Commuting between the East Bay & Davis/Sacramento

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Commuting on Amtrak

Dec 2012

Re: Oakland/Piedmont to Santa Clara Commute?
I commute on Amtrak between Davis and Berkeley. It is true that a single ride ticket is expensive, but I get 10-ride tickets that are much less ($13.40 vs. $22) and there are monthly passes that are even less if you go in every day. (I don't, so the 10-ride is best for me.)

Look on the Amtrak website for ''multi-ride tickets'' and it will quote you the prices for 10-ride tickets and monthly passes. Not sure which stations exactly your husband will be using, but Oakland Coliseum to Santa Clara is $98 for a 10-ride ticket and $256 for a monthly pass.

I have to say, I love commuting on the train. They have wireless so I can work or I can just read and relax. And I bring my bike on the train to make commuting on either end easier.

One more thing: you can get two transfers for every train ride (just ask when the conductor takes your ticket), so if he needs to take a bus on either end, he can use those. Or sometimes I just save them and take my 4-year old to ride the bus. Love Amtrak!

Commuting from Oakland to Davis for PhD program

Feb 2012

My family lives in Oakland. My partner has been accepted at into a PhD program at UC Davis. We own a house, I work in Berkeley, and we are planning to send our child to the local public school for K in the fall so relocating the whole family is not really an option.

I am looking for advice from other parents about experience of parenting and/or commuting while in grad school. I am older than my partner and I was single/childless when I was in school and I lived near campus. Has anyone else done something like this?

It is a long commute from our home to Davis but if she takes public transit she expects to work on the train. Our child is used to me being around the most as she often works late and has been a student and/or teacher with evening classes before.

Should she plan to commute every day and get a hotel room when needed? see if she can rent a room 2-3 nights a week? have an apartment there? Other ideas? supportive partner trying to problem solve

That commute will be tough. I am in Davis now, where I followed my husband for his five-year PhD program at UCD. He is in chemistry and is expected to put in a 60-hour work week in his lab (it is a research degree). Commuting was not an option.

I know another PhD chemistry student who tried to commute from Berkeley daily, and I believe he gave up and took a cheap room for the weekdays, going home on weekends. The train is $44 round trip, so the math and the exhaustion factor pushed him into staying up here weeknights.

Maybe your partner's program will not be as demanding. Maybe it will work for her to use her train time. Maybe she doesn't need to come to Davis 5-7 days/week like my husband would have.

It is too bad you can't move up here--the schools are some of the best in the state, and the cost of living is much lower.

Overall, it has been difficult during my husband's program. It's very demanding and there are many days he doesn't see our son at all. We are 1.5 years into it. For us, it's worth it. I have enjoyed living in Davis, and my husband's degree will help him earn a lot more when he graduates than he was in his previous profession. But make no mistake, this is an all-family effort. counting down

The commute is entirely do-able, but it requires a great deal of organization, planning, and on-the-ground support back in Berkeley. I am a UCD faculty member who lives in Berkeley, owns a home here, and commutes to Davis several times a week. I am also a parent of a 3.5 year old, so I think my experience may be a good match for your partner's situation. The first thing is that it depends a lot on what field your partner is in. If s/he is in the social sciences or the humanities, then it can work fine. If s/he is in the sciences, I don't think it would work because the scientists are in their labs all the time. There are many faculty members who live in the East Bay and commute to Davis (of my own department, between 1/4 and 1/3 of a faculty of about 35 live in East Bay), and a goodly number of grad students who do it too, but it tends to be those of us who do our work in libraries or home offices. I don't know any lab-type scientists at UCD who don't live in Davis. For the nuts and bolts of commuting as a parent with a small child, there's too much to say to write it all out. Fee free to contact me by email and we can arrange to talk. Katie

Congrats on your partner getting accepted at UCD! Commuting to Davis is definitely do-able. I commute there from the Walnut Creek area. The first couple of years involved a lot more commuting (up to 4 days a week at one point) due to coursework and TAships. Once I finished coursework, I only had to commute twice a week to T.A. and I would schedule meetings with my advisors on the days I planned to be in Davis. I'm also lucky because people are willing to do lab meetings, etc. by Skype.

