Commuting San Francisco to San Jose
June 1, 2010 7:03 PM   Subscribe

What are my commuting options going from San Francisco to San Jose?

I live in Hayes Valley in San Francisco and am going to be commuting down to San Jose for the summer. I was hoping to take the Bauer's bus, but it appears that it doesn't go SF-SJ. Caltrain is kind of a pain - I have to bike about 2 miles to Caltrain, pack in to the super crowded bike car, and then bike another 1.5 miles (it took me about 1h40min the one time I did it). I'd rather not drive - we have a manual car and I'm still kind of a newbie at it (especially in SF).

Any other options? Preferably a bus with free WiFi like Bauer's?
posted by kookaburra to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total)
I hate to say this, but you'll learn to drive stick faster than you'll find a better public transit solution. (And this is coming from a VERY pro-public transit person.) When I faced the same conundrum (except that I was coming from Nob Hill), the below was my ranking of options...

1) Carpool
2) MUNI to a coworker's house, then carpool
3) Drive independently (I had to bring up an old family car)
4) Borrow the company ID of someone that has Bauer's bus access but chooses to drive, then pretend to work at the company and board their Bauer's bus

OK, I never actually tried #4, but I'm 98% sure it would work. I called Bauer's and tried to ask about purchasing bus tickets, but they said the buses were for the exclusive access of the commissioning employers. I also tried calling the employers that commissioned the Bauer's buses to try to pay them directly for my bus ticket, but no dice.
posted by samthemander at 7:15 PM on June 1, 2010

samthemander has it. It's drive, train, or carpool.
posted by rtha at 7:21 PM on June 1, 2010

Depending on where you're going in San Jose, you might be able to take 280, which is less crowded than 101 on the Peninsula.
posted by lukemeister at 7:32 PM on June 1, 2010

Caltrain plus folding bike or drive are the only better options I can think of. It's a long commute to an area not well-served by public transit, relative to the rest of the Bay Area.
posted by zippy at 7:43 PM on June 1, 2010

You'll learn to drive the manual fast. :) I drive a stick too, and it's not so bad.

I was considering hopping on buses and taking the Caltrain (SF-Mountain View) but it's just so much faster to drive. I feel a little guilty for burning the gas, but it's not so bad on the off hours, especially on 280.

Also, what samthemander said.
posted by base_16 at 8:39 PM on June 1, 2010

Just learn how to drive your car. After a few weeks you will be totally used to it. Besides, you don't shift much on the freeway. And the distance that a stickshift car rolls backwards on hills feels much longer than it actually is. And definitely take 280 instead of 101 if you can.

I don't recommend Caltrain with a bike. There are too many cyclists trying to take the train, and you will miss trains often because their won't be room for your bike. Are you sure you can't take Muni to Caltrain?
posted by twblalock at 9:15 PM on June 1, 2010

Hayes Valley? Depending on your walking tolerance, there's like three bus lines on Van Ness that go to CalTrain.
posted by rhizome at 9:30 PM on June 1, 2010

I know the bike cars on caltrain are a pain in the butt, but for me the stress would still be a lot less than if I drove that route. For the record I take caltrain every day (no bike) from SF->SJ. Rather than fighting jackasses on the road for 120 minutes a day I read books and take naps.
posted by MillMan at 10:22 PM on June 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

I ride CalTrain from SF to Mountain View every day. If you can take Muni to CalTrain, it a great way to get down to the South Bay. Definitely get a folding bike, though. I see bikes turned away every day, although never if you get on at 4th and King. You will get turned away at 22nd street regularly. But folding bikes are always allowed. CalTrain is a great, stress-free way to travel, and it's usually on time. I have had coworkers give me a ride sometimes, and it's really not that much faster if you're driving during rush hour. One thing to keep in mind with CalTrain is that a fatality anywhere on the tracks shuts down the whole system for hours. There have been a lot of fatalities this past year, and you of course can't predict when they will happen. So if getting to work on time every time is an issue, CalTrain may not be the way to go. But I expect there are accidents that would make you late sometimes driving, too.
posted by twiggy32 at 10:31 PM on June 1, 2010

I love CalTrain, but budget cutbacks may decimate service starting this summer.
posted by doncoyote at 11:07 PM on June 1, 2010

i kinda hate to weigh in on the gas-wasting options, but i used to do both bike/caltrain options and driving the 280, and there's just no getting around how much more awesome driving 280 is compared to boring old twice-as-long-taking caltrain.

the thing is, the 280 is just GORGEOUS to drive! it's what, 10 lanes? and practically no one uses it cause 101 is like 5 minutes faster. suckers! and here's the important thing: at sunset, almost every day of the year, the clouds just roll in off the pacific at *exactly* 5 feet higher than the mountain range on the west, resulting in this unbelievable slow motion cloudy waterfallesque effect, with the fog slowly cascading over the tops of the hills as the sun sets behind them. unbelievable! i lost track of how many times i thanked my lucky stars i had such an awesome commute (considering it was about an hour each way lol) even without the cascading clouds it's a lovely scenic drive most of the way down...

i kinda forget though - is hayes valley remotely convenient to 280? if not, i'd move!
posted by messiahwannabe at 5:24 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sure - Hayes valley onto 101 south/Central Freeway (via Octavia Blvd if you're near that) and then either take 280 all the way around or stay on 101 till you get to 380, then hop on 280 (this is what I do).

280 is indeed a spectacularly beautiful drive. It's got less traffic than 101 in part because it's not a commercial corridor, so there are few delivery trucks and such, and also because if you work on the bay side of the Peninsula, getting there from the west side can be a gigantic pain. (Oh, and it's on the San Andreas fault, 280 is! Cool, right?)

But you could easily take it all the way to San Jose. I don't think, based on the traffic reports I hear in the morning, that traffic starts to get sticky until you actually get to San Jose, and this is definitely not the case with 101, which has more traffic, more on- and off-ramps, more trucks, and more accidents. I'd flip out if I had to commute on 101 every day.

Either way, it's a 45 min-1 hour commute, depending on traffic.
posted by rtha at 6:06 AM on June 2, 2010

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