else paying so much for parking that you will wish you were renting an apartment. Take Bart or the F bus. anon
You did not say why you are not thinking of BART but it works very well for the students I know. They use the car sometimes but usually just take the BART. Commuter
Cal is literally a block away from the Downtown Berkeley bart station. Try BART and see how it goes. Good luck! Ann
I did the reverse of your commute for four years when I lived in North Berkeley near Rose and Milvia. I took the N. Berkeley BART to USF for 2 years, then to UCSF for another 2 years. I used the N Judah to and from BART in the City. I found the commute to be easy and about one hour each way. It was quite rare for there to be delays on either system, but that depends on which MUNI you take, of course.

On the Berkeley side, the Downtown Berkeley BART is just a block from the west edge of UCB Campus. Now I work on campus where the parking is expensive and I hear a lot of complaints about availability. I have several coworkers who commute from San Francisco via mass transit... and have done so for years.

So you are NOT insane to commute, use BART, catch up on reading, take a snooze, and you won't have to worry about bridge traffic. Former Berkeley -SF commuter

Are you anywhere near a BART station? Or can you get to one without too much trouble? If so, I'd strongly suggest taking BART to UC. It's not so much the commute I'd worry about as the parking; parking is exceptionally tight here, and not cheap either. Karen
Do you live close to a BART station? Or can you take a bus to one? If so, you can commute to Berkeley by BART. The campus is very close to BART and shuttle buses can take you to the top of campus (I think) if that is where your department is. There may also be some vanpools from the City to Cal. anon.
Sure, if you want to stay in SF, you can do it. I went thru the Berkeley MCP program while living on the western edge of SF, without a car. Your best bet is to rely on MUNI/BART. More time for studying. It's a bit of a hike to DCRP once you get to Berkeley, but it's doable. Bringing a bike on BART could be an option if you can get class times that coincide with BART bike hours. Driving shouldn't be too bad, since it will be a reverse commute during off-hours, but parking in Berkeley will be a big problem. Go the public transit route whenever possible. dr

Commuting from Oakland to the Civic Center

Jan 2004

I am soon to change jobs and one of the downsides is I will no longer be able to easily commute by bus. I live in Crocker Highlands and will be commuting to Civic Center are in SF at the height of commute times (need to get there at 8:30-9, leave at 5). BART is over a 2-mile walk so the realistic options seem limited to driving and picking up carpoolers or driving to West Oakland BART, parking there, and Barting to/from office. The latter sounds more appealing but I am wondering how late I can get to West Oakland BART and still find a spot to park in one of the adjacent paid lots - anyone have any idea if I can get there at 8:15 and still park anywhere near the station? Anyone have any other ideas (shifting my work hours is not an option)? Thanks very much for your recommendations and advice.

My experiece with West Oakland Bart is that you can always find a spot in the paid parking lot ($5.00/day last year). If you get there early enough you may find a spot in the Bart parking lot. However ''early'' means really early (before 7 am) since spots are limited for the non-reserved parking area and they fill up very fast!

Often times, there are some street parking spots available but you have to be careful with the street signs for time limits and sweeping schedules. This is not the best of neighborhoods so be careful if you think you'll be getting out of work late. The streets are also not well lit if it gets dark, this is especially true for the latter part of fall and throughout winter. You also get the impression that if you screamed for help doors and windows would get shut. My husband does not like it when I run late and requests that I call him to come drive me the 3-4 blocks to my car if it's already dark. As for driving into the city: the parking lot at Civic Center can get expensive for the day. There are monthly plans available, but there is usually a LONG wait list for those spots. Another option, if you don't want to deal with the hassel of finding parking at either location, is to share a casual carpool ride or set up a regular carpool with people having a similar commute. Here are a few websites that might help:
Good Luck! EBay commuter

I work close to Civic Center and also live in Crocker Highlands. I normally drive to Rockridge BART station, arrive by 7am to get a parking spot (unless you want to pay for your spot in which case you don't have to get there by 7am) and take the train into the City. My neighbor previously used casual carpool but since most commuters work downtown/financial district, would have to then take MUNI/BART to Civic Center and with the commute home would take a bus from BART back home (too much for me with 2 kids!) Hope this is a good alternative for you or that you find one that works for you! Eileen
My partner commutes to SF every day via BART, and frequently drives to West Oakland and parks there. She generally gets there between 8 and 9 am and never parks in the lots, but has always been able to find street parking within several blocks of the station. The side of the street where the station is located is almost always parked up, but if you cross 7th and go into the surrounding neighborhoods, there is usually parking there. She's never had a problem parking in the year plus that she's been doing it. Hope that helps!

