How Tracy got on the 'worst' list
by Sam Matthews
Aug 22, 2014 | 10148 views | 19 19 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The other day, a friend of mine handed me a piece of paper containing a list of cities. The list contained the 10 worst cities in the U.S. for work-life balance.

Down on fourth place was a familiar name: Tracy, Calif.

Obviously, this caught my attention — in a hurry. Tracy on the “worst in the U.S.” list? I’d better check this out.

I found that lists of the 10 “Best” and 10 “Worst” cities rated 536 cities on how residents balance their jobs and living factors. The lists were compiled by NerdWallet, a website that provides info on what it considers the best bang for the buck in “finance, investing, education, shopping and health.”

A glance at both lists provided rapid insight into how Tracy found itself on the wrong one. Of the top 10 “Best” cities for work-life balances, nine are university cities with short drive-to-work times and relatively modest rental costs. Bloomington, Ind., home of Indiana University, topped the list. The only non-university city is Bellingham, Wash., which has a two-year technical college.

Of the 10 “worst” cities, California placed a majority — six, including Tracy (No. 4) and Antioch (No. 8). Nine on the list (New York City being the only exception) are cities near metropolitan centers with longer drive-to-work times and higher monthly rents than those on the “Best” list.

The judging categories: 1. Mean weekly hours worked. 2. Mean travel time to work (minutes). 3. Mean earnings for full-time year-round workers. 4. Mean gross rent.

Bloomington scored 79.40 points with a 15.2-minute dive to work time and median gross monthly rent of $788.

Tracy posted a score of 33. As you probably have guessed by now, Tracy got hit for a long commute, 42.6 minutes (longest on either list); and for a higher median gross rent, $1,358.

Our mean average earnings, $50,080 for full-time year-round workers, was slightly higher than any city on the “Best” list. Tracy scored 37.3 mean weekly hours worked, a score close to that of cities on either list.

We may earn a bit more, but spend more time commuting and have higher housing costs. No surprises there.

Travel time to work for the “Best” cities ranged from 15.2 minutes to 19.5 minutes. On the “Worst” list, travel times ranged from 36.2 minutes (Corona, Calif.) to Tracy’s top of 42.6 minutes.

For mean rental costs, the “Best” list ranges from $661 (Kalamazoo, Mich.) to $866 (Bellingham, Wash.).

On the “Worst” list, monthly rental costs were all above the $1,000 mark, ranging from $1,111 (Palmdale) to $1,640 (Germantown, Md.). Again, commute times and rental housing costs proved to be key factors.

In addition to the scores in the four categories, the cities on the “Best” list were reported by NerdWallet to offer a wide variety of free-time opportunities, including cultural and recreation activities and collegiate sports events. Doesn’t hurt being a university city.

According to NerdWallet, here are the “Best” and “Worst” cities for work-life balance:

“Best” — 1. Bloomington, Ind.; 2. Provo, Utah; 3. Gainsville, Fla.; 4. Eau Claire, Wis.; 5. Tuscaloosa, Ala.; 6. Iowa City, Iowa; 7. College Station, Texas; 8. Eugene, Ore. 9. Bellingham, Wash.; 10. Kalamazoo, Mich.

“Worst” — 1. Dale, Va.; 2. Waldorf, Md.; 3. Menifee, Calif.; 4. Tracy, Calif.; 5. Germantown, Md.; 6. New York, N.Y.; 7. Chino Hills, Calif.; 8. Antioch, Calif.; 9. Palmdale, Calif.; 10. Corona, Calif.

After going through all of the data, I can understand why cities in similar positions as Tracy are on the “Worst” list, at least according to the criteria. But there was no consideration given to Tracy’s proximity to the Bay Area and the Sierra. Besides, winter in Kalamazoo and summer is Gainsville? I’d rather live in Tracy.

Check out NerdWallet Cities for the full report, including charts of the rating scores and comments on cities on the “Best” list.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.
Comments
(19)
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ertion
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September 05, 2014
Yes, what if the Tracy downtown were more like Livermore's? That would be great...

