Commuting from Sacramento to San Francisco

Update 7/19/2011: I recommend using Amtrak if you are commuting from Sacramento to the bay area. Amtrak is faster than driving, safe, and always on time. The time spent “commuting” on Amtrak is actually VERY productive time. With a proper wireless access card or phone, you can spend that time working or reading just as if you are in a coffee shop or university library. If you are taking Amtrak, I recommend going to Emeryville Station and using the connecting bus rather than transferring to BART. The transfer to BART, although is a bit more convenient, is less safe and less comfortable in my opinion. In fact, the Amtrak service is so good. I do not consider it “commuting” at all. I view it as finding an extra 3 hours in my day to completely focus on my work, or nap time.


When I tell people I commute from Sacramento to San Francisco every day, they usually grasp and tell me I am crazy. A lot of people can’t fathom the idea of traveling that much every day, or waking up that early to start the commute. I usually wake up at 5am, get ready and out the door by 5:30am. From then I drive down to Vallejo and take the ferry/bus to San Francisco at around 6:30am. After about an hour, I am in San Francisco with a 10 minute walk to work. Usually by 7:45am, I am at work and ready to write in this blog :).

My trip home starts at around 5:30pm, in reverse order as above. I am usually home by 7:30pm or 8:30pm depending on the afternoon traffic. For a web developer like me, my drive to continue working on side projects or finishing up my office work usually takes me at least to 11pm before I shut my eyes. Some days I get so caught up in my projects I literally just pass out at 2am.

I know, my day sounds pretty crazy, but I chose to live this way. I certainly don’t have to be in the office by 7:45am ( I have to be in by 10am ), but I choose to because I am way more productive in the morning. Also, if I don’t choose to commute early, the commute becomes significantly longer because the highways get crowded at a later time.

Although I am completely fine with my waking hours, I find that it is pretty taxing on my life. Because I get so little sleep, I get sick very easily. In fact, today I am feeling pretty bad and I am getting chills. But regardless, I choose to live like this because

1) I love my fiancee and can’t stand to be away from her for even a day. I know this sounds crazy because when we are together, we usually spend that time fighting, but for some reason I find it hard to be away from her.

2) I really hate living in the bay area. Everyone I know seems to enjoy the busy hustle and bustle of the city, I don’t. I find city life to be extremely stressful and chaotic. I rather waste 4 hours of my day commuting rather than settling down in the bay area.

3) I have to commute because as a web developer, my job will always be in the bay area. I do not see Sacramento being a technology center any time soon. Also, there is a void of great talent in Sacramento which makes it hard for me to draw and get inspired from (with the exception of a couple of great developers I met in my meetup group.)

4) If I live in the bay area, I will be a renter for life. I do not see how I afford a house in the bay area until I am like 60! And even if I could, why would I spent more than half-a-million to buy an old box that’s edged up along side another old box (that’s my view of housing in San Francisco).

Anyways…. That is this morning’s random entry. Do you have a crazy commute story or work life habit you want to share with me?

  • Limda

    I currently live in SF and I agree with you about the “renter for life” part of your story. I was born and raised in Sacramento but, moved to SF because my husband didn’t want to leave his job. Now, we have a 8 month old daughter and I’m starting to think that we need to find a cheaper place to live. I know that we won’t be living in SF forever. Can’t afford to buy a home here…especially when the price we pay for our apartment each month could be mortgage payment for a 4 bedroom home in Sacramento. I’ve been trying to convince my husband to move to Sacramento and commute back & forth to SF to work but, he doesn’t think it’s worth it. He is a driver and drives 8-10 hours a day at his job…and does not want to spend another 2-3 hours driving back home to Sacramento. Do you think commuting back and forth to SF everyday would save us some money? Or would the price on toll, gas and the time spent being stuff in traffic not be worth it? Hope to hear back with an opinion from you soon. Thanks –

  • Hey Linda, I don’t normally respond to comments on my blog, but your story is interesting. I actually hear a lot of couples tell me that the male in the relationship does not want to commute. I always find that very weird. For me, waking up at 5am and commuting is kind of my way of sacrificing my fiancee. It allows us to live in a bigger home, have more open space, and be safer.

