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Commuting from Petaluma/Sonoma County

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Working & Careers > Commuting from Petaluma/Sonoma County


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Living in Petaluma and commuting to SF?

Aug 2012

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


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 new connections.

Two: We're a mixed race couple. Aside from the census statistics, would you say Petaluma is diverse, or at least accepting?

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 situations?

I don't, but I believe there is carpool/vanpool opportunities. Luisa


Commute from Petaluma/Rohnert Park to Richmond?

March 2012

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. anon


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 it. Alexandra
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 lovely country. --Hope It Works Out


Commuting from Petaluma to San Francisco

Dec 2008

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. Practical


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 workers (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 ? Anon.
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. anon
Hi, 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. Sincerely, Judiah


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 traffic. Holly
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