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A Better Commute

Author: Mike Scaletti

Inspired by Jojo's recent Tip of the Week, I decided to take a look at commuting in the Bay.

Things are slowly going back to normal in the Bay Area. That means that one of the biggest downsides to working in the Bay is DEFINITELY coming back. The long, crowded commute. The average SF commuter spent 67.6 minutes commuting to and from work in 2019, according to a report from Commercial Cafe. Obviously, this dropped off significantly in 2020, and hopefully, some of that improvement remains, but if it gets anywhere close to those pre-pandemic times, that means you'll spend just over 294 hours, or almost 8 full work weeks, just commuting. That’s a LOT of time.

The increase in remote work will certainly be helpful for reducing everyone's commute times, but unfortunately, remote work is not always feasible for a business or a specific career path. So if you’re stuck on the road (Or on BART, AC Transit, MUNI, SamTrans, or any of the other transit options around the Bay) how do you make the time more enjoyable?

1) Podcasts and Audiobooks


This is a big one. Podcasts and audiobooks don’t require the use of your hands or your eyes, and so are a great way to keep your mind engaged, work on improving your skills or knowledge base, or simply stay entertained while you make the trek to work. And according to Psychology Today, listening to audiobooks can improve your mental health in myriad ways, so it’s a win-win!

2) Leave Time to Decompress Before Starting Work


This has always been one of my favorites. Whenever I have needed to commute I have always given myself an extra hour to do so, and then spend time sitting in a cafe reading and sipping coffee before I start work. While giving yourself that little bit of extra time undoubtedly increases the length of your overall workday, it also means that you get to spend some time right before work in a pleasurable environment instead of crammed on a BART train or stuck in traffic. Plus, when the inevitable BART delay happens (I’m looking at you Civic Center Station!) or the Bay Bridge is at a standstill for some unknown reason, you won’t be late and will look fantastically responsible!

3) Spark Your Creativity by Mixing Up Your Route

Businessman painting abstract colorful design on gray background

This is a really interesting idea. Productivity blog Lifehack suggests that you can increase your creativity and come up with better ideas simply by changing up the route you take to work. They say that by “going out of your way to find new ways to get to work you are changing your input naturally. You will see new things, think about new things, and make new connections.”

I think that’s a great idea, although clearly that won’t be feasible for everyone. It’s not like you can add a new line to MUNI’s service. But if it is feasible, maybe mixing up the route you take to work on a daily basis will be just enough to keep it interesting and avoid tedium for you. Plus better, more creative ideas are always valuable. The Next Great American Novel could be just around that left turn.

4. Bike to Work


I don’t actually know how to ride a bicycle. I know, it’s embarrassing. But when you grow up in the City, there are some things you just never learn to do. That’s one for me. I hear it’s great though. My partner swears by commuting via bike. According to this Gizmodo Guide to Commuting by Bike, your commute gets “a zillion times more fun” when you start doing it via bike.

They do note that you need to have and know some things before you start, but a helmet, bike locks, bike lights, and a multitool should get most people started, and a little research will get you filled in on everything else.

5. Touch Base With Your Loved Ones


We’re all guilty of it occasionally. Losing touch with dear friends, not calling our family enough (Sorry Grandma), generally not making enough time for those we love. Your commute is a great chance to reach out with your hands-free device and spend an average of 67.6 minutes a day chatting with people who would love to hear from you! Your relationships will benefit, and it turns out so will your health!

Well, that’s it from me. How do you make your commute not suck? We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences.

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