Here's a few reasons why that may be difficult to achieve:

Livermore median income: $97,000

Tracy median household income: $75,000.

Livermore percentage of citizens with BA degree or higher: 38%

Tracy percentage of citizens with BA degree or higher: 21%.

Livermore persons below poverty level: 5%

Tracy persons below poverty level: 10%

Livermore is the third wealthiest midsize (between 65,000 and 249,999 people) city in the nation.

Tracy, not so much.

The problem is that folks who really know how to do retail tend to gravitate to richer markets.
TracyCitizen
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September 05, 2014
I work in an office here in Tracy. There are 18 employees. All but 3 of us live in town. My commute is about 10 minutes, including the stoplight on Grantline where you have time to pitch a tent.

I have the same complaints about Tracy today that I had 25 years ago. There are not enough cultural events and recreation for the children. The entrances to Tracy should be an attractive lit sign welcoming you in. Downtown could resemble downtown Livermore...any one listening????
victor_jm
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August 31, 2014
What a waste of natural resources--I am talking about this article, the comments, etc. (add mine to the heap). This article--in the grand scheme of things--is inconsequential. Let's not pretend we don't know how to make the world a more gentle place, and let's not pretend we don't condone institutions which permit this world to be less than peaceful.

This author ought to know inequality is the rule of the land--and this will always be the case, and for obvious reasons. If you insist on ranking things, then obviously something or someone will be ranked last. Is this author advocating Tracy ought to strive to be ranked higher, and, if so, does he at least acknowledge a higher ranking for Tracy would mean a lower ranking for someone else?

I am not bothered by what Tracy supposedly offers. I am bothered by people who are indecent, benighted, slovenly, inconsiderate, etc. This is the quality of life I am concerned about, and I am tired of poverty or one's socioeconomic position as an excuse for indecency, benightedness, slovenliness, inconsideration, etc.

Start working on yourself and stop shopping.
fitofito
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August 31, 2014
We just moved from Tracy to Pleasanton last week. Definitely quality of life is much better for us with the move. We were in Tracy for some four years..it is a quiet and safe city, and that's about it. Little to do in terms of dining, shopping, cultural events.
fortheunderdog
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August 29, 2014
Well, well, well. The City of Tracy as seen by the outside world. And they're absolutely correct!
KJeff95376
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August 25, 2014
I'm shocked it is only 4th. Average commute of 42 Min? Not sure who that applies to, as I haven't met anyone that lives here, that also works here, that spends less than 1 full hour on the road to/from every day. Everyone commutes, and most commute to the Oakland/Fremont area.

The rent situation in Tracy is ridiculous, because you're paying for nothing. The town is too small to say you're renting on the "nice side of town" because there really isn't a nice side. It's just a mid/low-end city. Nothing to do in the city, and you know this, because most residents spend their weekends away from Tracy.

Employment is terrible, shopping is poor, Dining is just OK, and Entertainment does not exist. All in all, unless you're from here, there is absolutely no draw at all. Nothing to justify the rent, or commute. Not to mention the uncontrolled crime.
ertion
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August 25, 2014
San Francisco median rent: $3200

Pleasanton median rent: $1569

Livermore median rent: $1314

Tracy median rent: $1102

So, once you've paid for the required gat and ammo, you're making money.

Shopping is overrated. Most folks buy online these days, with the exception of stores that offer something you can get online, such as special products or immediacy.

Sure there are nice parts of town and parts less than nice. Would you like a walking tour around 12 am Friday night?
Sneaky
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August 25, 2014
Why do people who write in the comments here seem to think Tracy has a high crime rate? The claim just doesn't correspond to reality. Your chances of becoming a victim of a violent crime rate are lower in Tracy than in California or in the United States as a whole. The story is similar for property crimes with one exception and that is a somewhat higher auto theft rate compared to the rest of the U.S.. We also have a higher number for crimes per sq mile but that is more of a measure of how tightly packed the housing is and/or how much of the available space in the city is populated than how prevalent crime is on a per capita basis. Whatever the case Tracy is clearly not a crime hotbed.