Things to keep in mind are that your partner may miss out on the social aspect of a Ph.D. program. I do sometimes feel like I'm in my own little bubble while it seems like everyone in Davis sees one another on a regular basis, checking in, supporting one another with their writing, etc. I definitely have to be proactive in reaching out by phone and email to give and get that support.

Also, there are MANY times when there is something happening on campus that I would love to attend (workshops, talks, etc.) and I just can't do it because of the long commute and because I only have childcare for certain days of the week. This may not be as big a problem for your partner if s/he is not the primary source of childcare.

At first, I considered getting a hotel room in Davis like you mentioned, but to be honest, I always felt like I'd rather be at home, despite the long drive. Plus, there aren't really cheap options for hotels in Davis. (I never found rates for less than $100/night when I wanted to stay overnight.)

It's not impossible to commute to Davis, although it's a very different experience from living near campus. I wish there was a way to give you my email address without making it public because I'd be happy to answer any other questions you have. If you're allowed to get it from the moderator, feel free to contact me! PhD Candidate Mom

I commuted an hour each way throughout grad school. It is much more manageable than commuting for work. Probably your partner can arrange classes for just 2-3 days/week, and after a couple years, even less. I never rented a room, but for one semester when I was pregnant and took an evening class, my friends let me sleep at their place once/week. My only regret is that I didn't go to more ''optional'' things, like dept colloquia, etc. If it wasn't a day that I was scheduled to be on campus, it was always--wow, is it worth two hours of driving to go to that? But those events are very important for forming ties with faculty, establishing oneself, and hearing about what is going on in the field. So I suggest your partner find out when those events are usually scheduled and plan to take classes on the same day. Or, decide to take classes twice/week and go once/week for events/office hrs/coffee with fellow students, etc. Best wishes

I was in a very similar circumstance. I myself commuted to Sacramento from Alameda for 3 yrs while I was in a grad school like program (fellowship). The good thing was that it was a reverse commute. I came back every evening--got home by 7:30 pm usually, left home at 6 am or 6:30 to get to work by 8am. Some nights I had a late class and would be home at 10pm, but even on those days, I wanted to come home, to sleep in my own bed. It is definitely doable, ESP if it's for a finite period of time. I listened to lots of books on tape (now it can be iPod stuff) and caught up on the phone with lots of people. Be prepared though for your partner not to be able to do much in the way of chores around the house if they do this commute. From Davis it was even shorter than into Sac so their commute might not be as bad in the am. In the pm, rush hour in 2 places-- 80 interchange near Berkeley and across the causeway from sac to Davis. 680 is much better for the commute, in my opinion if that works at all. Good luck and congrats to your partner! Used to be Long distance commuter

My partner has commuted two days a week to Davis for years now. It makes for long days, but it's manageable. We know the days that I'll be solo with the kids till 6 or 7 and just plan for it. I've known people to commute from Oakland to UCD on the train - it's good focused work time and classes are often two days/week at most, so you can probably get away with two long days/week, perhaps three at the peak, with some useful time (and a nice ride) getting there and back. work that commute

Commuting to the East Bay from Davis

June 2007

I am frustrated with the schools in Oakland, and really want to consider a move to Davis to have better schools for my children. I can transfer my employment to Sacramento. My partner has a great job at UC Berkeley, and understandably does not want to give it up. Can anyone give us feedback about having lived in Davis and commuted to the East bay? How long did it take each day? Was it worth it? Any recommendations about whether to consider such an arrangement? Considering a move

I'm sure others will have more real experience. I just took the Amtrack (Capitol Corridor) to Sacramento, train stops in Davis. It was great. Very leisurely, not too slow, and I got a lot of work done. Think if you buy tickets in advance you can get a discount. Anon

One word - Amtrak. Take the train to the Berkeley station, then take the 51 up University to campus. Not fast, but oh so nice. anon

Hi. My husband commuted from Davis to Berkeley (very close to campus) for several years. It is doable, either by Amtrak plus BART or by car (and there is a shuttle that runs between UCD and UCB). It is nice if it works out to not commute at least some days each week. The days are long, it takes over an hour to commute each way and traffic can be bad. Amtrak can be great but it can also be unreliable. We loved life in Davis but the commute took a steady toll in the end. It became exhausting for my husband to commute such a long distance and try to make it home for our family time. We would have been happy to stay in Davis but not with the long commute. fan of Davis

My husband does this commute and it's terrible for us. He works in W. Berkeley (exit University) and spends at least 4 hours a day in his car. Sometimes more. It's so bad that we have our house for sale and are planning to move closer to the bay area (where we will rent a much smaller house). From Berkeley to the bridge is stop-and-go, and traffic through Fairfield is also very bad - usually many accidents because people drive crazy through the 680-12-80 merges.

