Traffic jam at Bay Bridge toll plaza

The Bay Area has the nation’s second-worst traffic congestion according to a new study by GPS navigation company TomTom. And a recent survey by the Bay Area Council finds that more 71 percent of respondents think traffic congestion is a “crisis” in the region. Meanwhile, transit alternatives like BART are facing increased ridership and overcrowding. We’ll discuss growing congestion and explore possible solutions. We’ll also address this week’s Muni sickout, which led to reduced service by San Francisco’s Municipal Transit Agencies. Is your commute getting slower? How are you coping?

Michael Cabanatuan, transportation writer for The San Francisco Chronicle
Randy Rentschler, director of legislation and public affairs for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored public policy group
Alexandre Bayen, associate professor of civil and environmental and incoming director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley

  • Frank

    If the real estate speculators had not been allowed to destroy the affordability of housing in the Bay Area, people would not need to drive to work from far away and therefore traffic hassles would be much less. Perhaps a tax should be placed on real estate transactions to pay for the costs that speculators’ greed has incurred, specifically the increased commuting times, increased pollution, and worsened quality of life.

    Also, if the Bay Area had bicycle-only paths that are separate from major roadways and the risks of drunk drivers killing cyclists, or half-awake drivers of SUVs doing the same, perhaps we’d see more use of bicycles for commuting or even use of electric bicycles. Our mass media, which are partly owned by Big Oil, never mentions that in China there are 100’s of millions of electric bicycles in use daily.

    • CamBam415

      Frank – I agree with the second part of your comment, but disagree with the comment on RE speculators. The affordability of housing is a direct result of the LACK of housing! We should be making it easier for spec building to take place in our urban core (or within the footprint of the Bay Area). Don’t blame the builders, they are just following the rules set forth. Use their greed to entice them to building housing where we need the housing the most.

  • donjames911

    Eisenhower basically subsidized the trucking industry by building the interstate highways. While well-intentioned, it damn near killed the US rail industry and put millions of trucks on our highways. The result is a diminishing of our infrastructure – in short, our roads and bridges are little better than a country road and more a lottery of who will be the last to travel successfully before a major failure. I’m not beating the drum for trains, but they would greatly alleviate congestion on our highways

  • thucy

    As an ex-NY’er who misses the incredible efficiency and order of the NYC subway system, I was unsurprised that New York doesn’t make the top ten list of worst traffic cities. Not even New Jersey, with its infamous GW Bridge closures, makes that top ten list.

    But LA, San Francisco, San Jose and Seatlle do. Why have so many West Coast cities been unable to address the combined problem of traffic and its consequent pollution?
    We Californians are always telling the rest of the country that they don’t do it right and that we’re so far ahead of the curve. But on the big-ticket items, like sustainable transport, we Californians are essentially neanderthals.

    • Another Mike

      Everything changes relatively quickly in the Bay Area, making it hard to discern trends. For example, the population of SF hit a historic low in 1980. In 1977 Caltrain had so little ridership there was talk of simply ending it.

      • thucy

        “Everything changes relatively quickly in the Bay Area, making it hard to discern trends.”

        Wow, another factor totally unfamiliar to other major cities, thereby excusing our utter lack of planning.

        As everyone knows, nothing ever changes in NY – the mayor and the population are EXACTLY the same as they were when Manhattan was first purchased for a bunch of wampum and beads.


        • Another Mike

          Precisely ONE mile of subway has been built in NYC since 1988. Compare to the multiplicity of BART extensions built since then: SFO/Millbrae, Pittsburg, Dublin/Pleasanton, and now Warm Springs, San Jose, and Santa Clara.

          • thucy

            “Precisely ONE mile of subway has been built in NYC since 1988.”

            I guess that proves that nothing ever changes in New York. Mike, does it occur to you to ask WHY New York hasn’t had to make major extensions to the 1988 model?

      • Affen_Theater

        In 1977, Caltrain was not yet in existence. It was the Peninsula Commute Service run by passenger-rail-hostile Southern Pacific RR (which has since been merged into Union Pacific RR). The threadbare service (if you could call it that) was entirely geared toward SF workers commuting into SF working banker’s hours with 2-hour gaps midday and on weekends. The plummeting ridership then reflected all of the above and that working/commute patterns no longer fit the rooted-in-the-past train schedule with essentially no service at all for “reverse” commuters or those who worked other than banker’s hours.