More relevant data: http://www.city-data.com/crime/crime-Tracy-California.html
Sneaky
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August 25, 2014
I think I accidently deleted the first link I intended to include: http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ca/tracy/crime/
1resident
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August 25, 2014
spookyjimjams, you nailed it. First concerns in representing the city with some pride is the entry points to that city.

Grant line entrance east is an absolute dump. The fountain on 11th Street, is it deteriorating poorly planned eyesore and monthly liability. Is a fountain really necessary? Constant maintenance. What's wrong with a nice sign with some lighting? Tracy Boulevard you got those nice hotels there and garbage and weeds etc. etc.

I could go on and on, but that is just a starting point. The city burned through $11 million for a sports complex that is deteriorating with no light at the end of the tunnel. The city of Tracy has a lot of upside, the downside is the people running it. It appears as though they really don't have a clue.
KJeff95376
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August 25, 2014
I like that it's the city's fault - but everyone is up in arms when Taxes are increased lol. Since the residents spend more money in the Livermore/Pleasanton/Dublin area, Tracy is falling down because even it's own residents refuse to support the town they live in.
Sneaky
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August 24, 2014
Some of the numbers seems screwy. I don't know anybody with a commute of anything resembling 42 minutes. My commute to Fremont is about 75 minutes. All of the folks that I know who work commute to the bay area and their commutes are similar. Mean average earnings also seems low. I don't know anybody making less than 100k, assuming we are talking gross income, which isn't clear from the article. I don't rent but $1358 doesn't sound that bad in absolute dollars. That said I have to wonder why someone would rent at that rate. My current mortgage for a standard 4bd/2ba house is only $1400. Assuming you have at least 30% or so to put down you might as well buy.
Sneaky
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August 24, 2014
The commute time aside I do not want to live anywhere else, at least not anywhere else that would have less of a commute or that doesn't fall into the category of fantasy. I used to live in San Jose and was quite happy to get out of there. It was too crowded. The houses I could afford were in scummy areas with scummy folks. Here I get open space, quiet and almost no crime. Sure, I would rather live in La Honda, Blackhawk,Portola or Boulder Creek but the commute wouldn't be all that much less and unless houses in those areas suddenly drop by 50% plus in cost that is not a realistic plan.
spookyjimjams
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August 23, 2014
The author tries to make Tracy sound better by saying that Tracy has the Bay Area and the Sierra nearby. This is just another example of what Tracy lacks. You have to leave it to find it's benefit. All Tracy is a place to spend the night and go to work in the morning. City planning created half full strip malls, retail that is focused only on one side of town, and boring parks only useful for soccer and baseball. You want to see what the survey represents? Take the 205 East exit onto Grantline Rd. You enter this town down a ramp of weeds, insane amounts of trash, lined by half empty used car lots, and end up at an intersection with more trash. Shameful that every entrance to this town is so nasty. I live here only because it is cheaper than better places.
LeonsFired
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August 23, 2014
Well said. And Sam, it's "summer in Gainsville".
108MW
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August 23, 2014
It's kinda like getting a 4th place trophy in last place. Cooooool! Let's rethink this whole city planning thing powers that be in charge.
jlgraham
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August 22, 2014
Sam, you state that Bellingham, Washington is a non-university city, with only a two-year technical college. My great-nephew would disagree with your statement since he graduated from Western Washington University, one of six state-funded universities in Washington State. Western offers bachelor's and master's degrees. Just wanted to set the record straight!
ertion
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August 24, 2014
Bellingham is indeed a beautiful place, plus it's near BC for easy cross-border tourism, and, did any one say it's GREEN, lots of foliage, trees, etc. That's the drawback. How many days of sun do they get there? You have to be able to get by with minimal sun. (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/connelly/article/Bellingham-tops-list-of-cities-with-least-sunshine-4954055.php)

The grass is always greener....
jlgraham
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September 09, 2014
Well, "ertion," this summer you would be in luck. Western Washington has had 42 days of 80 degree or higher weather. That being said, winter weather will be here before long and that means day after day of gloomy, gray days!


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