Bay Area commute times higher than last year, housing price contributes

Commute times are 9-percent longer this year than last, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

The amount of commuters and the presence of “super commuters,” those folks who, for example, drive to San Francisco from places like Stockton, Gilroy or Vacaville, are contributing to the increase in commuter traffic.

Kristin Culver falls into the super commuter category. She drives 82 miles each way from her home in Gilroy to her job in San Francisco.

"We weren't interested in playing the real estate game in the bay area,” Culver said. “We decided we wanted to buy a beautiful house in a great school district, and a little bit of extra time on the road was worth that financial upside to us.”

Culver works in the tech industry and says she makes a decent salary. But it isn't enough to live where her parents and grandparents did in Redwood City.

"When I’m on the train and I see the stop for Redwood City I think, ‘Gosh, it would be nice to get off right here,’" Culver said.

The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association states that most people still drive to work. In turn, commutes from far away suburbs are even longer and, consequently, real estate experts say it has placed a premium on "close-in" suburbs, causing a sustained increase in housing prices.

For Tiffany Stern, growing up in Oakland doesn't mean she can afford to live there. She instead drives 71 miles from Stockton to her job in Jack London square.

“Oakland is too expensive,” Stern said. “I can't really afford to live our here, and I don't have a partner, so it's pretty expensive."

For both women and many others, living far away comes at a cost: higher gas prices. But even beyond the excess of spending, it’s the amount of time lost in commute that’s troubling.

“It takes a lot of time out the day,” Stern said. “For me, it takes at least 4 to 5 hours out of my day when I could be doing something else."

And for parents, it means longer time away from their children, with plenty of commute time to think about them.

"I sacrifice time with my baby,” Culver said. “I have a young baby and some days I don't get to put her to bed and then I’m out the door before she wakes up.”