Bay Area/ Oakland/ Transportation & Infrastructure
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Published on May 18, 2023
Two Stories of Students Commuting by Plane from LA to Berkeley Emerge within a WeekSource: Unsplash / SFO International Airport

With soaring rent prices around university campuses and the Bay Area in general, some students are going above and beyond to seek alternative living arrangements that don't break the bank. One extreme case involves a Redditor (@GreaterAnglia) who claims to be recent graduate from UC Berkeley, further suggesting they managed to complete the Master's of Engineering (MEng) program while residing in Los Angeles, commuting to campus by plane three times a week over the academic year, per a story that the alleged student first posted to Reddit, then followed up with an extensive reporting with documentation of the year of travel on FlyerTalk, including a near countless numbers of flight intineraries and images of airplanes, BART trains, and airport lounges. From Hoodline's deep dive into the photos and posts, it appear that the story is legitimate, though as of now it is not confirmed.

Interestingly, this Redditor's experience calls to mind another story, published just one week ago. Hatcher Parnell, a UC Berkeley student whose tale about commuting twice a week from Whittier, near Los Angeles, to the Bay Area campus was written up on Berkeley News. The story, which was later also posted to Berkeley Side, acknowledged that Parnell almost graduated from UC Berkeely in 1996, but never completed the necessary coursework to recieve his degree. The story notes his use of a combination of a plane and BART to make it to his classes on time, surprisingly similar to that of the Redditor.

Parnell and @GreaterAnglia's unusual commutes might almost seem like a fabrication, but they are - in fact - not the first tale of an individual choosing to commute from the Los Angeles area to the Bay Area. In a San Francisco Chronicle article from 2017, tech CTO Curt von Badinski become famous for enduring a six-hour daily commute by place from Burbank to San Francisco in the hopes of saving money and avoiding the relocation of his company which was based in San Francisco.

Extreme commuters have been navigating the high cost of living in urban areas by embracing alternative methods, sometimes sacrificing their time, sleep, and energy. While most of them recognize that this lifestyle is not sustainable for everyone, these individuals prove that it is possible to achieve your goals despite challenging circumstances.

The aerial odyssey of the LA-based UC Berkeley graduate, as chronicled in their Reddit post, is an impressive example of grit and resourcefulness, though some thought the idea was more foolish than anything else. "Bro you're hella dumb," responded one. Another described the efforts as, "quite possibly the stupidest thing I've read on this sub." Several brought into question the environmental impacts of choosing such a lifestyle, albeit on a temporary basis.

by u/sogothimdead from discussion I survived living in LA and commuting to Cal by plane over the past academic year to save on rent, AMA
in berkeley
by u/TheCompanionCrate from discussion I survived living in LA and commuting to Cal by plane over the past academic year to save on rent, AMA
in berkeley

Nonetheless, @GreaterAngelia shared how they leveraged frequent flyer miles and an elite flying status to plan and book their flights throughout the academic year. Their commitment meant spending nearly 52 24-hour days commuting over both semesters and shelling out thousands of dollars to cover transportation costs, but they claim that the rent free housing in the LA area more than made up for it. Either way, the story goes that they managed to complete their master's program without missing a single class and maintained their LA residence rent-free, throughout.

Like the graduate, Parnell and von Badinski valued the benefits of staying close to their family and the affordability of living in the Los Angeles area. The commutes these individuals faced involved long trips and complex schedules, making it all the more remarkable that they managed to achieve their academic and professional goals while maintaining balance in their personal lives.

Extreme commuting, while not a recommended way of life, highlights the dedication and resilience of those who undertake it. It also sheds light on the challenges many students and professionals face when trying to balance the skyrocketing cost of living in urban areas with their education and career aspirations.

As demonstrated by the experiences detailed by the @GreaterAngelia, Hatcher Parnell, and Curt von Badinski, extreme commuting may offer a temporary solution to the rising cost of living and the need for access to educational and professional opportunities. Yet, perhaps it reveals a greater issue that must be addressed in affordable living in bustling urban areas.

Oakland-Transportation & Infrastructure