        • Another Mike

          Easier to add another rail car if demand rises than to add another train.

          • Affen_Theater

            True, easier but not always the best or needed solution. In the 70’s and 80’s — time between trains during off-peak, evening and weekends/holidays made the train a non-viable option for too many. Nowadays, more trains are still needed, but in many cases existing trains are growing uncomfortably full — and those could use an additional car or two. Caltrain says a number of its platforms cannot accommodate much longer trains, however. Also, as trains get longer, they take longer to accelerate and fall behind without adding a 2nd locomotive. Electrification using self-powered cars (known as EMUs) such as BART uses, guarantees much snappier and consistent train performance independent of length.

      • John L

        The traffic jam we’re in now was visible decades ago. Planners have been trying to point that out for a while now. The problem is that the Bay Area is filled with such intransigent NIMBY’S who view the preservation of their neighborhood’s character as a sacrosanct right bestowed upon the homeowner directly from his holiness, the Buddah himself. It is tragically ironic: many people who claim to be environmentalists are the same people who scream the loudest at planning meetings in Berkeley and Marin about how a proposed transit project will be the death Of their way of life.

  • MoistPup

    The population of the state of California has doubled since the 1970s, however we have not doubled our public transit system bandwidth or service area. We need to stop building new roads, and start building smart and reliable transit that gets people to a larger service area as fast as possible. We also need to require large companies in the state to build up instead of out, and to build near each other so that transit can serve them.

    • Another Mike

      We had that in downtown SF, until the payroll tax drove large employers to San Ramon and Concord, 25 years ago.

    • wandagb

      “The population of the state of California has doubled since the 1970s…”

      The state grows by one million people every three years. Yes, we need to improve transportation but first and foremost we need to end the destructive and unnecessary population growth making everything worse year by year .THIS is completely preventable. ALL of this is from immigration.*

  • erictremont

    It mystifies me that Bay Area transit agencies aren’t putting more resources into express bus service, it is much more cost effective than fixed rail systems like BART or Caltrain.

    • Another Mike

      Bus rapid transit works best as it does in the San Fernando Valley, when it uses an old RR right-of-way, and doesn’t steal existing roadway from mixed traffic.

  • Momma KAC

    How responsible is the driving public in creating the mess? Instead of complaining about being stuck in traffic everywhere, what can an individual do to be a part of the solution? My husband rides his bike 18 miles one way to his office everyday, I ride my bike one mile one way to my job, but occasionally we need to drive to a different location, thereby we become part of the problem.

  • Livegreen

    There’s no HOV lane on 580 & other highways until AFTER the maze. Why?

    There’s no HOV lane at the mergers of Highways 580 & 24, or immediately after at the 580/80 merger as they go North. Why?

    BART does not have enough stops & BART parking is mostly single level, with the exception of the Fruitvale Station in Oakland. Why?

    Giant stadium creates enormous back-ups on the Bay Bridge b/c there’s not good transportation from BART to the Stadium. Why?

    These are obvious problems I’ve not heard discussed. WHAT specifically is the MTC addressing to do each of these?

    • Chris1030

      101 has HOV lane, that is stuck, and looks like parking lot, exactly as all other lanes!

  • Thomas Gonzales

    From environmental to health to equity advocates, there are many pushing for more transit and active transportation use. You just asked on the show, how do we get single drivers out of our their cars. But as a transportation planning professional who has spoken with people who work at both MUNI and BART, I was shocked to find out that neither is very interested in growing their ridership due to capacity constraints. When are we investing in a new BART tube and new/improved MUNI light rail in a way that boosts capacity?

    The reality for anyone who has lived in other major metro areas is that we don’t have a real metro system in the Bay Area. And we can’t incentivize people to board overpacked BART trains.

    • thucy

      “And we can’t incentivize people to board overpacked BART trains.”

      This is a good point. Why can’t we Californians just do what Parisians, Tokyo-ites, and New Yorkers do on a daily basis? Which is to crowd onto public transport. One reason: Because we haven’t stripped drivers of ANY privileges. We need to tax and limit driving. That’s what they do even in London…
      We are still a car culture in California, we are really in thrall of our crummy cars.

