Life of a commuter who goes to work at 2:15 AM

Like many people who could not afford a costly house in San Francisco, Sheila James has to get up at 2am every day to get to work.

Sheila James starts working on Monday at 2.15am. For a baker or a radio host, this might be normal, but James is an office worker. 

She is 62 years old, earning $ 81,000 a year as a public health consultant in San Francisco. Her day begins at 2 o’clock in the morning as San Francisco is one of the most expensive areas in the United States, and she cannot afford a house here.

James lives in Stockton, about 80 miles away, where the cost of living is lower, causing her to take two trains and one bus. She often leaves home at 4am. 

Mrs. James gets up at 2 o'clock, leaving home at 4am to arrive at work on time at 7am. Photo: NyTimes.

“Two fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening,” James said, but she enjoys having a cup of coffee in the early morning.

When the alarm goes off the second time at 3:45, her journey begins. It often takes her 07 minutes to drive from home to the train station and another 04 minutes to park and walk to the platform. 

The Altamont Corridor Express has doubled its capacity over the past decade, receiving about 2,500 passengers a day. This number reflects only a fraction of the number of people who have to move from San Joaquin County to Bay Area, because many people prefer to travel by car. 

This train is not different from a flight with blankets, pillows and sleepy tired faces. A few people who do not sleep entertain themselves with phones, laptops or books. Hardy do those people talk to each other.

After getting off the train, James needs to catch a bus to get to another train station on her way to the office. She used to live quite close to her workplace, in Alameda, California, only about 15 miles away from San Francisco Bay. However, three years ago James’s and her neighbors’ houses were bought by a developer. Therefore, James decided to move to Stockton. 

These trains are no different than night flights, where people carry blankets, pillows to sleep and rarely talk to each other.

In Stockton, she pays $ 1,000 a month for a three-bedroom house, much affordable than paying $ 1,600 every month to rent a one-bedroom apartment in Alameda. Commuting is nothing new to people working in San Francisco. In San Francisco, the average home price is over $ 1 million. 

Approximately 50,000 people move from San Joaquin County to work in Bay Area each day, making Stockton the largest area of commuters in the United States. Those people usually spend at least 90 minutes to go to work from home. 

This state, of course, is not just happening in Northern California. The number of people spending over 90 minutes to go to work in the United States is about 3% out of the total population. In Stockton, this data is up to 8%. 

James often arrives her office at 6:50 after travelling for 3 hours. Photo: NYTimes 

In fact, James can get up later, about 3:50 to go to work. However, she loves a relaxing morning and a long journey. Sometimes she gets off the train earlier so as to walk for a moment before working. This time, the train stops at 7am. She chooses escalator instead of stairs. She needs another 3 minutes to move from the train station to her workplace, the Ferrous Building. In the evening, it takes her another 3 hours to get home.

By: Chris Stewart

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