On a good day, Cecily Wallis can make the drive from her home in Petaluma to her job in Napa in about 35 minutes.
The paralegal's daily commute takes her past arresting views of vineyards, sunrises and sunsets and the occasional cluster of hot-air balloons rising over Napa.
Though she spends more time in her car than most Sonoma County commuters, it's still better than driving to San Francisco each morning.
“You can make a lot of money as a paralegal in (San Francisco) but basically you give your whole life over to the commute,” she said. “At some point it just kills you. You don't see your family anymore and you're exhausted all the time. Life is so good, you don't always want to be on the road.”
In fact, her commute is not unusual for many workers who live in Petaluma.
The typical Petaluma resident spends 29.4 minutes traveling to work each day, giving them the longest average commute in Sonoma County, according to estimates released recently by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Rohnert Park residents are close behind, with an average one-way commute of 27.3 minutes. The shortest commutes are enjoyed by residents in Healdsburg and Sebastopol, at 21.1 minutes and 21.8 minutes, respectively.
Overall, the typical Sonoma County resident spends 25.1 minutes driving to work. Over the course of a year, that adds up to a whopping 109 hours — or 4 1/2 days — for someone driving to work five days a week, every week of the year.
And that doesn't even include the drive home at the end of the day.
The long commutes endured by Petaluma residents is, in part, a reflection of geography.
Petaluma's location at the southern edge of Sonoma County and its proximity to other Bay Area counties opens the door to greater employment options and, consequently, longer commutes.
In fact, Petaluma's mean work travel time is two minutes longer than that of the nine-county Bay Area, which is 27.4 minutes. Contra Costa County residents have the longest commutes in the region, at 32.2 minutes.