Is your commute getting longer? You’re not the only one. The average San Francisco-Oakland Area commuter wasted 61 hours getting to work in 2011, one more hour than in 2010, according to a study released by Texas A&M University researchers on Tuesday.

Photo: Texas A&M University
Photo: Texas A&M University

That made the San Francisco-Oakland Area the second most congested metropolitan area in the country, tied with Los Angeles and just behind the Washington D.C. area where commuters waste an average 67 hours a year stuck in traffic, the researchers said.

By comparison, San Jose commuters only wasted 39 hours a year in traffic jams, up from 38 hours in 2010.

“The data show that congestion solutions are not being pursued aggressively enough,” the researchers wrote.

The data comes from INRIX, a firm that uses traffic cameras, incident reports and other sources to monitor the flow of traffic around the country.

Perhaps the increased traffic jam time is not surprising, considering the economy improved in the San Francisco-Oakland Area from 2010 to 2011.

“When the economy recovers, so does traffic congestion and when unemployment lines shrank, lines of bumper-to-bumper traffic grew,” the researchers wrote.

But if traffic is a measure of the San Francisco-Oakland area’s vitality, it’s still not as vigorous as in 2005 when commuters wasted an average of 89 hours stuck in traffic. (The figure for San Jose was 40 hours.)

The average San Francisco-Oakland driver burned an extra 25 gallons of gas and and lost $1,266 because of traffic snarls, the researchers found.

The researchers calculated that traveling during rush hour takes 1.22 times longer than the same trip would take without traffic, meaning that a 20-minute zip from Oakland to San Francisco averages 25 minutes.

That doesn’t sound bad at all, but as we all know, conditions can vary widely. If you want to make sure you’re only late for work once a month, you have to allow 3.74 times as long to get there as the trip would take on uncongested freeways. So for a 20-minute drive, you have to allow an hour and 15 minutes.

If you can be late as often as once a week without getting fired, then you only have to allow twice as much time as the trip would take in ideal conditions — or 40 minutes for that 20-minute trip.

If the San Francisco-Oakland area ranks high in traffic jams, it’s also near the top in efforts to fix the problem. It’s number 3 in systems intended to improve traffic flows, including synchronized traffic signals on some major roads, freeway ramp metering and carpool lanes. These road systems save the area’s commuters a total of 18,956 hours and $400 million a year, the researchers calculated.

And the area came in No. 4 for public transportation. Its buses, streetcars, trains and ferries save commuters 36,714 hours and $776 million a year, they said.

San Francisco-Oakland Area has the Nation’s Second Worst Traffic 6 February,2013Laird Harrison

  • Roy

    I think you meant that Washington DC area commuters waste 67 hours per year, not per week.

  • The TTI report is garbage. They measure vehicle speeds and estimate throughput, but only on freeways. That’s it. It doesn’t measure surface streets or actual trip time:

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  • “Washington D.C. area where commuters waste an average 67 hours a week stuck in traffic”

    67 hours a week! Inconceivable!

    • Yes, “per year” was what I meant to say. Sorry for the error.

  • I have read several similar articles over the past few years that claim the Bay Area to be “Nations second worst traffic” and “Tied with LA” almost as if it were some sort of bragging right. There is no honor to be listed in this category and certainly not in being tied with LA in any category! So I must call you to task on this one. Having just spent the last 6 years in the Los Angeles Basin and previous to that 30 years in the Bay Area, I can tell you that the commute here in NorCal is a cake walk compared to Southland. There is just no way San Francisco can even come close to the traffic fiasco and commuter calamity that seizes Los Angeles daily. Thank goodness!

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