  • Chemist150

    First, the projects seemed to be aimed at people who can’t afford cars and will ride public transport no matter what. If you want to get people off the road, you have to facilitate those people that can afford and want cars. EXAMPLES:

    1. Connect BART from Hayward to Foster City so people don’t have to ride 90 minutes BART from one to the other in place of a 45-60 minute drive.
    2. Have shuttles from BART to areas where these people work so that after their 90 minute BART ride that cost more than gas and a car, they’re not stuck at the BART station with no way to get to work. Example, there is no public line between SSF or San Bruno BART that crosses the highway to get to the Biotech area.
    3. If you’re going to build a new bridge, make it to hold more capacity instead of making it pretty, costing a lot and not being earthquake safe.

  • Sean Merrigan

    One thing many Bay Area cities have in common is that they are on the bay. Why are our waterways so underused for local transportation? Every day I commute north from Mill Valley to the Richmond Bridge only to go south again to get to Emeryville. Both of these cities have easy access to the water and yet water taxis and smaller ferries are rare.

    • Chemist150

      It is not time efficient unless you both work and live near ports. Just as it’s not time efficient if there is not a BART or train station near both where you live and work. Or well timed shuttles too and from.

    • Another Mike

      Take Sausalito or Tiburon to Pier 41, then Pier 41 to Oakland or Alameda. Or buy yourself a Boston Whaler and make your own ferry.

  • Ben Rawner

    I don’t understand they don’t expand carpool lanes in a graduated manner. A six lane freeway should have one lane for cars with more than 3 people, a lane for 3 people, and a lane for cars with 2 people. The rest of the lanes would go to the single riders. This would slowly push people to get more people in their car.

    • Chemist150

      I don’t think so. I get to use HOV now with my wife because we live and work at the same place. Othwerwise, most people live in different areas. Some drop off kids, some come to work at 10am, some at 5 am.

      Given the fact that most people cannot afford to live where they work, it’s forces dispersion. HOV makes zero sense. It only works on a very small percent of the population. The rest, that use it, do so because they happen to be carpooling anyway (i.e. with spouse or kids).

      I use HOV and I believe it’s a waste of a lane that causes more pollution than not having it by backing up non-HOV more than necessary.

      • Ben Rawner

        I disagree. The lanes are used by carpoolers only at particular times. Just because u don’t use it because u have not found someone to carpool, does not mean numerous professionals who need to get to work do not use it. Every clogged lane that is not the carpool lane is a disincentive to those who do not carpool to work. The more lanes, the more clogged single rider lanes, the more disincentive to those who do not carpool. If California’s won’t give up their cars , at least they will have to share them.

  • trite

    Please talk about the way in which strikes/withdrawal of labor by workers in transit agencies have an impact on the economic health of the area–and seek answers to what we can do about that.

    • Chemist150

      That does throw a wrench in it if they’re allowed to strike.

      I think they should be able to strike for working conditions such as safety but not for pay and benefits. It should be private sector rules. If you think you’re worth more money, get another job. If they want to retain you, you get higher compensation Many times the labor market cannot support it which makes you less valuable because there are too many workers at your skill level. That’s the way it is for the rest of us. Go back to school and re-educate yourself like the rest of us.

      Unions abuse their power too much these days.

  • Rational Thought

    Congestion pricing is just another tax. I’ve been chaged the higher
    price on national holidays even though there was no congestion.

    • thucy

      At this point, anything that discourages private car use is welcome. How far is your commute?

      • Rational Thought

        I don’t commute across the Bay Bridge. I did cross it on Christmas and the 4th of July to visit family and got charged the higher price because it was during the 9 hour definition of rush hour.

        • thucy

          They were probably anticipating higher traffic due to the holiday.
          But seriously, dude, you got charged a minor fee two days a year and for this you whine? California drivers are not only the worst drivers, they are the most complaint-prone.

  • Anne Schulte

    After having lived the past 3 years in Paris I became spoiled with what is probably the best public transportation in the world where I never needed a car and if I did, I could rent an autolib. I would have one thing to say about the Bay Area traffic — not enough public transportation stops, not enough trains, not enough frequency of trains, and no pedestrian friendly neighborhoods. I take the Caltrain every morning but I need to drive! to the station. I drive to the Redwod City Station to 4th and King in San Fran and my commute takes an average of 1hr (house to office). If only I could walk to, say, a light rail station, which I knew would be frequent and consistent, which could take to me the Caltrain station — that would be one more vehicle off the 101 in the morning. And why does BART not go completely around the Bay? or at least continue down the Peninsula to San Jose and include the cities in between Milbrae — Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale — all of these cities where the large “Google Buses” go?

