Commuting between Austin and San Antonio?
March 16, 2006 5:21 PM   Subscribe

How feasible is it to commute between Austin and San Antonio, TX?

I just got a great job offer from a company in San Antonio, TX. My significant other (we're pretty much engaged-to-be-engaged) has decided he wants to attend UT-Austin graduate school in the fall. Furthermore, he just can't live without me. He'd also like to live relatively close to campus, since he reasons he'll be keeping non-standard hours. I've never really worked farther than 10 minutes away from home before, and my impression is that traffic in San Antonio is "pretty erratic", especially on the 410 loop.

I'd like to hear from people who have, perhaps, made this commute daily before. What about if we lived in between? ( is showing San Marcos as about a third of the way closer) Will I shortly lose the will to live (as I suspect), or is it a pretty common commute? FWIW, I'm currently living in LA, so I have a pretty high bar for "bad traffic."
posted by muddgirl to Travel & Transportation around San Antonio, TX (14 answers total)
San Marcos would be doable. My brother went to school at SWTSU (or whatever it's called now). I did the San Marcos-Austin drive pretty regularly during that time. Unless they've done some major upgrades to I-35 between San Antone and Austin, I'd advise you that the traffic can be pretty gnarly. I'd seriously advise against trying to live in Austin and work in San Antonio. Google maps says 79.3 mi (about 1 hour 26 mins), but I think the time estimation is overly optimistic for rush hour.
posted by syzygy at 5:35 PM on March 16, 2006

I recommend living inbetween the two cities. If you lived in Austin and commuted to SA every work day, you would certainly burn out. There are fun things to do in both cities, don't lock yourself in to living on one end of the fun.

San Marcos is a college town, and has all sorts of housing options.
posted by markmillard at 5:39 PM on March 16, 2006

Thirding the San Marcos option. I know many couples where one commuted to Austin, the other to San Antonio and they lived somewhere around San Marcos region. Austin traffic isn't THAT bad, especially in non-rush hour times. Can't speak to SA, though.
posted by j at 5:45 PM on March 16, 2006

Fourthing the San Marcos region choice. There are also lots of little towns around there that aren't as close to 35 such as Wimberley, Driftwood and Kyle that might make both commutes shorter since you can take backroads.
posted by youcancallmeal at 5:50 PM on March 16, 2006

I've never commuted between the two on a regular basis, but I lived in SA for 17 years, and I knew a few people that have in the past.

I'm of the opinion that it's much easier to do now than it was even two years ago. The route between SA and Austin used to complete shit, and mighty dangerous to boot. It's much, much better these days.

I'd say that it depends on the job, and more importantly its benefits. Driving an hour and a half (or so) twice a day can be done, sure, but the positives have to outweigh the negatives.

I can't list any positives about your job (obviously), but I'll take a crack at the negatives of the commute:

-Gas money
-Auto wear-and-tear
-3 hours a day spent driving
-Waking up extra early
-Getting home extra late

..I'm sure there are more!
posted by nitsuj at 6:07 PM on March 16, 2006

I35 around UT is very bad. It turns into a parking lot from about 7am-930am and again from 330pm-730pm. It can sometime take longer to get from there to south of the river [<5 miles] than from south austin to san marcos [35 miles].br>
The people I know that live in SA and work in Austin say the ticket is to avoid driving through either city during the rush hours. I had a good friend to it for a year. He ended up taking a job in SA for less pay to avoid driving up to Austin every day. It isn't the drive was bad, but it was the at least 10 hours a week he spent in his car going from point A to point B. Getting up to leave San Antonio no later than 6 so you hit Austin about 7. Then usually staying late so you can miss the afternoon rush hour meant less time with his sweetie.

Count on at least once a month a tractor trailer rig will crash and create a traffic jam from Austin to San Marcos [it is usually in the mornings, usually in the northbound lane]. The one this week was a truck full of hamburger patties.

For some reason people drive slow in the left lane on the freeway between Austin and SA. TxDOT put up signs reminding people the left lane is for passing only and sitting out there is illegal, but it still happens. I found from about William Cannon to San Marcos, the empty and fast lane is the far right.

Living in San Marcos is an option. It is a funky little town that has grown up a lot so you don't have to drive in to Austin for shopping or to see a movie any more. And it would mean you both get to enjoy the wonders of I35 so there might be less resentment.
posted by birdherder at 6:26 PM on March 16, 2006

I don't have as much experience with the southern route, but I've driven between the two several times, and have had a longer-than-usual commute on the north-from-Austin route.

While I can't say much about the traffic in SA, you should be aware that some of the heaviest traffic will be within 10 miles of Austin proper, and the south side of the city is about as bad as it gets, especially approaching Town Lake and during rush hour. This sort of traffic is very similar to the worst of LA traffic jams (think the 10/110 interchange at 5:30), and is nothing to sneeze at. The difference, of course, is that Austin is *so* much smaller than LA, that moving 5 mph will still move you through the city, unlike the countless miles of highway that are always ahead of you on an LA trip.

