My multimodal commute: Santa Cruz to Palo Alto

My commute is multimodal. That means I take multiple modes of transportation during my commute. I bike, take a bus, hop on a train, then bike the final leg to work.

My total one way distance is about 40 miles. Normally I advocate living close to work to reduce dependence on motorized transportation, but my wife attends graduate school in the town we live in. One of us gets to live close in, so the other of us gets to commute far away.

40 miles might not normally seem too horribly bad, but my commute takes me on the twisty road over the Santa Cruz Mountains. I’ve only biked over these mountains on the weekends, which entails multiple up and down and up trips across valleys. I live at an elevation of 500 feet and the road summits at nearly 2000 feet before dropping me back to a few feet above sea level in Silicon Valley.

If I drive, after I get “over the hill,” my choices are to get onto highway 85 to Mountain View (which is always packed), or shoot straight down I-880 to 101 (which is always packed), or I can take a couple of county expressways (which are always packed) to get to work. During commute hours, the 20 mile drive from my job to Los Gatos typically takes about an hour. Caltrain covers the distance from my work to downtown San Jose (where I catch the bus) in less than 20 minutes.

My monthly bus pass is about $100; the train pass is another $100 per month. That might seem horribly expensive, but even without the CommuterCheck transit subsidy I get from my employer that’s still cheaper than pumping gas every three days. And for my commute across Silicon Valley, it turns out that driving solo takes about the same amount of time as taking public transportation. I lose a little flexibility, but I save money, I save time, I can use my time on the train and bus productively, and I make new friends.

While public transportation facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area are pretty good, the bicycle works wonderfully to extend the capabilities of public transit. I don’t have to be within reasonable walking distance of a bus stop or train station — the bike extends my range.

Who else has a multimodal commute that includes a bicycle? Do you take the bike with you on the bus or train? Or do you lock it up at the station?

Post navigation