Tales of Extreme Commuting: Episode 1

Today I’m starting a new, occaisional feature called “Tales of Extreme Commuting,” where readers who have extraordinary commutes can relate their tales of win and woe, and at the same time spotlight the challenges of cross-jurisdiction commutes in the Bay Area.
Extreme commutes can include one that requires many transfers in San Francisco, or a commute to and from San Francisco to other counties (and vice versa). The goal is to have readers suggest to Extreme Commuters how they might make their ride easier, and highlight the weak links in the Bay Area so that they might be fixed.
Email me if you’d like to submit to a short questionnaire and I’ll post it here in a future entry. Today we have a tale from NJC Reader @oshanada, who commutes from San Jose to SF daily.
1. Name/Occupation:
My name is Shanners and I work in retail sales at a department store in San Francisco Centre.
2. Neighborhood/City you live in:
I live in west San Jose.
3. Neighborhood/City you commute to:
I commute to downtown San Francisco, on Market near 5th.
4. What lines on (Muni/Caltrain/VTA/Other) do you take and how long does it take you each way? While you’re commuting, what do you do (read, listen to music, sleep, etc):
My average commute starts at least 2 hours before my shift starts. If I work a 9am shift, I wake up at 6 am and drive 5ish miles to the Lawrence CalTrain station by 7:10am. Other stations in my area *are* serviced by the baby bullet trains, but I have a free parking technique at Lawrence that saves me $4 a day and allows me to leave my car overnight if I end up staying at my boyfriend’s.
From CalTrain, I change to BART at the Millbrae intermodal station and end my journey at Powell Station.
For all modes of public transportation, I listen to music, read Twitter, peruse Pinterest, and attempt to read my Kindle. Most people seem to treat CalTrain as their personal office space, so it’s hard to concentrate on my reading. BART sounds like its trains travel through tunnels of screaming demons. I really don’t know how anyone can handle riding on that thing without headphones blasting music.
On my trips home (on weekends or anytime after 7pm) , it’s faster to take the N or T from Powell Station to CalTrain. Or walk, if it’s sunny.
5. What is the weakest link in your commute? What would make things better?
CalTrain and BART don’t seem to have any agreement on arrival times. My CalTrain connection, which on paper is timed to arrive 3 minutes before my BART departs, is always late. Even when it’s late by just a few minutes, I still miss the connection. BART waits for no one. And there’s no transfer from CalTrain to BART–it costs me $13 one way. That’s $26 a day, or yes, $500 a month.
6. Has your commute made you consider moving closer to your job or changing your job to one closer to home? Have you considered other changes to accommodate your ride each day?
I got a job in San Francisco so it would be easier to move to SF later on. I could take a similar job in the South Bay but I don’t want to live there. That said, I am spending so much money that I can barely save for a deposit on a room in SF. Because my commute is so long and stupid, I spend a lot of time at my boyfriend’s house (where the commute is a short ride on the 31).
7. Anything else you’d like to say/vent/express?
This is my transit wishlist: It sounds so entitled to ask for this, but better wifi on BART or wifi at all on CalTrain. Better rolling stock on BART (or just cars that block the damn sounds). CalTrain would make a killing if they sold food and drink onboard like Amtrak. More Clipper addfare machines EVERYWHERE.

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2 Responses to Tales of Extreme Commuting: Episode 1

  1. Mario says:

    BART is slow compared to a limited Caltrain between Millbrae and Downtown San Francisco.
    If you arrive at 4th and King, you have the options to transfer to N, K/T, 30 or 45, which will take you to or close to Powell St. Muni is unreliable too, but with BART frequency of once every 15 minutes it might be worth it. With the upcoming bike sharing (this summer), you should be able to ride a bicycle from 4th and King to the Westfield Center, which will remove one of the variables.
    If you are willing to drive to Sunnyvale instead, you could catch the 7:13 Baby Bullet, which arrives at 4th and King at 8:03. Then the total trip from Sunnyvale to Westfield Center will be 1 hour and 10 minutes, which is better than some commutes from the Outer Sunset/Richmond.

  2. @makfan says:

    I don’t know if you are using 8-ride tickets on Caltrain, but that could save you a little cash. You could have an 8-ride from zone 4 to 2 for Lawrence to Millbrae and a second from zone 1 to 4 for the trip home. Clipper allows both on the same card.
    Otherwise, youf commute is somewhat like mine (except I go the opposite way to Mountain View or Sunnyvale), and it’s expensive and time consuming.

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