Business & Real Estate

Remote workers and super commuters are on the rise – and they probably make more than you

This Central Valley city has some of the nation’s longest commutes. See what it’s like

Bruce Simmons describes his long commute on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Simmons drives four days a week from the Central Valley on Highway 152 to Gilroy, where he catches a train to his job in Menlo Park.
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Bruce Simmons describes his long commute on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. Simmons drives four days a week from the Central Valley on Highway 152 to Gilroy, where he catches a train to his job in Menlo Park.

It’s no secret the number of super commuters – those poor people who trek more than 90 minutes each way to work – is steadily on the rise in California.

Modesto, Stockton and the San Bernardino metro areas were already super commuting hubs 12 years ago. A recent report by Apartment List shows it’s still on the rise – and the commuters often make more money than their neighbors.

The report shows wide variations in pay for those who telecommute or travel long distances for work compared with people who are employed nearby. The implication is that high-earning workers could drive up the cost of living in less-expensive areas, spreading affordability issues elsewhere.

Super commuters exist across the country but the prevalence is heavier in California. They can earn as much as 20 percent more than their neighbors in Stockton and 18 percent more in Modesto.



With 11 percent of its full-time workforce traveling nearly three hours for work, the Stockton area is the super commuting capital of the United States. Modesto was ranked a close second with 8 percent of its workforce doing the same.

The phenomenon is one of two parallel trends driven by the housing market in the Bay Area, said Chris Salviati, an economist for Apartment List in San Francisco. He said as rents and home prices grow further out of reach, more people look elsewhere to live but continue working in the Bay Area since there are so many high-paying jobs.

“You’ve got a lot of people that are doing quite well by conventional standards, earning six-figure salaries, but in this area that’s just not enough for them to be able to live close to the downtown areas,” Salviati said.

On the other end of the spectrum are construction workers who also travel long distances for work. But in Northern California, Salviati said the Bay Area housing crisis is more to blame. In San Francisco proper, rent growth is flattening a bit but there’s much faster growth in the outer areas, Salviati said.

“Given that these folks are coming at a higher point on the income range, they are going to be putting more pressure on the upper end of the housing supply,” Salviati said.

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