Another idea is casual carpool, at least for the way there. Alayna

The casual carpool system at Norht Berkeley BART has rides at the front of the car line for Civic Center. Sometimes drivers even have a sign saying that, as opposed to the rest of the cars that go to Fremont and Howard. Park your car in the neighborhood, walk a few blocks to BART, and have a nice (and free) ride. It's a great system. Casual carpool supporter

Commuting from Crocker Hghlnds to SF

Jan 2004

My husband works in SF and has been taking the express bus on Park Blvd. to work for almost the past year. Lately it has been very unreliable, sometimes causing him to be late to work by at least a half hour. He needs to find a more reliable way to get to and from SF and was wondering how others are commuting from the Crocker Highlands area. We only have one car so driving isn't an option. We live near the Trestle Glen, Grovesnor intersection. Thanks!
Wife of an Unhappy Crocker Commuter

we live in glenview, and for three years my husband has been riding into the city via the nifty carpool pick-up system at park and hampel. as a passenger, he simply stands in line, hops into one of the waiting cars along with one other passenger and the driver, and off they go. the system is reciprocal for both the driver, who can drive in the high- occupancy vehicle lane, and for the riders who get a free ride into the city. the drop-off point is harrison and first, but sometimes a familiar driver will offer to drop him off closer to his destination. over the years, my husband has enjoyed meeting new people, test-riding a wide spectrum of cars, and saving money. he's also never been late to work once in the three years he's done this. wife of carpool rider
Right across the street from the Park Avenue/Lakeshore bus stop is the ''informal'' carpool pickup. There are always cars waiting for riders, which eliminates the wait for a bus. Riders get dropped off at the SF bus terminal. I have occasionally picked up riders at this spot when I go into the City, and was a regular rider years ago when we lived in Berkeley without a car. It is a great system. Another option would be for your husband to take a bus to one of the BART stations. I live in your neighborhood, and there are several bus routes to MacArthur, 12th/14th Street or Lake Merritt BART stations. Charlotte

Commuting from Redwood Hgts. to the Financial District

March 2003

Am looking for suggestions for commuting from Redwood Heights neighborhood to financial district in SF. Can leave home at approx. 7:30 am earliest. Am told that parking at Rockridge BART station is full by that hour. Fruitvale BART station is not a viable option due to safety issues, primarily in the evenings. Any other ideas? Thanks in advance.

I've commuted for years to the financial district by using the casual carpool at Fruitvale and Montana (next to Longs) in the morning and taking the express NF bus home. You can drive to the free parking lots right under the freeway (580) at the Fruitvale exit (from Redwood Heights take Coolidge St. exit and continue on exit which goes straight to it). This is the least expensive way to commute, I think. The casual carpool is free and a ten ride bus pass is $26.00 for 10 rides. The NF bus goes directly from Transbay Terminal at First & Mission (one block from Market) to its first stop at the parking lots at the Fruitvale exit. It takes about 20 minutes max, unless there are accidents which doesn't happen all that often. Carol
Try the casual carpool! I live in Redwood Heights, too, and I usually pick it up near the Fruitvale Longs, where there's a park-and-ride lot (there's also a pick-up spot on High St. at MacArthur and two on Park Blvd., one near Hampel and one near Hollywood; you can get a list of others at ge=2). The carpool will take you right to the Trans-Bay Terminal near 1st and Mission, though most drivers will take you farther than that if you're going in their direction. You then take the bus home from the terminal -- there are several that can drop you near where you parked, and they run every 20 minutes or so until about 7 p.m. You can pick up a schedule at the terminal. Good luck! (P.S. Any other Redwood Heights commuters interested in trying to establish a pick-up spot of our own?) Leah
If you can walk down the hill to High & MacArthur, you can take the ''N'' line into SF in less than half an hour. The link below shows a 7:38AM NF bus arriving at the Transbay Terminal at 8:03; a 7:45AM NH bus arriving at 8:07; a 7:46 NG bus arriving at 8:15; and a 7:53 NF bus arriving at 8:18AM.