    • luke7478

      much of Europe is that way. The UK, Germany, Switzerland and so on.

  • Michael Kline

    Connecting up various regional systems would help a lot. For example, BART stations in Fremont and Dublin are not connected to the Altamont Express train that connects Tracy to Silicon Valley.

  • Michele Adamson

    The congestion is horrible. Though the Bart is overcrowded, I rather take the Bart into SF than drive if there was more parking at the Bart station. Let’s start with straight forward solutions by providing more parking near the Bart. Begin by eliminating 2 hour limits in the neighborhoods that surround the Bart stations.

    • thucy

      how far is the Bart station from your home?

    • Jame

      Putting loads of parking at the BART station makes it difficult to make the BART station a destination, and makes it harder to build walkable neighborhoods next to BART. More BART parking isn’t a scalable to congestion and traffic, that leads to more driving.

      • Another Mike

        The feeder bus system can be pretty horrible. But I agree that most of the Mission District should be demolished and replaced with high density housing, to take advantage of the 16th and 24th Street BART stations.

  • Joshua

    An elephant in the room is all these people trying to get to the same
    place (downtown San Francisco, for instance), at the same time. Are
    there ways to incentivize companies to telecommute part-time, provide
    their employees with more flexible schedules, or otherwise mitigate the
    actual source of all this congestion?

  • Chris1030

    I have been commuting from south bay to SF for years, and coming from Europe, was astonished at how limited are public transit options. Caltrain – no parking after 8 am, and just one poor line. So if you live not walkable distance from Caltrain, then no luck!
    And BART, only goes up to Milbrae, getting to which is a challenge of it’s own, using 101. Taking 280, there are a few BART stations close to SF, the parking again a big problem.
    I have tried carpool, and not many people willing to carpool, not to mention that traffic is still all the same ( unbearable) in the city for carpoolers, as for all others.
    The government is doing nothing about public transportation, ignoring the tax paying citizens, putting them in too much stress just to get to work.

  • Another Mike

    Bus rapid transit on Geary is being pushed, to get across the city, but why, when the N-Judah line crosses the city with so few trains? Geary sees a lot of other traffic while Judah sees very little.

  • Livegreen

    Lest we forget, Muni sucks. So you take BART into the City & then you’re stuck! If you have anywhere out of Downtown SF to go, forgetta about it!

    • thucy

      Nonsense. You can take your bike on BART. Muscle up and put some bike in your commute.

      • Livegreen

        B/c you know everyone’s situation is the same as yours.

        I can’t bike all the way to Presidio.
        I have bad knees.

        There are a lot of people that have similar situations Thucy.

        • thucy

          I had bad knees, went to physical therapy, and went on to ride 200-300 miles a week. Still riding and running.
          How is it that little old ladies from St. Petersburg to Vietnam are still getting around on bikes? Not because they give in to every ache and pain, thereby immobilizing himself.
          You don’t have “bad knees” – you probably have weakened quads (a fixable situation) and weakened hip flexors (also fixable.) You have knee pain – KEEP THE KNEE MOVING.
          Try harder, man. You’re stronger than you think.

          • I’m right there with you on this. It may sound harsh to push an ailing person into activity, but I too went through two years of several major surgeries that left me using a walker, then a cane, and my bike sat in the garage. I made a concerted effort to really push through physical therapy, and searched out therapeutic yoga and chronic pain meditation routines, and after some hard, not-so-pleasant work, was finally able to get back on my bike. Being able to increase my physical activity on my bike then made me stronger still.

            I’m in my late 40s, so my healing time is a bit slower than my younger days. But inactivity creates a downward spiral of poor mental and physical conditioning–as hard as it is to make yourself do the PT, it’s so very rewarding. Also, I’d look into alternative bike frames for people with knee issues, similar to the stationary models I used during PT, which gave me the hope that I’d eventually be able to get back on my bike and use it to keep my body and mind moving.

          • thucy

            I’m so with you on this. You can’t recover without moving.
            From a walker back to a bike. You’re my hero.

    • Umm, you must have put next to zero effort into investigating the MUNI system. Getting off the BART in downtown SF puts you directly in connection with almost every single MUNI line–streetcar, subway, cable car and buses–in the city. Most of the downtown stops have NextBus terminals so you can easily plan the fastest, most efficient trip and instantly know how long it’s going to take.

