In the morning you'd be against traffic leaving SF.
From Park Merced you're starting from the southwest corner of the city. If you take I280N to 101N to 80E you will hit traffic all the way until you get onto the Bay Bridge.
Do you think it would be faster if I drove on city streets to an on ramp that was closer to the bridge?
Not really given how far you'd have to go unless you are quite familiar with the city streets. If you are you could go up Portola to Clipper to Cesar Chavez to Highway 101. But that's not a route I'd give an SF novice.
You could stay on I280 to 6th St. At the foot of the ramp, turn right onto Brannan then left onto 5th one block to the 5th street onramp. But I'm not sure it will help that much.
I280 to 101N won't be too bad -- sluggish but not stop/go. 101 from the 280 merge to the Bay Bridge will be quite slow.
If you leave SF at 8am you won't have any commute traffic by the time you reach Sacramento aroud 9:30 especially since you will leave the freeway on your right and head to Reno via 80. If you don't exit on the right to 80 the freeway turns into 50. If you stayed on 50 you'd head into the downtown area of Sacto and the 50 corridor with lots of large businesses or government agencies. East on 80 you will hit nothing..
I think that taking the freeway to the bridge would be faster than navigating your way on surface streets. From I280 traffic usually slows once you get near US 101 and stays slow all the way to the bridge but it's still going to be faster than taking city streets all the way downtown. I live in the vicinicy of Parkmerced and it usually takes me about 3.5 hours to get to Reno (with no traffic) so I think if you leave at 8am you will have plenty of time to make it by 1pm
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