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Bay Area Commuting Hacks (Part I of II: Driving Hacks)

June 2, 2016

Source: Flickr user Gohsuke Takama


As a Bay Area relocation expert, I escort newcomers around the region and give tours of communities, rental home options, and schools. So, driving is an integral part of my job.  Given a choice, most of us would avoid driving in traffic and take ferries, public transit, or BART to work, but some intrepid souls must brave the highways and make their way through the infamous Bay Area traffic maze. The following tips, or “hacks”, come from years of personal experience as a daily commuter scheming to save time and money.  They will hopefully add to your quality of life if you must (sigh) commute each day.  Some hacks will save you time, some will save you money, and some are emotional adjustments that I have personally found effective in eliminating “road rage”.


Hack 1 - Offset the Costs of Driving

Ask about commuter benefits programs at your company to help pay for your parking fees. Commuter benefits vary but can provide parking stipends, reduce taxes, or give you a monthly flexible stipend to offset your commute expenses. There are many options to choose from for commuter benefits programs but check out this example below.


Hack 2 - Make Commuting Social (and Offset the Costs of Driving!)

Carpool. Arrange a carpool with neighbors, coworkers, and friends, or pick up two or three carpool passengers at convenient locations near BART train stations or on your way to work. Drop them off in Downtown San Francisco. Carpooling allows you to enter the express lane on certain highways and the carpool (HOV) lane over bridges, reducing your drive time by 30-40 minutes each way. You also get a discount on the bridge toll. If you don’t know anyone going your way, learn more about “Casual Carpool” pickup locations, etiquette, and how it works at


Find out more info on the benefits of carpooling in the Bay Area at

Source: Flickr user Sharon Hahn Darlin


Note: To use the carpool lane, you need to pay for your bridge toll or express lane toll with a FasTrak account  (a commute payment system linked to your credit card) and install a toll tag in your car.  You can purchase a toll tag at Costco, Safeway, or Walgreens, or you order one online here:


Hack 3 (Related to Hack 2) - Make Some Money While You Commute

Drive for a local carpool app and make up to 10 bucks per trip to work as well as getting carpool lane access! Apps like Lyft operate in the South Bay and set up carpools for you on your work route, and there are plans to expand into other Bay Area communities.  If you are in the East Bay, check out Carzac:


Find out more about various carpool apps at