Commuting from the East Bay to Sonoma County

Parent Q&A

  • Hello!

    my husband and I currently live in Walnut Creek with our 14 mos old.  I recently took a new job with locations in Sonoma and Santa Rosa. My husband works in person on alameda island. 
    my hours are 8-5p. His hours are 7-3p.

    our son will be starting full time daycare or nanny in august when my job starts. We really are conflicted about where to move in terms of commuting and daycare etc.  is it best to live very close to one of our work sites, or better to live at the half way point? If the latter, would our son commute with one of us to attend daycare close to our work site? 
    Would love any insight or ideas. 

    I think it would be helpful to know what kind of budget you have and whether you plan to enroll in public or private school in the future. 

    If I were in your shoes and assuming that the hours are pretty firm, I would choose a location that is about halfway but slightly closer to Alameda — I’m thinking of Richmond, El Cerrito, El Sobrante, San Pablo, Pinole. You could do the drop off in the morning near your house and your husband should be able to make the 5-6 pm pickup deadline even in bad commute conditions driving up from Alameda. But, the commute sounds awful for both of you. EV would help with commute as you could use the HOV lane. As a backup, I would line up a number of sitters, nearby relatives or kind neighbors / parent friends nearby who can do a pickup if there is a major incident on the freeway and pickup will be delayed. 

    I think it is best to live near one of your workplaces so that one of you does not have to commute far. Likewise, the daycare should be near your home so that your children are not subject to a long daily commute. This way one parent is nearby and can easily pick your child up when they inevitably have to be sent home early due to illness or doctor appointments, etc. If you are half-way between both workplaces, then you could both have a 1-hour plus commute depending on traffic. My husband and I were faced with this dilemma when we were living in Oakland but he got a job in Sonoma County. We decided to buy a house in Petaluma and put our young children in the excellent schools there. However, I work in Oakland and my commute is soul crushing. It would have been better if we had stayed in Oakland and had my husband commute north. 

    I live in Alameda and work up in Contra Costa. My reverse commute is a breeze compared to anyone that does the standard commute into San Francisco. I see the cars backed up the entire distance, miles and miles. In the morning and in the afternoon. Traffic never flowed even during the dark days of Covid. For your husband's sanity you should live nearer to his job. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Commute from North Oakland to Petaluma

Jan 2015

I have a chance to work in Petaluma but I am not sure if the commute would be too long. Google map says that it takes about 45 minutes to go from North Oakland to Petaluma during non commute hours. Has anyone done this commute during normal commute hours and how was it? Right now It takes me an hour or more using public transportation to get from my home to my job in Mission Bay in SF so I figure it's not too bad to do an hour drive to Petaluma each way.
Dreading Long Commute

Hi, I commute from the Dimond district to San Anselmo regularly during ''normal'' commute hours, leaving by 7:30 and starting the commute home around 4:30. Without traffic it takes about 40 minutes but with traffic in the morning it can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and half and the return trip from an hour to 2. The traffic getting onto the Richmond Bridge can be very slow for both directions. For the morning commute, the electronic sign regarding commute times by Golden Gate Fields from that point to Novato can range from 23 minutes (no traffic) to 35 minutes. Also during the evening commute the traffic on 580 sometimes backs up before the Central Ave. exit. Lastly, the traffic between Novato and Petaluma can be very slow. Leaving early on both ends helps a great deal! I recommend trying the drive to see how long it will really take you. Good Luck! East Bay-NorthBay commuter

I go from El Sobrante to Petaluma for meetings about once a month. Generally I meet others in the group in Point Richmond so we can carpool. It takes about 45 minutes from there so I think 45 minutes from Oakland during commute time would not be realistic. You also need to build in time for parking and getting into the facility, so I'd say if you double that time you'd be safe. Of course some days are better and some are worse so you have to plan for congestion and other roadway surprises. Not fond of the commute

I don't know about this specific commute, but can share some great resources to get more accurate data. One - go to in the traffic section. It lets you predict driving times by time of day based on past data. Two - if you have a smart phone, map the driving directions on Google Maps at peak commute time. It will show you current traffic conditions (marked in red) and will show the drive time based on current conditions. Three - try the drive sometime during commute hours and see what it is like. Good luck! another bay area commuter 

We did this commute. It is on a normal day from Petaluma to UCB 1hr and going home 1 hr and 20 minutes. And we lived at the most Southern tip of Petaluma. We tried every trick we could think of and we used the commute lane. So, we sold our house in Petaluma and bought a house in Fairfax at the last moment it was still affordable in mid 1997. You might consider Novato is it 30 minutes closer than Petaluma and sometimes homes go for reasonable prices. mbarone

I commute to San Rafael from Oakland (Redwood Heights) regularly, and often to Santa Rosa. I would say 45 minutes is about right to get to Petaluma. There is rarely any slowdown for traffic except slightly where 24 and 580 merge, and then sometimes 5-10 minutes getting on the Richmond bridge. Coming home, however, is often quite slow through Berkeley/Emeryville, and 90 minutes to get home at 4:00-7:00 would not be uncommon. Backup getting to the Richmond Bridge starts about 4:45. Bryan in Oakland

we live on the Albany/El Cerrito border, and my husband commutes daily to Santa Rosa to work. He typically leaves around 6:40a.m. and arrives in Santa Rosa about an hour later for work. His commute home is also generally 1 hour 5 minutes. He says the commute is against traffic and most of the time it's a smooth drive. If you manage to find a route that will get you onto the 80 past Gilman, I think you will benefit from the against-traffic commute, but if you get onto the 80 before that, you will have to deal with Emeryville/Berkeley traffic. albany resident

Commuting TO Sonoma County from the East Bay

Jan 2015

If all goes well with my app to Berkeley's MSW program, our family will be moving to University Village in the fall, but my husband just received a pretty great job offer at a school here in Sonoma County, where we live now. Moving to the East Bay is part of our long-term plan for our family, but it'd be nice for him to have a few years in that job while I'm in school - does anyone have any knowledge of what the morning/evening commute north from Berkeley to Sonoma County looks like? Would it be do-able, or a total headache?
Curious reverse-commuter

This is a great reverse commute on the way there - try Google Maps-estimating it when it's commute hour so you can see. There is rarely very much traffic going that direction, especially since you're already past the Emeryville maze. The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge only has a problem if there's an accident or construction. Rare. But the other direction is a little harder - you sometimes hit traffic going east on the bridge at commute hour, and there is sometimes traffic backed up from the Eastshore onto 580. Not always. But at least the UC Village exit is not too deep into the Eastshore traffic zone. Is the Sonoma school close to the freeway? If not, obviously that adds to your commute... Long drive, but not too traffic-y

I had a 3 month internship this fall in Sonoma and I live in Alameda; my travel time without traffic should be 1 hour each way. Mornings weren't bad as long as I left by 6:45am, as the Richmond Bridge is the only real back-up at that time in that direction. I was consistently in downtown Sonoma within 1 hour and 10 minutes. Evenings were another story altogether unless I left before 3:30pm, with predictable large back-ups at the Richmond Bridge and the Berkeley maze (and again on 880 as I continued on to Alameda, but that wouldn't apply to your husband). The trip typically took closer to 1.5 hours, with greater delays for accidents. Hope this helps. Anon