Commuting from Berkeley to San Francisco

Parent Q&A

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  • I am planning to move to berkeley and have kindergartener. Can anyone shed light if there is much difference in elementary schools in northwest zone vs other zone. I am also looking easy commute to SF. Thanks!

    Hi, I have a first grader and I toured most elementary schools in Berkeley 2 years ago. Basically, Berkeley maintain consistency in all its schools.

    Actually, they differ very little and not in any significant ways. For example, Washington has access to high school volunteers from across the road.

    Jefferson has access to music teachers from the neighboring music school. Things like that. Two of schools have 9 am start and 8 have 8 am start.

    This being said, you do not have much control over the placement, especially if you have not applied in a first lottery. You indicate your first choice, second choice, third choice, that is all. I was assigned to my last choice, even though I applied before the first deadline.

    If you are commuting to SF you probably want to be near a bart stop or a transbay bus stop. And there's a bart stop in each school zone! My sense is that people are happy with all of the Berkeley schools - they intentionally mix them up in terms of demographics, and I think that's good for all the kids. I think most people base their school preferences on location and start time of the school rather than anything about some schools being "better" than others. We commute by bart and based our house search on proximity to any of the bart stops in Berkeley - we wanted to be in one of the Berkeley schools but don't care which one!

    Hi! Welcome to Berkeley!

    The short answer is that all of the Berkeley public schools are considered great. Some families prefer one of the smaller schools, and some like the big schools, but there's no real difference between zones. The Berkeley school lottery's specific goal is to have all of the elementary schools have equal racial and economic distribution.

    My kid is finishing up kindergarten at Malcolm X, and he and I love it there.

    All the schools seem very similar to me. For an easy commute, live near a BART station or a casual carpool pickup point. 

    They're all pretty much the same.  And within a zone, you have a 70% of getting your first choice. Which, if you don't get, you can get waitlisted.  And this system makes it so that each school as the same proportion of economically disadvantaged kids- implying that no school is better than the others in terms of PTA fundraising and parental involvement.  They're all fine. 

    Easy commute- there's a ferry out of the Berkeley Marina you might consider.

    We're also relocating to the Bay Area and considering Berkeley and its suburbs. Wondering what you’ve found in your research intern or good places to live and schools. We’re lookinf for high school which seems much more hit or miss. Since our daughter has been in small schools overseas, we’re particularly concerned about dropping her into a big public high school. 

    Vwry intwreste dif you have any insights ro share. Many thanks. 


    In terms of high school, Berkeley High is a good school for strong students -- that is students who are academic, or who have activities they enjoy (theater/sports/robotics/music/art/etc.) Academic support is readily available. The school population is diverse in terms of income, race, and interests, which most of us see as a feature, not a bug. Trouble can be found by those who are looking for it, though from what I can tell, no more than at other area high schools. The independence it fosters is good preparation for going to college, particularly the UCs, and other larger, competitive colleges. Each year many students are accepted by UCs, the Ivies, and other highly competitive schools. Other students graduate and go on to CSUs, Community Colleges, and gap years/work. As in most places, these placements more with family income/parents education level than student characteristics.

    For the posters that have not already moved to Berkeley, or are considering other cities, have you considered Alameda?  Easy commute to SF via two ferries on opposite ends of town and AC Transit with three transbay lines.  Unfortunately, BART involves a car ride and the gymnastics of parking in one of their lots.  The island is walkable and has differing levels of affordability, depending on whether you choose the west end (cheapest),mid island (higher), or east end or Bay Farm (highest).

    Forgot to add:  All schools are good, including several school district run charters (which means no extra tuition).  Some of the awarded elementary schools include Edison (but can be hard to get into), Paden, Haight and Bay Farm.  Alameda High has consistently high test scores and college admission rates.  Encinal High a little less so, but has improved *drastically* in the past 7 to 10 years from being the red-haired stepchild of the system.

  • Commute from Thousand Oaks to SF

    (4 replies)

    Hi all, I work in downtown SF (near the transbay station) and I'm thinking about making on offer on a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in Berkeley. I love the home and the neighborhood but I'm worried about the commute. I have a new baby and feel like every minute spent sitting on a bus or BART is a valuable minute lost. I'd really love advice from people who commute from Thousand Oaks and/or the Berkeley Hills. How long does it take you door to door? Do you feel like it's worth it. Any tips?

    Thank you!

    The AC Transit Transbay buses are awesome and I'd really look at that rather than BART. Googlemaps can estimate the ride time from your potential house. You will likely get a seat up in the hills, and can work on the bus. I have a little one too and take a bus at roughly 8am, work on the bus, get to work by 9 and then leave at 4:30 to get home for 5:30 pickup. So while the ride isn't short, it is convenient, comfortable, and I can work on the bus.

    Good luck!

    My husband and I own a home in the Thousand Oakes neighborhood and he commutes to the financial district in SF. We have two small kiddos s wanted the commute to be managable. In the morning it takes about 45 minutes door to door but we live across to a bus stop and it's a quick trip because of the carpool lane. In the evening it takes about an hour. My husband catches the Bart at the Montogmery station me then walks home from the El Cerrito station which is about a mile from our house. So not too bad although I imagine it would also depend on where in the Thousand Oakes part you are in. We love living here and how walkable everything is.

    Good luck!

    I'm retired now but commuted to SF from just above Solano and The Alameda for 30 years. Loved it! I used AC transit, most recently the H at Arlington and Indian Rock Path. I also used the FS and G. Buses were partially empty in both directions, often had a double seat to myself. I also would drive to North Berkeley BART, park near Rose Street and take the casual car pool. In the afternoon, I took the H bus back to Bart station (I don't like Bart, it's too crowded and too noisy. But it's a backup). Love living in Thousand Oaks.

    Thanks to everyone for their responses! I appreciate it. 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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