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Sorry to Tell You, But It's Absolutely Not Cheaper to Live in Vegas and Commute to S.F.

We reached a sometime Vegas-to-S.F. mega-commuter, and his numbers tell a different story.


After mathematically creative Internet user Yourslice took to Reddit earlier this week to claim that San Franciscans could save $1,124 per month in rent if only we made the wee sacrifice of commuting back and forth from Las Vegas, the Internet exploded with both tears and hasty back-of-the envelope calculations. CityLab got in on the action, estimating the potential yearly savings at $13,500, as did Curbed. It seemed too good (bad) to be true: Could Vegas really become S.F.’s latest exurb? 

We decided to check with someone who actually does the commute—on weekends, anyway. Please welcome Scott Lucas, San Francisco’s former web editor and North Beach resident (and erstwhile mayoral candidate!), who now spends his weekdays in Vegas as the politics editor for the Las Vegas Sun. His wife, meanwhile, kept her job back in the Bay Area, so Scott’s here practically every weekend. And based on his experience, we can definitively say that Yourslice’s mega-commuting math is bogus.

Yourslice’s calculations are based on a four-day work week, and estimate $70 round-trip flights between LAS and SFO, plus $1,012 in monthly rent for a two-bedroom. The grand total comes to $2,408, a good chunk of change less than S.F.’s median one-bedroom rental price of $3,123. 

Putting aside the enormous hassle of commuting essentially three hours twice a day (a 90-minute flight, plus ground transportation, arriving at the airport with the proper buffer, and guzzling all your water before going through the TSA), the numbers just don’t work. That $70 round-trip airfare is half the real cost of tickets for flights that take off and land during commuting hours. Searching an entire week of flights more than six weeks from now, we arrived at an average daily price of $148 for itineraries that depart between 6 and 8:30 a.m. and return between 6 and 8:30 p.m.

We reached Scott on Gchat to do the rest of the math together. 

Scott  The cost of living in Las Vegas is absurdly cheap.
I live in an apartment that is literally at the top end of the market here.
It's a 1br that was built like six months ago.

Lamar  whoa
you must have wood floors?

Scott lol, carpet

Lamar OH NO
how can it be top end and have carpet?

Scott it's like really nice carpet?

Lamar  <<personally devastated>>

Scott  here's the problem, though

just like they told us in my progressive pre-school, you matter as a person
you have value
so that six hours a day you would be spending to commute, that's not you valuing your time highly enough

Lamar jet lag of the soul every day

Scott  exactly

Lamar  do you have soul-lag when you're here on weekends? or when you go back?

Scott  haha yeah
my wife and I joke about it
the other day, we went walking around Hayes Valley and I blew through $100 or $200 bucks without realizing it
comic books at Isoptope
cider at the beer garden
ate at souvla
shopped at carey lane
(Love their men's shoe selection.)
Whereas in Vegas, I live like a monk

if you have to cover those airline tickets, you have to be careful about other expenses
ALTHOUGH we did go see Britney Spears. That wasn't cheap at all.

So there you have it, folks. For the price of a, what, studio sublet at the Infinity, or even a decent two-bedroom in an apartment that other people have lived in before, you could maybe also afford to lay your head in Vegas. Pros: living large with free wine parties, pools, and Britney. Cons: just about everything else.

All told, here's Scott's ballparked tally for an imaginary month of mega-commuting:

$2,368 airfare
$1,500 rent
$400 BART (watch out for that SFO access premium!)
$200 car ownership
$160 parking 

Grand total: $4,628.

That’s nearly double the $2,408 we started with.


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