Commuting from Petaluma/Sonoma County
Berkeley Parents Network >
Working & Careers >
Commuting from Petaluma/Sonoma County
We're a couple in our mid-30s with a 9 month old son, live
in North Oakland, and looking to buy our first home. We're
harboring a dream to move to Petaluma. We've loved our
visits there, but they've only been day trips. So far our
concerns about moving north have revolved around three
issues. One: We don't know a soul there. Is it easy to meet
other families? Are people friendly? Two: We're a mixed race
couple. Aside from the census statistics, would you say
Petaluma is diverse, or at least accepting? Three: My
husband works in the Financial District in SF (I'm a
mom/dissertating grad student, so not tied to a particular
location). His hours are generally 9-5, but he sometimes has
to work as late as 8 pm. Driving isn't an option. Would the
commute via public transportation be a killer? Do you know
of carpool connections or commuter van-type situations? I've
searched the archives but the posts seem a bit dated. Would
love to hear your collective wisdom! potential petaluman
My sister and her husband are raising their children in
Petaluma. Dad commutes to SF. It works for him - he does
drive his own vehicle, occasionally carpools. There's a
side road that gets you around the massive traffic on 101.
What's normally about a 45 minute drive can take 1.5 hours
(or more) with traffic.... My nieces and nephews
participate in a lot of different activities and as their
cool aunt (at least until I became a mom myself :)) I would
visit and attend performances/recitals/games/graduations
regularly. Their oldest is now 17 and was 4 when they
relocated to Petaluma. They LOVE it there. I think it is
easy enough to connect with other families. I think folks
are friendly there for the most part. Oh, I've taken the 80
commuter bus (Golden Gate) to and from Petaluma and it's
quite nice. I don't know how busy it is during commuter
hours though. As for diversity.... Not so much. Of the 13
years I've attended school and sport functions there, I've
seen 2 families that look like mine (African American.
Asian/White). Personally, we would not move there for 2
main reasons: lack of diversity and the crazy hay fever I
get there from April - June.
Good luck with your decision!!
I saw your message and asked the guy who sits next to me at
work (we work in dwntn SF) to answer your questions-- he
lives in Petaluma with his family! Here are his responses to
your questions.. One: We don't know a soul there. Is it
easy to meet other families? Are people friendly?
Yes and yes! Simply heading to the local park seems to spawn
Two: We're a mixed race couple. Aside from the census
statistics, would you say Petaluma is diverse, or at least
Not really diverse (yet), but I think we're an accepting
community (coming from a straight, mixed race white guy).
Three: My husband works in the Financial District in SF (I'm
a mom/dissertating grad student, so not tied to a particular
location). His hours are generally 9- 5, but he sometimes
has to work as late as 8 pm. Driving isn't an option. Would
the commute via public transportation be a killer?
Golden Gate Transit buses (#'s 74 and 76) are express to and
from SF, and go through the Financial District. Travel times
can vary from 50 min in the morning to 1 hr 30 min in the
evening. Sometimes, there are 2+ hour afternoon commutes on
a bad day. There's also the Golden Gate Ferry from Larkspur
for evening commutes (last one leaves at 8ish).
Do you know of carpool connections or commuter van-type
I don't, but I believe there is carpool/vanpool
Hi, looking for folks with experience commuting from the
North Bay (like Petaluma/Rohnert Park) to the Richmond area.
We are thinking about buying a home there, but our job is
here in the East Bay and won't be changing anytime soon.
If you're commuting at normal commute hours, you do not want
to do it from Petaluma/Rohnert Park south. 101 is a parking
lot in many places. I work in San Rafael and have coworkers
who come from up there - it takes them an hour frequently
(when without traffic it should be a half-hour or less) and
then you'd have another 10-20 minutes to Richmond from SR!
Ugh. There are back roads to take, but they are winding and
who wants to do that every day? You might be able to go across
37 to Vallejo, but then you brave the Carquinez Bridge/I-80
traffic at commute hour. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news,
but unless you're working from home most days it is not worth
Hi! I used to commute San Rafael to the Richmond/El
Sobrante area, generally during somewhat off-peak travel
times. Generally, I found it a pleasant route relatively
free of stop-and go. There are a few caveats.
I am not sure what the Petaluma-San Rafael stretch would be
like in the am; you could check 511.org online, it is
updated in real time.
