Pilot Lifestyle
De-stressing the commute
April 12, 2012

I’m becoming a huge fan of the stress-free commute.  Even if it takes a little more time, effort and money, I’m starting to take any measures necessary to eliminate the stress.

A low pressure system was moving over the Bay Area the morning of my commute.  With low overcast rainy conditions forecast, I knew SFO would be running big delays. (Same old story I’ve written about before… runways too close together limits the aircraft arrival rate in bad weather.)

Who needs that stress when commuting?  I’m at the point that whenever poor conditions are forecast, I commute to an alternate airport.  I’ve been using Oakland and riding the Bart over to San Francisco.  It takes about an hour and a half and costs $10.80.

With a late afternoon report time, I decided to try the other Bay Area backup: San Jose Airport.  I’d been looking for an excuse to give this option a “dry run” when I had plenty of time.

There are three options after landing in San Jose.  A cab is obviously the fastest and most expensive method of transportation.  The next fastest but cheaper option is a shuttle service that gives airline crews a great rate.  The cheapest and most time consuming is the train.

A quick check of flight loads revealed a jet with forty five open seats.  A subsequent check of the train schedule showed that I had enough time to be cheap.

When I arrived at DIA in the morning, my decision was validated.  San Francisco was averaging a two hour delay for all inbound flights.

When I arrived at the airport, delays for SFO were starting to be posted. The times on the board are “push times.” Actual takeoff delays were running two hours.

My flight to San Jose pushed and departed on-time.  I had a window seat with the middle seat open.  We arrived fifteen minutes early.  No stress.

Walking through the terminal, I stopped at the information booth and asked where I could catch the shuttle to the CalTrain.  The woman was overly helpful: “Walk out those doors and wait for the #10 bus.  Now, be really careful… there are two #10 buses.  One goes to the light rail and the other one goes to CalTrain.  If you’re not sure, ask the driver.”

Waiting for the bus at SJC. Notice the woman’s warning was reiterated on the sign? I wonder how many people board the wrong bus.

A few minutes later, I was on the correct #10 bus.  After traversing through the town, I disembarked into the rain at the Santa Clara CalTrain Station.  To travel up to Millbrae, the machine charged my Mastercard $6.75.

The Santa Clara CalTrain Station

The Santa Clara CalTrain Station

I thought the train was nice and comfortable.  The cars are two levels.  I really would have enjoyed the view upstairs, but I wasn’t going to lug my bags up and place them in the narrow aisle.  The luggage rack was downstairs and I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my things unattended.

An hour later, I arrived at the Millbrae station.  If the weather had been nice, I would have walked into town, eaten lunch and hopped a hotel shuttle over to the airport.  Since it was raining, I decided to transfer to the Bart.

After paying $4.00 for the Bart ticket, I realized I would not be going directly to SFO.  On the weekdays, the two stations are not directly serviced even though they are a mile apart.  I needed to travel on one line up to San Bruno, transfer and continue on the other back to the airport.  Maybe a walk through Millbrae in the rain would have been the better option.

Although a little round-about, I did successfully arrive at the Bart Station at SFO.  To add one more mode of transportation to the morning, I boarded SFO’s AirTrain to grab lunch in another terminal.

Would I do it the same way again?  Sure… but, only if it was the only option.  I prefer the Oakland/Bart route since it is faster.  If I flew to San Jose again, I’d try reserving a seat on the crew-friendly shuttle service.

The overall travel time was much longer than my normal commute.  But, I was very relaxed.  While some of my peers were sweating it out trying to fly directly to SFO, I had a very calm, predictable morning.

Occasionally adding a few hours to my commute may be the secret to adding a few years to my life.


On a different note, here’s a pic of me getting ready to fly one of our newest jets. “fly bye baby” is dedicated to the San Francisco Giants… complete with “The Beard” on the nose.

About author

Renewed Pilot

I've endured a roller coaster career in the U.S. Aviation Industry. Currently flying the 737 on my third try with the same legacy carrier, I have also flown for a regional, fractional and start-up carrier. My piloting experience includes the 737, A320, 727, Citation Excel, Citation Bravo, Saab 340 and many light singles and twin engine aircraft. I reside in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee.

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There are 2 comments

  • Pam Deveau says:

    Hey, that’s the first time I’ve seen you in that seat. I’m proud of you my nephew!!!

  • Kate Z. says:

    It is awesome to hear about some of the different options for commuting in bad weather. I am glad you had a stress free trip and I loved the pictures!

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