Commuting from San Francisco to the East Bay

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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