An annual study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute has ranked the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area as having the second-worst traffic in the nation.
The 2012 study shows the Bay Area tied with the Los Angeles area, notorious for its traffic, with 61 hours of traffic delay in a year for the average local commuter. Washington, D.C., was ranked first nationwide with 67 hours per commuter. Randy Rentschler, spokesperson for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, identified Interstates 80 and 580 as some of the major congestion hotspots in the area due to their high traffic volume.
Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin additionally cited the roads around UC Berkeley as especially congested because of the regular commuters. Farid Javandel, the transportation division manager for Berkeley, added that the Bay Area’s unique geography is a contributor to traffic congestion.
“In terms of infrastructure, we don’t have as many options because of the geography limits of where the people can move,” Javandel said. “The bottlenecks on the bridges create a lot of congestion.”
The problems also pose significant environmental impacts and affect the quality of life for those in the Bay Area.
“The more congestion there is, the greater air quality impact and the environmental problems from pollution,” Javandel said.
The city and the local commissions dedicated to studying traffic are working to address the problem in a variety of ways.
“One way to solve the traffic jam around the bridges in the Bay Area is to have everyone get FasTrack, which would make a big difference,” Rentschler said.
FasTrack is a system that issues toll tags to vehicles that regularly cross toll roads in the Bay Area, allowing drivers to pay ahead of time.
Additionally, the city of Berkeley is working with the Alameda County Transportation Commission on ongoing projects to fix infrastructure. Arreguin noted a current project on an intersection on Gilman Street for facilitating transportation on and off the freeway.
“We should really prioritize alternatives to driving and really create more bicycle boulevards,” Arreguin said. “Berkeley really has a high number of accidents, so we should make the streets more pedestrian friendly.”
Javendel also offered suggestions for local commuters to reduce their contribution to traffic. Some possible solutions included utilizing flexible commute hours to avoid peak traffic as well as seeking housing options closer to work areas.
Rentschler, however, felt that the Bay Area traffic may raise concerns but that it may also simply be a fact of metropolitan life and a sign of high economic activity.
“We should see it not as a problem that needs to be fully solved,” Rentschler said. “A lot of people in San Francisco think that the congestion is a natural part of a vibrant city.”
Yvonne Ng is a staff writer. Contact her at [email protected].