Grad student in California commuted from L.A. to class in the Bay Area by plane to save on rent
He made the trip from Los Angeles to Cal Berkeley and back an average of 3 days a week.
An engineer in Los Angeles named Bill got accepted into a one-year master’s degree program at Cal Berkeley but was put off by the idea of paying the astronomical rent in the Bay Area. Berkeley is located just north of Oakland in the East Bay, where the average rent is over $3500 a month.
Bill had an affordable place in L.A. and a job waiting for him when he finished school, so he decided he would do the unthinkable to most people, commute to school and back.
"I was living in LA comfortably. I got accepted into a one-year MEng program (technically August 2022-May 2023). I knew I would go back to LA after graduation because I want to go back to my previous employer once I graduate,” he shared on Reddit’s Berkeley subforum. “I love flying and I have a lot of frequent flyer miles/points from credit card sign up bonus/flying over the past few years. Bay area rent is expensive in general, and my program is only 10 months, so I thought I could get it through commuting by plane."
Bill had classes three days a week on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, but he booked flights for five days a week in case he had a meeting or an event he had to attend.
“If I don't need to come to campus that Tu/Th, I just cancel the tickets the night before and get a full refund. I have elite status with Alaska and Southwest, both offer a valuable perk called same-day change,” Bill said.
On a typical Monday and Wednesday during the fall schedule, when classes started at 10 am, he would wake up at 3:40 am in Los Angeles and drive to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for a 6:00 Alaska Airlines flight to San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Upon arriving in the Bay, he would take the BART light-rail train to campus. For his 8 am Friday class, he would take the 5:30 am Southwest Flight to Oakland International Airport.
“If I'm hanging out with friends or working on hw/projects with cohort for a bit longer in the library, I would take the last flight home (905pm OAK-LAX on Southwest or 1030pm SFO-LAX on Alaska),” he continued. “But normally I would take the 6pm or 7pm flight and reach home around 930pm.”
Bill completed the degree program in 10 months, and the total cost for transportation was less than two months of rent living in Berkeley.
$5592.66, with $671.29 on BART, $520.00 on parking, $1948.27 on gas, $39.96 on inflight wifi, $1552.10 on Alaska, 407500 Alaska miles, $758.24 on Southwest, 156945 Southwest points, $71.30 on United, 5500 United miles, $15.60 on Avianca, 6500 Avianca miles, $15.90 on Spirit. 114 trips, 238 flights, 92089 miles flown, spent 75955 minutes on my commute, equivalent to 52.75 24-hr days.
But most importantly, Bill got his degree, and according to Fox 5 San Diego, he is now working full-time as a transportation engineer. He hopes to one day become Secretary of the U.S. Transportation Department, like Pete Buttigieg.
“This is probably one of the craziest things I’ve done in my life, and I’m so glad I made it through, without missing any classes,” Bill said. “That itself is a miracle.”