Once you switch from 101S to 580E in San Rafael, traffic is
generally good. However, if accident or high-winds cause a
bridge closure, then traffic grinds to a complete halt. It
doesn't happen often but it does happen. During those times
my only option was to take 101 north to 37/Sears Raceway and
skirt the north rim of the Bay, then connect to the
Eastshore Freeway via the Carquinez Bridge. That's a good
alternative route for your location.
But usually, once in the East Bay, I exited 580 and took the
Richmond Parkway to connect to I-80. My other route was to
drive 580 south all the way to Central Blvd, exit and then
connect to the I-80, much further south. I personally would
not drive any other routes through Richmond that involved
going on city streets (I lived in LA and I've driven through
lots of gang neighborhoods, but Richmond really scares me.)
For me, the worst part (580W to 101N) was the return, if it
happened around sunset. I'm very light-sensitive and the
drive west you are headed almost directly towards the sun.
Once you connect to 101N, traffic can jam up, especially
around central San Rafael and then again north of Novato,
where the traffic lanes go from 3 to 2 (it's called ''The
Narrows''). If that happens, you can always take ''the back
route'' via the Petalum/Point Reyes road.
It's not a short commute, but it does takes you through some
--Hope It Works Out
My husband and I are seriously considering moving from Oakland to Petaluma.
We both work in San Francisco and would not change jobs.
I have concerns about commute time. We have two young children -- 1 year and 4
years -- and I don't want to be stuck in traffic four hours each day. This is our main
negative when considering the move.
Is anyone currently doing this commute/does anyone have experience with it? I
would appreciate any insight.
Thanks so much.
Four hours in traffic for you and four hours for your husband
adds up to eight hours every day that you are not with your
children. That is 40 hours per week that you are not with your
family and not earning money!
If you want to move, how about moving closer to work instead of
farther from work? Lots of houses are available for rent or sale
in San Francisco. Instead of commuting for four hours a day, you
could work an extra hour or two, to put your time to better use.
You could even sell one of your cars, saving even more money.
I wouldn't recommend that commute. My Dad did it for years and it
took years off him, I think. Of course, there is a the Golden
Gate Transit bus (which goes directly to SF, I believe) and
carpool and ferry options (Larkspur), but I have to say Hwy 101
can be stop and go during commute hours. Of course, if you have
flex hours or can work at home, go for it. I suggest camping out
in Petaluma for a few days and trying the commute for yourself;
it'd be worth the investment.
Hwy 101 is a drag during commute
Go to 511.org and click on Predict-a-Trip on the right hand side
of the page. This tool allows you to get travel times from SF to
Petaluma for different times of day and day types
(weekday/weekend/holiday). I ruled out living in the North Bay
because of the distance to work and the lack of transit
alternatives that don't also rely on 101. My kids are 6 and 8
and the need for me to get home quickly to get them to after
school activities is just getting more and more intense.
Fan of 511
I have heard about this commute from numerous people- most crafts
(contractors, plumbers, electricians) in SF live in Santa Rosa or
thereabouts. They have
to drive to SF starting at about 6am. Can you face that ?
Ugh. I haven't done this in a long while but I can't imagine
it's gotten better. It's super frustrating during commute time.
Long and frustrating. I'd advise against it.
I lived in Marin for years until recently when I moved to
Berkeley. So I know the route you're talking about and had
friends who commuted from Petaluma to Mill Valley. The main story
is that if you leave very early in the morning (5am) then you can
beat the traffic and generally do ok. But if you leave later (6am
or later) you're in trouble: you'll hit a bit of traffic in
Novato and then a snarl from Central San Rafael and then kind of
thick traffic all the way to Mill Valley. Generally from Mill
Valley to the Bridge is ok in the mornings, though of course
accidents do happen a few times a year.
In short: If you can't commute very early in the morning, I
personally would not recommend making the move.
You would be stuck in traffic for hours every day. Highway 101
through Marin is a traffic nightmare at rush hour, every day. I
work in San Rafael and have co-workers who live in or near
Petaluma, and they all avoid arriving between 8 and 9 or leaving
between 5 and 6 if they can possibly help it. Going to San
Francisco adds that much more clogged freeway to traverse, plus
getting across San Francisco itself. There are busses, which
are very nice, but (unlike BART) still subject to being stuck in
this page was last updated: Mar 25, 2013
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are transitioning to a new website during
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network