So, echoing everyone else's suggestions, getting at least 10-15 miles away from Austin will save a significant portion of commute time. Be aware, however, that living in San Marcos is most certainly not the same as living in Austin. Austin just isn't that big, and as soon as you're past the city limits, you're not in Austin anymore, you're in Central Texas. Big difference.

So. With traffic that you almost certainly can't escape totally, you need to budget in excess of two hours each way. That may be more than some day's drive time, but it will certainly be less than some others. That makes for Four hours of your day doing nothing but sitting in the car. That can be disabling to having a real life, and I would advise caution. When's the last time you had four straight hours that you could do without on a given day?

My experiences with a long commute: it's doable (though mine wasn't quite as far as Austin-SA), but its miserable. The actual driving isn't the horrible part, its the hours of your day that are unavailable to you. Think of a schedule of your day, as is. Then imagine subtracting several hours from that, and trying to maintain your quality of life. It's rough, and I don't think I'd want to do it again.

(If you do decide to do it, however, the biggest recommendation I can make is this: Audiobooks. It took me about one week to grow miserable of the radio, and bored of the entire contents of my iPod. An audiobook will make the long hours infinitely more bearable, even if you (like me) don't initially think of yourself as an audiobook-type person.)
posted by Eldritch at 6:38 PM on March 16, 2006

San Marcos is indeed a viable option. If being closer to Austin is more important, however, be sure to live on the SOUTH side Austin so that you can avoid the city traffic. My dad lives in South Austin and commutes to SA about 3 or 4 days each week; if it's tolerable for him, you'll probably do OK, too.
posted by davidmsc at 7:03 PM on March 16, 2006

Traffic on 410 across the near-northside of San Antonio isn't bad except during rush hour. Loop 1604, across the far northside, is getting bad as well. What part of SA would you be working in? Here in the Live Oak/Selma/Schertz area, convenient to I-35, Austin's an hour or so away. However, the Medical Center/USAA area is another 30 to 45 minutes away during rush hour, even though it's 15 miles of freeway.
posted by jsteward at 7:05 PM on March 16, 2006

I drove the Austin-SA trip many times when I lived in Austin, and it was not pleasant. Maybe it's improved, but in my memory, it was vividly hellish for such a short trip. Lots of eighteen-wheelers, lots of other traffic, and construction (which, from the sound of some of the other comments here, may have been completed since I moved).
posted by jayder at 7:21 PM on March 16, 2006

One hundred people a year die between San Antonio and Georgetown (10 miles N or Austin) on I-35 as of 2002. Never front page news because it is bad for growth and such. Plan on 85 mph speeds average.

Every day I-35 closes a lane or two due to a pile up between the cities.

Todays special was two 18-wheelers... one spilt thousands of pounds of meat on the highway, southbound was closed from 7 AM to 3 PM. Considering the usual is hundreds of gallons of diesel; vaguely humorous.
Would I commute that distance of I-35 on a regular basis? No way.
Craigslist RnR San Antonio and Austin would reap more first person up to date info about how it is.
posted by buzzman at 8:00 PM on March 16, 2006

It's doable, but it'll wear you down. The good thing is that grad school is temporary. Another option is moving to New Braunfels. It's a little bigger than San Marcos, and you'll be equidistant from San Antonio and Austin. I'm friends with a married couple. The wife works in SA; the husband works in Austin. It seems to work out for them.
posted by lunalaguna at 9:21 PM on March 16, 2006

Best answer: Living in San Marcos will just make both of you miserable and have bad commutes. Suck it up and live apart for a year or however long grad school is. You can commute every weekend, and both of you will be much happier living close to school / job. You say he is keeping non-standard hours, well I doubt you will be seeing much of each other then if you work a 9 hour day and commute for 4 more. Plus, think of the gas costs, eek!
posted by outsider at 8:34 AM on March 17, 2006

ok i lived in san marcos and commuted to austin. unless you really like the idea of living in a college town (no exxageration, lots of partying) do not live there. the commute is awful as well. I 35 has terrible traffic through austin which you will have to take half way. the in city options are worse. i now live near NYC. id rather sit in traffic here. im not joking.

in city the highway is two lanes on either side surrounded by giant concrete walls.. and two upper lanes on either sides above. when someone gets in an accident in the upper he ends up in the lower. the man that designed this highway commited suicide because he held himself responsible for the unexpandable death trap.

between austin and san marcos on the 'stretch' 5 days a week expect a helicopter with radar and 20 hidden cop cars.. 5 miles over you will get a ticket if they are there. again.. im not joking.

between san marcos and san antonio there is always some sort of construction and the highway goes 30 miles slower than it should.

it could cause alot of resentment.. i recomend seeing eachother on the weekends.

of course its doable but i suggest if you cant live without eachother than one of you makes a sacrifice and makes a different job/college choice.

good luck to you, and enjoy texas.. it has some really great areas.
posted by trishthedish at 9:51 AM on March 17, 2006

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