Getting stuck in traffic jams can totally ruin your day, right? Not only that you will most likely be late for your meeting but it can also be incredibly frustrating to sit in your car for dozens of minutes without being able to reach your destination. Well, if you hate commuting on busy streets, you may want to stay out of Bay Area which has been announced to be the 5th place with the worst traffic congestion in the world and the 3rd in the US.
2018 data from INRIX Global Congestion Ranking, in which 1,360 cities from all around the world have been studied, placed San Francisco on the 5th place in the world and the 3rd in the US with the worst traffic congestion. Moreover, in commuting congestion, Bay Area even beats the busy traffic we all know that exists in Los Angeles.
In fact, the same study shows that on average, drivers spent 79 hours stuck in congestion during the busiest traffic hours and 12% of their total annual commute is spent in traffic jams. So, if it would only take 15 minutes for Bay Area drivers to get from San Francisco to Oakland in the late evening, it would take almost 6 times more to have the same travel during peak hours.
Also, the study found out that the most congested area of the Bay Area is eastbound Highway 24, especially during the afternoon, where, according to the study, drivers wasted over 39 hours being stuck in traffic.
How is terrible traffic affecting commuters?
Traffic jams, no matter where in the world have a number of consequences and effects. And guess who is the most affected by this phenomenon. That’s right, commuters!
First things first, let’s talk money! How much does the terrible traffic costs Bay Area commuters? Well, according to 2017 data from INRIX the traffic jams in San Francisco cost each driver an average of $2,250 annually and costs the city almost $10.6 billion. How are these costs estimated? The traffic analytics firm took indicators such as fuel and time wasted which are direct costs, and freight and business fees from company vehicles stuck in traffic which are considered indirect costs and results in increased prices for households.
Obviously, apart from the financial costs of the terrible traffic in the Bay Area, there are also more indirect factors that can be counted as consequences of the congestion. Environmental and health consequences are also worth mentioning as they affect not only the drivers from the Bay Area but also the entire nation.
In terms of health consequences, drivers who encounter congestions and get stuck in traffic for many minutes or even hours are more likely to drive aggressively and dangerously which increases the risk of being involved in car accidents. In fact, on a national level, it seems that speeding has been found to cause more than 30% of fatal road accidents in San Francisco.
Moreover, due to aggressive driving and speeding, not only drivers are in danger but pedestrians as well, senior pedestrians in particular. According to the District Attorney’s Office, 63% of pedestrian fatalities in 2016 involved senior pedestrians which is extremely worrying about this faction of copulation considering that they only represent about 15% of the total population of the city.
What are the causes of traffic jams in the Bay Area?
Now that we know the terrible effects of the congestion in the Bay Area, we should also take a look at what causes traffic jams.
Road quality is one of the main causes of traffic jams. And, right now, according to a study from TRIP, roads in San Francisco rank as the worst in the entire country having more than 71% of roads in the city that are in very poor conditions. Like it or not, poor road quality affects traffic both directly and indirectly. First of all, road construction projects tend to slow down traffic. Moreover, poor quality roads also force drivers to drive with reduced speeds on certain sectors of the roads. Or, since poor quality roads are one of the main factors for car accidents on roads, they also contribute to traffic congestion in case of crashes.
Another important factor for traffic congestions in the Bay Area is the number of cars on the road. At the moment, San Francisco is dealing with a situation that involves more factors that cause its congestion including an explosion of jobs and a lack of housing solutions. So, consequently, most Bay Area drivers commute from the suburbs of the city to get to their workplaces in the city. Moreover, poor infrastructure also includes a lack of sufficient parking spots which also contributes to the congestion and the time wasted by drivers during their commute.
The authorities in San Francisco are currently working hard to implement better solutions to resolve traffic jams. And, one of the most remarkable initiatives is the Vision Zero initiative which aims to completely eliminate traffic-related deaths by 2024 to make the city safer for both pedestrians and drivers. Yet, the project involves many complex tasks that take a lot of time to be implemented. And, so far, cities like Seattle, Boston, and New York that also joined the Vision Zero project have made more considerable progress compared to the Bay Area. Yet, San Francisco did succeed to make similar progress like Seattle, for example. Both cities offer long term parking solutions that are convenient, for example through the WhereiPark website, where residents can find Seattle monthly parking options, parking spots in San Francisco, Washington, Philadelphia and other major cities.
Is traffic any better during weekends or is it still terrible?
You would think that as the weekend sets in, fewer drivers from Bay Area are likely to get on roads which will make the traffic a little bit more bearable, right? Well, not exactly because it seems that high traffic in San Francisco never takes a day off, not even on weekend days.
The traffic analytics firm INRIX analyzed how does the traffic during weekends differs from traffic during weekdays. The result? Nearly no difference at all. The only slight difference that exists is the fact that weekend traffic is far better during early mornings compared to how it easy during mornings on weekdays. However, the story seems quite the same when it comes to the afternoons.
Unfortunately, for now, Bay Area drivers have to do what they have to do, meaning that they must try everything to avoid getting stuck in traffic. However, the number of projects and initiatives that aim to solve San Francisco’s traffic problem look very promising and will sooner or later make commuting better for all drivers.