Shorter commute vs interesting city?
June 4, 2013 6:38 AM Subscribe
My partner and I are moving from a major northeast city to the Bay Area this summer and are looking for input on the commute/quality of life balance.
posted by sidewalkchalk to Travel & Transportation around California (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
My partner is in his early 30s and I'm in my mid 20s. We've had the good fortune of living in culture-rich, desirable parts of our northeast city, where commutes to work have never been more than 25 minutes one way for me, and a quick 5 minute walk for my partner. We both have great support systems here, and enjoy taking advantage of everything our city has to offer.
When we move to the Bay Area this summer, my partner and I will be moving to an entirely new coast where neither one of us has many existing contacts. My partner will be working in San Francisco, and I will be working further east in the Sacramento area. My work is on a long-term project in a fixed location, and getting a job elsewhere is not an option. My partner’s job options are limited to San Francisco. In addition, the work I'll be doing will be both time consuming and demanding, and I will likely be making trips to my job or working from home on the weekends. Although the job is demanding, it's also surprisingly flexible, and I would be able to work from home at least a few days per month. My partner's work schedule will also require hard work and long hours, but his job will likely be less stressful than mine.
One option is to live in a smaller town like Martinez, which would result in equal commuting time of 60 minutes one way for us both. Alternatively, we could live in Berkeley. While Berkeley appears close on a map, it would result in a 100 minute commute for me one way, while my partner's commuting time would be the same as from Martinez. Regardless of which town we live in, my commute will be by Amtrak with no transfers. In both towns we would attempt to find housing within walking distance of the train station, and cost of living is not a factor in our decision.
There is a broad consensus in the social science literature that commuting is bad bad bad. People who commute longer are, on average, significantly less happy with their lives, less healthy, etc., and my partner is worried about my quality of life/general happiness if I am commuting 3 hours per day. While he knows that Berkeley will be more interesting than Martinez, he believes that people underestimate the mental costs of a long commute and overestimate the benefits of a cool city. He believes that we will adapt to life in Martinez, but that a long commute from Berkeley will always wear on me. On the other hand, as two young people with few Bay Area contacts, I'm worried that the experience of living in a smaller town like Martinez will be isolating. A big part of my excitement about moving to the Bay Area (other than my job) is to experience the culture, and I feel like we may be missing out on this by living in a smaller town.
Do you think it is better for us to live in Berkeley or Martinez? I’m looking to hear the experiences of people who have had similar commuting decisions and also from people who are familiar with the area.