Congestion chokes San Francisco commute

The dismal combination of high vehicle costs and slow-moving traffic conditions make San Francisco one of the worst cities in the country for commuters.

On average, workers driving to and from San Francisco spend 55 hours a year stuck in their car and shell out $369 a month on gas and various vehicles expenses, according to a new study by Bundle, a finance website.

By factoring in those two undesirable components, the San Francisco metropolitan area, which includes Oakland and Fremont, ranks 77th out of 90 cities nationally when it comes to commuting conditions, the study found.

Only four other metropolitan areas had workers squander more time in their cars than the 55 hours that San Francisco-area motorists waste annually. Also, at an average distance of 20 miles for a one-way commute, employees driving to The City travel farther to work than all but 18 metro areas.

Jagdip Singh, a Vallejo resident who works in The City, said he spends up to $20 a day in vehicle and travel costs when he drives to San Francisco.

“The wear and tear on my vehicle, finding a parking spot, dealing with traffic — it can be a nightmare,” Singh said.

Takuya Natuskawa, a student at Golden Gate University, travels from Richmond to go to class each day.

“It’s very stressful driving my car downtown,” Natuskawa said. “When I can, I try to take public transportation.”

John Goodwin, a spokesman for the regional planning group Metropolitan Transportation Commission, said a lack of state funding has contributed to the slow commute.

“For more than a generation, the state’s investment in transportation has not kept up with the growth of the region,” Goodwin said.

While the distance and time for local commuters were far above national averages, vehicle expenses were lower comparatively. In 73 cities out of 90, vehicle costs — which include auto repairs, parking fees, bridge tolls and other factors — are more expensive than the $369 spent annually by San Francisco-area commuters, according to the report.

Commuting delays cost The City $2 billion in economic losses a year, according to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors agreed to continue a study on the possibility of charging motorists a fee for entering The City, a move designed to decrease traffic congestion. Following the decision, Mayor Gavin Newsom said The City should instead focus on new parking strategies to improve commutes.

Also, the MTC has identified a potential network of express lanes — where motorists can pay to travel in dedicated areas — around the region as a way to help alleviate traffic congestion, Goodwin said.


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