Twenty-six hours. That’s how long Sheila James spends commuting to and from work each week, earning her the designation of super-commuter. But the 65-year-old public health advisor at the US Department of Health and Human Services isn’t complaining about the long hours, instead she is praising the local train and bus systems that keep her out of her car.” I grew up in New York City so public transit is my preferred method of transportation,” Sheila says. “If I had to drive I probably would have figured out something else by now.”
For those who didn’t grow up taking the train, she says the commute would be much more difficult. “Public transit is in my DNA and I think that’s what makes it okay to me. If I grew up in like L.A. and had no clue what a bus or a train is, I doubt this would be as seamless.” It’s not all positives, however, either. Sheila says finding time to work out is her biggest struggle, and by the end of the week she is certainly tired putting in six-and-a-half hours riding to and from work four days per week—she works from home on Wednesdays—but it’s still better than the alternative of taking a pay cut to work in Stockton where she has been able to purchase her own home. Plus, Sheila likes her job, so she has no intention of leaving.
For Sheila, every morning operates like clockwork. Her alarm goes off at 2 AM, and she’s out of bed starting her day by 2:15 AM. First, she works out for 12 minutes on the rebounder or elliptical, then, she hops in the shower to get ready for the day. Having a cup of coffee at home as she tidies up before leaving the house is a daily luxury she affords herself.
By 4 AM, she’s out the door and on her way to the ACE station in Stockton. On March Lane she plans a solid three to four minutes for the red light going south, calling it “the worst light in Stockton.” It takes 11 minutes to drive to the station, and the train leaves at 4:20 AM. She boards the quiet train and spends time answering emails on her phone or reading a book. At 5:36 AM, she’s at the Pleasanton fairgrounds, taking the 53 Shuttle to West Dublin BART where she’ll board the 6:03 AM train that takes her into San Francisco. At 6:50 AM she’s at the Civic Center station. At 6:57 AM she’s upstairs in the San Francisco Federal Building ready to start her work.
All in all, her commute is about three hours from her house to her office door. And at 3:20 PM she leaves to do the whole journey in reverse. The ACE train to Stockton leaves at 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, and 7:30 PM Monday through Friday and Sheila’s goal is always to be on the 5:30 PM train so she can be home at 7:05 PM.
Once she’s home, Sheila packs her lunch, sets out her vitamins for the next day, and unwinds by reading a book or drinking a glass of wine. She likes to listen to Terrie Gross on NPR as she falls asleep so she’ll often get into bed around 8 PM and doze off between 9 and 9:30 PM.
By Saturday, Sheila hasn’t tired of the train yet. In fact, once or twice a month she takes the train back to the Bay Area for social events. “I moved here in 2013 from Alameda,” she says. “Such a large part of my life still takes place in the Bay Area.”
ACE offers weekend rides between the Central Valley and the Bay Area. Since September, when the program started, Sheila has been using the service to visit friends, go to the movies, and more. And she’s hoping the weekend service continues.
Sheila does have opportunities to ease her commuter lifestyle, such as occasionally staying with friends in the city, driving to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station on select Friday evenings so she can enjoy a night out after work, and working from home on Wednesdays. Between the higher wages in San Francisco, the affordable housing in Stockton, and the ACE train schedule, Sheila plans to keep on commuting. “It’s not that far,” she says.
Check the Schedule:
ACE Train – Stockton
949 E. Channel St., Stockton