It'S $3 a trip, but you can buy a 10-ride booklet for $26 or a monthly pass for $85. Some folks do casual carpool into the city and take the bus back (personally, I'd have someone pick me up to drive me back up the hill!). You can also use the TransitInfo website to find buses closer to your exact location. Transbay buses *rock*--it's the easiest, fastest, cheapest way into the City for me.

Good luck! Jennie Van Heuit eggplant [at]

AC Transit runs a number of Transbay buses from the MacArthur Blvd. area into the city. Go to, click on ''Plan my trip,'' and you can enter your origin and destination to get the best transit options. You can email me if you have any questions. Michael
I too commute from Redwood Heights to SF and can't leave the house until 7:30a.m. I usually park in the neighborhood around Rockridge Bart. If you look, there are several streets within a 3-7 minute walk that do not have restrictions on parking (other than street sweeping). Try one of the streets just off College Ave, which is well lit at night. Another option is to take the bus to the Fruitvale Bart station. There is a bus that goes down 35th that runs every 10 minutes or so in the morning. (I have to admit though, that when I used this option, I always made my husband pick me up at Rockrigde Bart in the evening as I did not like going to Fruitvale Bart at night.) OR, try driving to Park Blvd and take the casual carpool from the Park/Trestle Glen area, then take an AC Transit bus back in the evenings. Several of my neighbors rave about this option, although I've never tried it.... anon
I don't have a specific recommendation, but I do have a good resource -- the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's transit planning website. Go to and then push the button that says ''plan your trip.'' It works like mapquest or yahoo maps -- you plug in your starting point and your ending point, the maximum you're willing to walk, and the time you need to arrive and it gives you various transit options. I use it a lot, and while the first option isn't always the best, if you cycle through the different choices by hitting ''next best alternative'' I often find that taking transit is easier and faster than I would have expected. It gives you exact schedule times, fares, etc. -- very user friendly. Dashka
For commuting to SF from Oakland hills nothing beats the casual carpool / AC Transit combo. Everybody wins! You get a free ride to the city, and the driver gets to take advantage of the carpool lane on the bridge.

In the morning you hook up with a driver who drops you off at Howard and Fremont. On the way back you catch a cushy super size bus at Transbay Terminal (perfect chance to read a little or take a nap). Bus tickets are $3 each or $26 for 10 rides.

The link below details all of the official stops. Most are on AC transit lines. The Lakeshore/Grand spot offers all day metered parking and street parking is available in some areas.
Casual Carpool Stops AC Transit Trip Planner

I recommend the casual carpool pickup by the Longs Drugs in the Dimond District. You park for free in one of two lots located under 580. There is almost always a line of cars waiting for riders and it takes 15 - 30 minutes depending on traffic. The closer to 7:30 you get down there the faster the trip in to SF. Traffic gets heavier around 8:00. You can easily take the AC Transit NF from the Transbay Terminal back to the carpool pickup at the end of the day. Have been doing this for 5 years and it's very easy. lmor
In response to the question about commuting to SF Financial District from Redwood Heights: I recommend driving to Park Blvd and Hollywood (block from the CC Catholic Church) and picking up the casual carpool into S.F. The carpool will drop you at the bus terminal a block from Market Street on Fremont. To get home, take the ''V'' AC Transit bus that goes directly from the bus terminal to Park Blvd and up Park to Montclair. There is a stop where you will have caught the bus. I've been doing it for years and it works beautifully if you are traveling during general commute hours. Lori
My husband and I use the casual carpool in Piedmont. You drive to Oakland Ave., 2 blocks south of Highland, to the carpool sign. You park along Oakland Ave. and stand in line. Cars line up and 2 people jump in each car. You will be dropped off at the corner of Howard/Fremont streets unless the driver is heading straight across Market and your office is that way. You pay nothing to the driver. You then take the A/C transit bus ''P'' from the main bus terminal on Mission St. back to Piedmont at a cost of $2.20 (you can buy a book of tickets). It stops every few blocks on Oakland Ave. Last bus leaves SF at 7:30pm. This is a great way to commute and it is half the price of BART. Kris
You can take the AC Transit ''V'' bus from many stops on Park Boulevard in Oakland. Parking is free all day - sometimes tough to find since MANY people do this. I think monthly bus passes run around $60-70. The bus goes straight to 1st and Mission - about 25-30 minutes each way. THE BEST. (Or, there are Casual Carpool pick up locations on Park Blvd as well.) Best of luck. East Bay Mom