About Davis: Davis is a very nice town with excellent schools. It has a lot of great activities for kids and a wonderful farmer's market Saturday in Central Park. I would recommend attending this to get a feel for the town. It is very hot here in the summer. We have been running our AC since April, no joke. Last summer we had two weeks where it never went below 110 degrees. My PGE bill was over $500. Davis has a similar (much smaller) group like this called mom's circle Davis - a yahoo group. It is very liberal here, they call it Berkeley East. You would probably be in the minority if you are not a super-AP type.

There is also an Amtrak station here and a stop in Berkeley. Even with all the perks of Davis, we will move ASAP. The commute is taking a toll on our family life. You might want to check out the Green Valley area in Fairfield - very good schools, not as liberal as Davis, though. Davis lover, traffic hater

My husband was in Davis and I lived in Berkeley when we were engaged. We dreaded the commute so we finally settled in a nicer part of Solano County. It is a little rural but close enough to the freeway. We have nice walks and friendly neighbors, but we still have to drive out of town for entertainment. Our commutes are now cut about 30 minutes to Davis and 35 to Berkeley and that is not bad! Fellow Commuter

Commuting to Davis

May 2005

My sister is going to be working in Davis next fall and is thinking of living in the east bay. where would good places to live be that are easy to commute on train or by car at least three times a week? does anyone make this commute that can tell me about your experience. thanks!

If your sister is a UC affiliate, there is a bus that runs between the two campuses. I think there is one in the morning and one in the afternoon. See

Hi, I grew up in Davis, and my husband's mom and my parents still live there. We live in West Berkeley, and grandparents from both sides take the train up to see their grandson weekly. They get off at the Berkeley station (which is not much of a station although improvements are underway) and just walk 10 minutes to our house in West Berkeley. Since it's always daylight when they do it it's fine, I probably wouldn't make that walk at dark. If I had to get off at night by myself I would probably go to the Emeryville station and have my car there. Overall the train is quite reliable and on-time, although if I absolutely had to be at work at a particular time (for example, if I were a teacher and had a classroom waiting for me) I might be hesitant, or might take an early train to make sure. For example, several times in the last 2 years since the grandparents have been doing this, someone has thrown themselves on the tracks (so sad) and the train gets really delayed (like 2+ hours). Ick. The big plus is that they can read, watch the beautiful scenery, work, or even socialize (my mother-in-law knits with a group of commuters regularly). There are lots of bike commuters, which would be perfect for Davis. I suppose one could even chain a beater bike up at the Davis station if you didn't want to have to deal with a bike when you got to the East Bay. anon

I commuted to Davis every day for 2 years. I live in Crockett, and worked on campus. I carpooled, so some of the time I would drive, some of the time drive to someone else's house and then ride with them. . A surprisingly large number of people communte from the East Bay to Davis! so, tell your sister to contact Bay Area Rideshare - they will hook her up.

I did try Amtrak, but it was quite expensive and the times did not really work with my job. There is a bus that runs from Davis to UCBerkeley, but I believe you have to be a student or faculty member to ride it (I was neither), so I never really looked into it. But really, I found carpooling to be fun, fast, and friendly - I met great people, and it really was just as convenient as driving alone. Emma

Scenic Route to Sacramento

Feb 2000

Any recommendations on an alternative route to Sacramento, that's not all highway 80; scenic would be nice, but not too long. Any advice on short stopover activities for 2 young boys between here and there?