    However, that being said, as a web developer my job is very very flexible. I can take days off, work from home, come in late and leave early, or even change jobs very easily.

    If your husband does not have that kind flexibility with his work, it could become really difficult for him to know that he has to get up EVERY single day and arrive at work on time. So I wouldn’t blame him.

    But if he is willing to commute, the only way I see it being manageable is if he joins a carpool, or go down to Vallejo and take the ferry. That two hour commute is relatively easy on the body. It does cost a little, maybe around $20-$25 a day? But you can do some tax trickery to reduce cost.

    Driving by yourself every is really an impossibly in my opinion.

  • Linda

    Thanks for the reply. I appreciate it. Yeah, that makes very good sense and I can now understand why he wouldn’t want to commute. His job doesn’t have much flexibility and the time he goes home depends on what time he gets done with his last stop. Would make things much easier for him if he knew he was getting off the clock at 3:30pm everyday but that rarely happens. I’m looking into other options on how we would be able to start saving some money. Vallejo is a lot closer than Sacramento and is a little bit cheaper than SF. I just need to do the calculations and see if it would be worth it or would we have to sacrifice a few things(shopping wise) in order to save some money rather than having to move out of the city. I don’t plan to live here forever. It’s not very convenient when I have a 8 month old to take care of and have to park 3-4 blocks away just to go to the grocery store with her. I just need to figure out when would be the right time to move away from here. My husband doesn’t like change but, I’m sure if needed….he would do it for his daughter.

  • Angela

    Thanks for the inspiration and tips for the commute from Sacramento to San Francisco. I’m originally from the Bay area, and moved to Sac for the opportunity to own my own house ( like may) and settle down with my husband and kids. Now I’m faced with finding a commute plan to San Francisco, because like you said, inspiration and jobs for the creative industry are short here ( ahh!). I went to school in SF for Fashion Design, and don’t want to give up that dream to work in fashion just because I live in Sacramento. I’m up for the commute challenge as well :) This really encouraged me. Thanks!!

  • jackie

    hi, i found your blog while searching for “commuting from San Francisco to Sacramento.” i guess i would be the exact opposite of you and am considering the possibility of staying in SF and commuting to Sacramento every day. I am curious as to what mode of transportation you take to and from? One of the things that has made me a little less inclined about applying for jobs in the Sacramento area is the fat that i would have to commute from SF… i would really appreciate your input being someone who experiences this on a daily basis. 

  • Anonymous

    Hi Jackie, I recommend taking Amtrak. It is a very comfortable ride. Always on time. And you have plenty of room to sleep or work on the train. I really enjoyed commuting with amtrak. They have a bus that picks up and drop off in downtown SF. 

    If you do take Amtrak, you should invest in a good internet tethering phone or wifi access card so you can go online while commuting. Otherwise you can use that time to nap or read. 

    The hours spent commuting on Amtrak is actually very productive. You can get a lot of work done. It is equivalent to being in a coffee or university library.

  • Asad_mian

    Hello Commuter’s here is a news for you for those who travel in between san francsico and sacramento , there is a new transport service for them , so this way ppl can go straight from San Francisfo to Sacramento that is called commuter’s club. it will pick you up from SF to Sacramento without waisting time it goes straight to Sacramento , it has wif fi and i think commute time is one hour and 20 minutes and ticket is little expensiveround trip is $50.00 dollars but it worth it

  • Jay on the go

    I just saw something on craigslist about Sacramento to San Francisco from Commuter’s club. It looks like it is non-stop service. I will try it out and see if this will cut the trip time.

  • ron

    would you be interested in driving in a comfortable 15 passenger van,at 38 dollars round trip,non-stop,i am planning to start this service febuary 2013