'It gets a little crazy'

An interview with a San Francisco Bay Area commuter

E&E News reporter Camille von Kaenel interviewed Rozeta Andres during her 60-mile commute to work in the San Francisco Bay area. It takes two or three hours depending on traffic. That's just one way.

Editing and production by Evan Lehmann and Camille von Kaenel.


Camille von Kaenel: In California's Bay Area, a tech boom is bringing in thousands of new people, making already expensive housing unaffordable to most. That's pushing people farther out and making life difficult and traffic and pollution worse. I'm Camille von Kaenel. We're going to go along with someone who has to drive for hours just to get to work. I called Rozeta Andres on the phone while she was in the middle of one of her daily journeys.

Rozeta Andres: Hi, this is Rozeta.

Von Kaenel: She lives in Tracy, Calif. It's a city 60 miles east of San Francisco. Every day she has to get herself into the city for her public relations job.

Andres: To get there by 9 [a.m.], I typically have to leave my house no later than 6 o'clock to 6:15 in the morning.

Von Kaenel: At the beginning of her trip, in Tracy, the rent for a one-bedroom apartment averages around $1,500 a month -- cheap by Bay Area standards.

Andres: For me, it's just a little bit more cost-effective. I live with my family, so I save money on rent. I, you know, I was raised in a house where my dad, to this day, still drives over two hours a day, one way, to get to work.

Von Kaenel: It's with her mom that Andres sometimes carpools, hopping in the car for 30 miles or so. On the way, they listen to true crime podcasts like "Dirty John" or the news on the radio. Their destination is Dublin. The city is the outer terminal for the Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, and a one-bedroom there averages around $2,250 a month.

Andres: Typically, that drive only usually takes around 30 minutes, but because of the Bay Area traffic, and a lot of the people who have moved outside of the Bay Area due to housing prices and stuff, the congestion has gotten much, much worse in the past couple years, so it's pushed my typically 30-minute drive to -- it could go up to an hour and a half if there's an accident or something.

Von Kaenel: She has to get to Dublin before 7:30 [a.m.] or there are no parking spots left at the station.

Andres: And then I hop on BART, and then it's about a 45-minute commute to my office.

Von Kaenel: She passes Castro Valley, where rent is $1,900. Then Alameda: $2,260.

Then Oakland, where rent in the neighborhood she goes through is $2,800 on average.

Finally, she gets to San Francisco, where, citywide, it's $3,200 -- more than twice what Andres would pay in her hometown.

She gets off at the downtown Montgomery BART station. A one-bedroom there? $3,700.

On a good day, this whole commute can take just under two hours, door to door. But that's starting to get rare. On a bad day, the commute can reach 2 ½, three, four hours.

Andres: The longer commute is kind of starting to impact all of us. I'm starting to feel extra tired, just because the extra congestion, from people moving out of the Bay Area and having to commute back in. There's more crowds on the train, more people on the freeway. It gets a little crazy.

Von Kaenel: And in the evening, Andres does the reverse. Sometimes she rides the BART in the wrong direction four stops and transfers back to the right train just so she can grab a seat. She gets home at around 8:30 p.m. And gets ready to do it again the next day.

Read more about the housing crisis and the climate change activists trying to tackle it on www.eenews.net.