Re the request for a scenic route: that's an easy one! First take highway 80 to highway 4 out to Antioch. Cross the bridge to sherman island and the scenery begins. After the bridge, make the very first right. You'll be on a levee road with the river on one side and rich reclaimed farmland on the other. Pear trees and so on. You'll see that the road, Highway 160, mainly goes on one side and then the other of the Sacramento River all the way to Sacramento. Lots of boathouses and interesting drawbridges and small towns. Walnut Grove, Locke, Isleton, Hood. This is the old river road from before highway 80 existed. Console yourself by speeding home on I-80 at a fast clip. I first saw this route published in Bill Mandel's column in the Examiner about 15 years ago. Have driven it at least a dozen or more times. In fact, I just drove the route again last month. Beautiful! Peek at a state of California map first. Can't get lost if you follow the river though. For stopovers for your two boys, there's not a lot except near the bridges where they can see what fisherman have been catching. Later in the season there are folks selling roadside fruit, pears and such. Or bring some binoculars for bird watching along the river. Have fun! ...p.s. the Amtrak train service is also very good and relaxing and quite scenic. Glenn

From I80 - to Suisun City/Fairfield Take Highway 12 to Rio Vista/Stockton. The trip between Fairfield to Rio Vista is about 30 minutes (approx. 20 miles) & this time of year the green rolling hills are beautiful. Also, as you leave Fairfield, if you look off to the left you can see the HUGE airplanes at Travis AFB & (if you're lucky) they'll be running touch & go drills & the big planes fly over you so you get a good look at them.

At Rio Vista, as you enter town, veer off Highway 12 to the right to downtown Rio Vista. There is a park & an old Chinese cemetery right next to the big community cemetery on your right where you can have a picnic or you can go to the end of Main Street where there is a plaque about Humphrey the Whale -- right on the river with grass for running & playing & a few picnic tables. Also on Main Street, if the boys are old enough & you are not totally grossed out see Foster's BigHorn (one of the world's largest collections of taxidermy animals from Africa, etc.) Bakery across the street from Foster's is pretty good. Rio Vista Museum is only open on Sat. & Sun. & it is right off of Main St. on Front Street. Everything is within walking distance.

Go across Rio Vista Bridge to Highway 160 -- at end of bridge make left towards Sacramento.

Follow Hwy 160 to Isleton, approx. 5 miles (you'll be on right side of Sacramento River). In Isleton you can also veer right (just before you go out of town) & that will take you to a small Chinese part of town -- nothing too interesting but Rogelio's restaurant can be pretty good. The better China town is in Locke & you'll get to that on this route.

After Isleton, get back on the river road (Hwy 160), go left over bridge approx. 1/2 mile outside of Isleton. You can continue straight on the right side of the river but you'll miss the Ryde Hotel which used to be an old speakeasy. I haven't been there in years but I understand the restaurant is now pretty good & they've fixed up the hotel.

Continuing on to Sacramento (on left side of river) until you get to Walnut Grove then you can go back over a bridge to the right side of the river again. Right past Walnut Grove is Locke. Very old historical buildings. This is only about a half an hour from Rio Vista but if you didn't stop in Rio everyone may be ready to get out & stretch their legs.

After Locke you have some choices as to how you want to continue the trip to Sacramento. You can continue on the right side of the river to Twin Cities Road (about 2 miles out of Locke) & that will take you to I5 into Sacramento. Or you can continue up the River Road (Highway 160) on either side -- beautiful scenery on both sides. If you want to continue on the left side of the river, you'll need to backtrack to the Walnut Grove Bridge but make sure you cross over @ Freeport or you'll end up in West Sacramento. All of the different types of bridges are wonders in themselves.

I grew up in Rio Vista & still live there (yes, I commute to Oakland EVERY WEEKDAY!). The trip from Rio Vista to Sacramento (non-stop) is about 50 minutes. I love the drive & this time of year the colors are beautiful & the river is usually like glass. After Rio Vista there are no junk food places (i.e., Taco Bell or McDonald's) until you get to Sacramento. Rio Vista's Taco Bell/KFC franchise is (unfortunately) opening this week (our first fast food except for Subway). There are a few restaurants (most of which I haven't been to in years) & delis along the way & plenty of places to pull over for a picnic.

I think it is an incredibly scenic drive with a wide variety but, of course, I'm prejudice. Happy to provide more info if needed.


Highway 99 through Stockton is scenic. There is a place between Stockton and Lodi called The Chicken Kitchen (melt in your mouth chicken) that has a little mock western town that's open, usually during the Summer. I hope the place is still open. It is very old. I enjoyed it as a child and my children enjoyed it as they grew up.