      Sorry bub, but the BART-to-downtown SF MUNI connection is perhaps the best integrated hub of the entire Bay Area public transportation system, and if you’re unable to effectively use it, then I think this is more about you than MUNI. Those of us regular SF MUNI users hardly assume that “MUNI sucks”, lest you forget. Lift a finger or perhaps a brain cell before you make such glorious blanket assumptions about a system that you’ve clearly made no effort to master.

  • Jeff

    Hwy 280 southbound at Magdalena narrows down from 4 to 3 lanes for 1/2 mile leading to crazy traffic jams EVERY afternoon. Why not find and fix bottlenecks????

  • Mark

    How do we support more investment in Bart or Muni when we cannot count on the Unions, who have a monopoly, to deliver reliable services? They earn well above similar jobs in the Bay Area and have a 1% er retirement and healthcare plan. How do we know they won’t use their control of the system to capture any attempt to invest in infrastructure?

  • People sure do love to gripe about MUNI. Having lived in LA, Sacramento, Berlin and NYC, MUNI is totally comparable to both NYC and Berlin in how you can easily get around the city in a reasonable amount of time, and it kicks the pants off of LA and Sacramento. After riding the MUNI every day since 1992, I finally gave up my car about 10 years ago, and take several MUNI bus lines and the subway every day. There’s no possible way I would have done that in any other US city save NYC and maybe Seattle and Portland.

    I really enjoy the freedom I have in being able to get anywhere in the City in under 45 minutes–though I do live in the Lower Haight, a centrally located neighborhood exceedingly well-served by a huge number of bus and subway lines. With the addition of NextBus technology, I feel like I have a large amount of control over my travels, and I’m rarely put out by MUNI–certainly no more than the various annoyances that one faces whilst driving a private vehicle. And I’ve saved SOOOO much money over the years; our $2 fare–soon to be increased to $2.25 I hear–is fairly priced.

    On other transportation forums, I’ll usually encounter “that” commenter who insists that he or she is late or delayed “every single trip”, and cannot ever depend upon MUNI for reliable transpo. MUNI drops the ball about once a month in my daily travels, and this is totally comparable to what I’d encounter driving a car or taking a cab. Yes, there are those sardine moments, and rude and/or weird passengers–such is life in the big city. Every morning, with my travel mug of coffee and a trashy gossip magazine, I’m a happy MUNI camper, and riding MUNI makes me feel tied in to the pulse of our urban organism.

    • Another Mike

      Muni’s farebox recovery is only about 1/3 of the cost of operation, so your fellow taxpayers are picking up most of the cost.

      • thucy

        And as a non-driving taxpayer who doesn’t use MUNI, I’d rather fund Moderniste’s MUNI trip than the gasoline for your private car.

      • As well they should. If there is any public system supported by tax dollars that benefits ALL of us, it’s public transpo. Even if you never ride it, your car ride would be one horrific traffic jam after another, all the day long, were it not for public transpo.

        I have no issue at all with my tax $$ going to support social and infrastructure programs that keep greater society alive and kicking, and properly civilized. In fact, if I could increase my taxes to get an increase in public transpo services, well, sign me up!! But then, I’m also certainly not the anti-gummint type. Nope; I’m one of those wacky moonbat lefty “Libs” with a capital freaking “L”.

        • Another Mike

          Muni is fairly priced the same way that anything sold at one-third the cost would be fairly priced. Bakery bread at a dollar a loaf, milk at a buck a gallon, all these prices would be more than fair.

    • thucy

      Sorry, MUNI is not on par with NY or Berlin. But it’s not the fault of MUNI – California doesn’t “do” public transport.

      • Not my experience. SF is much smaller than either of those cities, but I think that MUNI adequately covers the metro areas on a level easily on par with what I encountered in both Berlin and NYC. In all three cities, I lived in centrally-located urban neighborhoods, and my daily trips took comparable amounts of time. Berlin was cheaper, but I found myself spending considerably more $$ in NYC.

        The big difference is that SF relies much more heavily on surface street buses and streetcars, not the subways that crisscross Berlin and NYC. But once you get your bus routes dialed in, it’s very efficient for our smaller urban locale. I don’t think MUNI is *better*–but it’s definitely competitive.

  • Paul_Thiebaut_III

    Why aren’t marquees posted/utilized that suggest congestion-free
    speeds during rush hours? Driverless cars can do this. Can’t people?