Commuting between SF & Other Cities

Commuting from Kensington to SF

July 2010

I will be commuting to SF starting in August with a new job and need on advice on the best way to go since we just moved here. I will drop my daughters at preschool in Kensington at 8 am. Then I can either drive in, casual carpool in or drive to the nearest BART which I think is El Cerrito and park the car and BART in. Does anyone have experience with how long the commute takes at this time driving solo, driving in a carpool or taking the BART (factoring in finding a parking space, etc). I am most concerned with time not money as once I get into the city I have free parking. My work is close to Embarcadero. If I drop them off at 8, will I be able to get to my job on time at 9? Thanks! Stephanie

The AC Transit bus rocks. Clean, fast, nice views. It cuts a good 20 minutes off of my door-to-door commute compared to BART. You could park your car somewhere along the line all day for free. If you're dropping your daughter in Kensington, you might want to look into the H line, which has stops up and down Arlington, or the G line, which I believe goes up Colusa toward the circle. Only problem is that it only stops at the Transbay Terminal (Mission and Fremont) in SF, so you may have to take local transport once in the city to get to where you're going. Happy Bus Commuter
Dear commuter, You want to get a monthly BART parking pass ($63/month) from to post in your car - that allows you to park in the ''before 10 am'' spots at El Cerrito BART or at N. Berkeley BART(where there is a casual carpool). Then you get a Clipper pass, which gives you a fast entry to BART, works on SF transit as well, and automatically refills your BART card (never again stand at a BART machine). THEN you can drop your children off in Kensington, drive to the BART station of your choice, casual carpool to SF, and take BART back to your parked car. Happy travels fellow commuter
I currently drop my kids off at day care in El Cerrito and take BART (from the El Cerrito Plaza station) to the Embarcadero station. Parking at the BART station isn't a problem and I make it to work before 9am. In the fall I will also be dropping my older daughter at pre-school in Kensington around 8am and I don't see my commute changing too much. If you're quick, you can make the 8:11 train (transfering @ MacArthur) and be at Embarcadero by 8:40 or you can take the 8:19 (direct) and be at Embarcadero by 8:47. Good luck! Emma
Congratulations on your new job. I live in Kensington and work in SF, near the Ball Park. I catch the AC Transit bus from Arlington Ave and it goes directly to the Transbay Terminal, which is about 10-20 min walk from the Embarcadero (depending where you are on the Embarcadero). You will need to get the H bus, which runs along Arlington and through Berkeley. You can park somewhere close to Arlington and catch the bus from there. The bus is actually cheaper than BART. Go to for more details. Fellow commuter
The BART lots tend to fill up by 8:00, but if I were you I would buy a monthly parking pass for either the El Cerrito Plaza or El Cerrito Del Norte BART station. That would guarantee you parking until 10:00 for a relatively low charge ($62 for the Plaza station and $43 for the Del Norte station.) The Bay Bridge at the time of day you're traveling would not be a reliable choice for getting to the Embarcadero by 9:00. Daily commuter
Hello- I take AC Transit Transbay bus which takes you directly to the SF Bus Terminal. I almost always get a seat and it is very comfortable. It is also WIFI capable. I found BART to be overcrowded and I couldn't use my cell phone. Check out the G or H bus @ website. Good luck! Shari
I would recommend Bart if you are close to embarcadero. Driving would be cutting it close once the summer is over. With the s-curve on the bridge, I find that it is slow many days even if you picked up a casual carpool. You could also check as soon as you left childcare and see if you should take Bart or drive depending on the backup on the bridge. Commuter

Rent SF apt. instead of 1-hour commute each way?

