Ye Olde Commute
May 12, 2012 4:56 PM   Subscribe

Getting from San Francisco to Mountain View every weekday over the summer, but don't currently own a car. How should I do it?

I'll be commuting from San Francisco to Mountain View five days a week for about two and a half months, starting in June. I don't currently own a car. I'm wondering how to most economically accomplish this. Some details:

- Renting a car seems to cost about $2000 for the summer. That's a lot!
- Buying a beater and then selling it seems to be a lot of work, but maybe it's the most cost-effective.
- No friends that I know of that will let me borrow their cars, but I could ask more widely. (Anyone on Metafilter wanna sell a car, or just lease it to me for the summer? I have a great driving record! I'm super responsible!)
- Zipcar would be really expensive because I would leave the car around all day during the day.
- Public transportation (Caltrain) is very time-consuming and not super cheap, either. I'm near a BART station, but Caltrain is a long walk through a not very nice neighborhood. With lots of hills.
- Crashing in Mountain View is possible, but I'd miss my boyfriend, who is in San Francisco. Also, would probably cost money.
- I found this service for private buses with wifi (, but they don't seem to go from San Francisco to Mountain View. Anyone know of something like that?
- I'd be happy to carpool with random people from Zimride or Ridejoy or something. What sites do this best?
- Anything I'm missing here? Other suggestions?

(If public transportation is the best option, then any suggestions you have for making it more palatable would be much appreciated!)

Thank you, Metafilter!
posted by 3491again to Travel & Transportation around Mountain View, CA (12 answers total)
Take Bart to Caltrain (transfer at Millbrae). It's actually not bad if you catch one of the baby bullet trains. Caltrain is a nice ride. I did it for two years and enjoyed it. You can buy a monthly pass for Caltrain. I've tried the commute every possible way, and I can promise you this will be your least stressful way to go.
posted by chevyvan at 5:10 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you live in Mission and would have to walk across Potrero to get to the caltrain station. The walk is safe enough, but as someone who lived on top of Potrero hill and walked down to that station and back up for a year, that was more than enough of a time commitment. There is the bicycle option - caltrain does have bike cars - but they tend to get very full, and you might not be able to get on the train.

If you live in Mission and your job is within walking distance of the MV station, your best bet is to take BART to Millbrae and caltrain from there. You've pretty much found all the transit options and your pros/cons list is otherwise accurate.
posted by MillMan at 5:12 PM on May 12, 2012

If you're near a BART station and your Mountain View location is near enough the Mountain View Caltrain station, why not just take BART down to Millbrae and then transfer to Caltrain (and vice versa on the way back?) It'll probably take a little over an hour, but commuting by car probably wouldn't take much less and you'll be able to read/work/whatever. Most of the other options sound more expensive (renting, zipcar) or frustrating/stressful (borrowing random friend's cars but not knowing if they may need them back on a given day, flakey carpoolers.) A monthly Caltrain pass would be about $75.00 for that distance (they charge based on zones).
posted by wuzandfuzz at 5:13 PM on May 12, 2012

Response by poster: The Mountain View location is a few miles from the Caltrain. So it's possible to walk, but better to bike, and not very pleasant carrying a backpack/work papers/etc.
posted by 3491again at 5:22 PM on May 12, 2012

Caltrain IS time consuming but man, have you ever tried doing that drive during rush hour? I guarantee it takes as long or longer. Do BART/Caltrain and save yourself the hassle of sitting behind the wheel. At least on the train you can read and sleep.
posted by joan_holloway at 5:23 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Plus, your Caltrain monthly pass will give you a local fare credit on VTA and SamTrans, if your work is near a VTA bus stop.
posted by MikeKD at 5:28 PM on May 12, 2012

Yeah the other options on the MV end are VTA buses, VTA light rail, and caltrain's own local shuttle buses. Also do you work for a big company? Many of them run their own shuttle buses from the MV caltrain station.
posted by MillMan at 5:30 PM on May 12, 2012

You can take a folding bike on any Caltrain car. You can probably find a decent used one for a couple hundred dollars.
posted by akgerber at 5:55 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If this is a summer job type thing, ask at HR about Travel Demand Management. Lots of employers provide shuttles to/from Caltrain, so there might be some information there for you. Otherwise, BART to Caltrain sounds like the right answer. Driving is a PITA.
posted by ambrosia at 7:34 PM on May 12, 2012

You could BART to Millbrae and leave a cheap bike at the Mountain View station to get to/from work there, if you don't want to bother with taking a bike on the train.
posted by Emanuel at 8:50 PM on May 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

If its to google take their bus. If it's to Moz, commute with one of us :). If it's somewhere else, ask other people at your company. You are not the first or only person to do this!
posted by gregglind at 6:46 AM on May 13, 2012

I nth CalTrain, I love the coffee, the ride, the same people and Flicks! (that was my "train treat" when I was a kid, those and Chuckles.)

Use Muni to get to the station in the am, and SamTrans once in Mt. View. Check with your employer to see if they offer discounts on mass transit. Or if there's some kind of transportation from the station to their offices.

It's only 2.5 months, so while it might be a hassle to take 3 different kinds of transportation every day, it's really, really green, so there's that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:17 AM on May 13, 2012

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