A graduate student’s unconventional approach to avoiding having to pay expensive rent in the Bay Area while attending the University of California, Berkeley, has gained viral attention online.
The super commuter: The student, who identified himself as Bill in an interview with KTLA, shared his purported strategy in a viral Reddit post in April titled “I survived living in LA and commuting to Cal by plane over the past academic year to save on rent, AMA.”
“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,” he told KTLA. “That itself is a miracle.”
How it started: Writing as u/greateranglia, Bill shared that he had been residing in Los Angeles when he was accepted into a one-year Master of Engineering program at the university.
Knowing that he would return to L.A. after graduation and having rent he could afford there, he said he devised a plan to eliminate the burden of paying rent in the expensive Bay Area.
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.
How it went: During the academic calendar year, Bill claims he commuted between Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO) at least three times a week.
He treated the journey as a trip rather than a mere commute, defying the expectations of his classmates who believed he would quit within the first week.
A typical day for Bill purportedly involved waking up at 3:30 am and heading to LAX for a 6:00 am flight to SFO. From there, he would take the 8:30 am Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train to Berkeley, arriving just in time for his 10:00 am classes. After a full day of lectures, he would reverse the commute and reach home in Los Angeles around midnight.
Tracking his expenses: Bill, who documented the costs of his super commute on the travel forum FlyerTalk, revealed that he spent a total of $5,592.66 on commuting between LAX and SFO over the course of his one-year program.
The breakdown includes $671.29 for BART, $520.00 for parking, $1,948.27 for gas, $39.96 for inflight WiFi, $1,552.10 on Alaska Airlines flights, utilizing 407,500 Alaska miles, $758.24 on Southwest Airlines flights, using 156,945 Southwest points, $71.30 on United Airlines flights, 5,500 United miles, $15.60 on Avianca flights, 6,500 Avianca miles, and $15.90 on Spirit Airlines flights.
Bill calculated that he spent approximately 75,955 minutes on his commute from his 238 flights, in which he traveled a total of 92,089 miles
“YOLO” reasons: Some commenters on Reddit questioned if he actually saved money considering the value of the extra time he spent traveling back and forth.
In response to one commenter who asked if he was mainly doing it for financial reasons, he wrote: “Money is not the only reason. The other reason being ‘yolo and attempt to do something no one has ever done before.’”