May 2010

I currently live five minutes from my job and have two young children that are cared for at home with a nanny. I will soon transition to another job where I will have a one-hour commute to work and my hours will be much longer (kids would be with nanny an extra 15 hours!) My husband is amazingly supportive and would be in charge of both morning and afternoon transitions (which he is totally willing to do) but I had a bright (or foolish) idea . . . what if I rented a studio apartment close to work (San Francisco) and then I could still do the pick-ups and drop-offs and actually see my children during the week (which of course would mean that my husband wouldn't be able to see much of them during the week but he's a full-time graduate student in addition to working full time so . . . ) Is this crazy? Why should or shouldn't I do this? I love and adore my husband so it has nothing to do with his capacity or willingness. I've just been the child care manager for so long . . . reluctant commuter

For the price of a crappy studio apartment in SF, you could hire a housecleaner and a personal chef to come by once or twice a week which would simplify your life far more than an apartment in SF. Given you husband's full schedule, it might make sense at this point to find a nanny who can get herself to your house and drive the kids wherever they need to be (rather than have your husband handle pick ups and drop offs.) Commuting mom

Commuting to SF from Piedmont vs. from Orinda

Feb 2006

We are considering moving to either Piedmont or Orinda. I work at San Francisco. How is the commute in the morning and evening? Which one is better, Piedmont or Orinda? What's the best way--driving, bart, carpool, bus(if there's any)? Lisa

Piedmont (where I live now) and Orinda (where I've spent a lot of time in a living-there sort of way) are both great communities. But after experiencing both, I find Piedmont a much easier place to live.

If you're going to drive to SF every day, Peidmont is much easier. Where you get on the highway in Piedmont is one of the last exits before the Bay Bridge, versus Oridna, where you have to suffer through getting through the Caldecott Tunnel and snailing through 24.

But Piedmont also has a great casual carpool going, so if you're going to work in downtown SF you can just catch a ride with fellow Piedmonters and speed right through all the bridge traffic as the car pool lane starts right after the Piedmont highway onramp. Downtown SF in about 15 minutes by carpool.

And for coming home there's a bus that goes straight from downtown SF to Piedmont.

If you want to BART you can buy a parking space at the Rockridge BART station only about a mile from Piedmont.

In contrast, Orinda has it's own BART, though the lot fills up around 9amish. And their carpool shares the same negative as just regular commuting as the carpool lane is far, far from Orinda, so you crawl through a lot of traffic before you get the benefits.

Aside from that, in Oridna you're going to drive EVERYWHERE, and it's kind of a pain because you're sort of out there. In Piedmont, it's 15 minutes to downtown SF (off coummute hours), 15 minutes to the Oakland airport, 10 minutes to the huge shops/malls/theatres of Emeryville, and you can walk to the park, schools, town center, Piedmont Avenue....Let's just say that in Oridna you're always getting on that highway again, and in Piedmont it's like everything you need is right down the street.

But both towns are full of friendly, interesting people, so you can't really go wrong either way. Andrea

Unless you are going to live walking distance from the Orinda BART station, I'd say Piedmont is easier. Getting through that tunnel at rush hour is just brutal. If possible, take the Transbay bus from Piedmont - I used to take it from Montclair to downtown SF and it was wonderful - plush, clean seats (and plenty of them, unlike on BART), many stops so there was one walking distance from my house, and you get dropped off near the Financial District in SF. A lot of days I did the casual carpool to SF in the morning and the bus home. You can find great bus (and other transit) info at - try their TripPlanner at JP
Hi- My husband commutes from Piedmont to San Francisco every day (we are at the Piedmont/Oakland Border area). He takes the Transbay bus (line C or P), and says that is the best way (as long as you are communting between (5:30-8:30 ish in the am & 4:00-7:30 ish in the pm). Go to for specific schedules. Average commute time 30 minutes, but it can vary as traffic varies (both am/pm commutes). We've lived in the Piedmont area for many many years now, so I think we are partial to it. We looked into Orinda when we were house- hunting, very lovely area, but if I recall correctly our main reason was that it would add to hubby's commute time (if that it a consideration). From there I believe it's Bart. I'm sure you'll get some responses from people in the Orinda area! a satisfied piedmont commuter family
I can't speak for Orinda (other than knowing that BART goes there), but Piedmont, depending on where you live, has casual carpool options as well as AC Transit trans-bay bus service. Whether those would work for you depends on where in the city you work. For driving, Piedmont is cleary better, since you only have to deal with the bridge, and not the tunnel.

Check out for various commute options. A transportation geek :)