Advice about Commuting to San Francisco

Questions & Responses:
BART Alternatives for SF Commute(7 responses)
Commuting to downtown San Francisco from Alameda(2 responses)
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Questions

Considering leaving SF for the East Bay - how is your commute?

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 Pleasanton. I'm not at all familiar with these areas, just going on recommendations from other SAHMs 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) http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/ . 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: http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/ 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] gmail.com 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: http://www.sfpublicmontessori.org/location-contact 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


Moving for a job at SF General Hospital - where to live?

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 appear 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 511.org 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


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