Travel Planning

How We Avoid Bay Area Traffic

When we were talking about pro/cons before moving to California, traffic was #1 on the con list. We decided to come out here, on the condition that we would not participate in the Bay Area traffic. We have now been here 3 months and I can safely say that we are not! So how are we doing that?

How we avoid bay area traffic

Driving Less

The biggest way we avoid traffic is just not getting behind the wheel. In NC we were driving 570 miles per week, just getting to and from work.

Here in CA, we’ve dropped down to just 1 car and Chris is biking to work every day. It’s only a 2.7 mile ride so there’s no excuse not to make that trip daily. It’s not like we get a lot of rain or snow here! If we do get some bad weather, he can take the shuttle provided by his work, but that hasn’t come up yet.

3 times a week the kids attend Spanish Immersion Preschool in the mornings and I run them there in the jogging stroller. It’s only 3.6 miles round trip and I’m getting faster! I still mostly walk on the way home and I always drive to pick them up.

Within a mile of our house we have 3 grocery stores, multiple playgrounds, the library, the pool, downtown restaurants, the bank, and the post office. By the time I get the kids in their carseats and go to these place by car, it’s hardly any quicker then walking. During rush hour, it would definitely be slower!

Our church is 2.2 miles away, but so far we’ve always driven, I need to work on that!

Once a week I take the kids to a Mandarin story time at the library in a nearby town. That trip is 15 miles round trip and I grumble about the distance every week! This is the only time I see some traffic during a normal week.

All of this might sound amazing, but it’s available all of the Bay Area! It’s just about the choices you make!

So the main time we drive is when we are searching for adventures: beach, festivals, hiking, trips. We just make sure we schedule these outings for non-traffic hours. For weekend trips we like to wait until 9pm on Friday and then make our move after all the traffic has died down.

Traffic Hacking

All of this has been working great, but Friday I was torn between my desire to get our 3 day weekend started and my horror of sitting in traffic! After pouring over google map projections and train timetables, I finally hatched a plan.

Friday after preschool, the kids and I had no obligations so we hopped in the car and drove to Gilroy. The kids napped on the way and then spent the afternoon playing at the park. We left Menlo Park at 12:54 pm on the Friday before Memorial Day and Google Maps estimated the trip would take us 1 hour and 6 minutes. We hit some traffic and it ended up taking us 1 hour and 19 minutesGoogle Maps Estimate

I checked the same route again at 4pm to see how long it would have taken us if we’d waited, 1 hour 44 minutes. If you assume Google was optimistic by 13 minutes again, that’s 38 minutes of savings! Instead of sitting in traffic for 38 minutes, the kids were running wild and free through fields and playgrounds.

Google Maps Traffic

Meanwhile, Chris worked until 3:30, biked home, walked to the CalTrain station and took the 3:56 pm train all the way to Gilroy. He has an unlimited CalTrain pass through his work so this option was free, and it got him to Gilroy exactly 1 hour and 32 minutes later. That’s 12 minutes better then Google’s estimate, and 25 minutes if you include the 13 minutes (at least) I think they were optimistic by.

Instead of sitting in traffic, Chris was comfortably cruising along while catching up on some work emails. When he walked off the train, we were waiting with the car gassed up and ready to go!

So what did we do on the way back? We stopped at the beach, we stopped at playgrounds, and ultimately, we sat in traffic. ? Any suggestions would be welcomed!

HJ not in traffic
Wild and free! Not in Bay Area traffic!
K not in traffic
Sitting in his car, but not in traffic!

What do you think?