  • I moved to the Bay Area from Chicago less than a year ago and took Caltrain for the first time on Memorial Day – San Jose to downtown SF. Between parking and fare (for two), it cost $41. Outrageous.

    • thucy

      but let’s be honest – how much was the trip without the parking?

      • $5 all day at the Diridon station.

        • thucy

          You rode from Zone 4 to Zone 1, and this rate is commensurate to what you’d pay from Grand Central to Darien, CT or Poughkeepsie, NY. It’s not that expensive for transport.

          You COULD have diminished your overall cost by more than half by cycling to Redwood City, where you would board at Zone 2.

          What exactly is the nature of your disability that prevented you from using (just a little) sustainable transport? If this were WWII and we had soldiers this lazy, we’d be speaking German in Atherton.

          • Pacifica Progress

            Some people can’t understand that for most people riding a bike to work is not an option. For some it’s physical limitations, or distance, others busy schedules involving dropping kids at school/daycare, others because their jobs dictate that they drive a car. Peeople are NOT going to get out of their cars.

          • thucy

            They already are, babe. Millenials are far less likely to drive than previous generations. They’re making a healthy, rational choice for a cleaner country. And there’s nothing you can do about it.

          • Pacifica Progress

            Don’t know what world you’re living in but 99% of millenials I know drive to work.

          • thucy

            Well, whatever world you’re living in doesn’t include much reading:


            Of course, Millennials are more likely than past generations to live in an urban community, and this may be part of what terrifies car markers. About 32 percent reside in cities, somewhat higher than the proportion of Generation X’ers or Baby Boomers who did when they were the same age, according to a 2009 Pew Research Center report. But as the Wall Street Journal reports, surveys have found that 88 percent want to live in an urban environment. When they’re forced to settle down in a suburb, they prefer communities like Bethesda, Maryland, or Arlington, Virginia, which feature plenty of walking distance restaurants, retail, and public transportation to nearby Washington, DC.

            If the Millennials truly become the peripatetic generation, walking to the office, the bus stop, or the corner store, it could mean a longterm dent in car sales. It’s doubly problematic if they choose to raise children in the city. Growing up in the ‘burbs was part of the reason driving was so central to Baby Boomers’ lives. Car keys meant freedom. To city dwellers, they mean struggling to find an empty parking spot.

    • Another Mike

      To travel the same distance in Chicagoland — 40 miles — would cost $25 round trip for two on Metra. Parking in downtown San Jose is not especially cheap.

  • rachel

    How would changing car pool lanes to “express lanes” encourage more people to rideshare? If all people have to do is pay 2$ to use the express lane…

  • Jen

    The conversation thus far has focused on the weekday commute & impediments to taking mass transit such as childcare. I take BART between the East Bay and my job in SF so my “commute” is fine.

    But the weekends are as bad or worse!!
    Admittedly, I am part of the problem, as a parent to 2 kids who need transportation almost 7 days a week to various extracurricular activities: finding “the best” music instruction, test prep tutoring, traveling sports teams & weekend tournaments, etc. We are a generation of parents who want our kids to have the very best. In doing so, I fear we are clogging the roads and stressing ourselves and our kids out.

  • Chuck

    The tenants union has a partial solution. Ban rich people from living hear and taking Google buses. If this does not solve the problem, prohibit rich people from working in SF. We need some decent political leadership

  • Sarah

    I would love to hear the panels opinion on the fractured nature of transportation agencies in the Bay Area. While the public surely has a responsibility to change our behavior, I find no discussions on scheduling coordination between agencies disappointing. The “last mile” issue is a huge barrier within San Francisco, but magnified in potential satellite cities like San Jose, Fremont, Mountain View, Oakland. This cities are poised for greatness and have space to grow/redevelop, but their lack of connectivity stunts interest in moving there.

    • Another Mike

      “Satellite” city? San Jose is the largest and most populous city in the Bay Area. San Francisco is rapidly becoming a bedroom community for the rest of the BA.

      • Sarah

        Point taken. I used to live in San Jose and actually moved to San Francisco even though I worked in San Jose. So I was exactly the person you are describing. While it’s huge, San Jose’s public transportation is a joke. VTAs operation is laughable, but the rails are everywhere! It could/should be so much better.

  • Todd

    I moved to the Bay area nearly four years ago from Boston. I have lived in several major metropolitan areas and never seen such awful public transit as I see here. I have not owned a vehicle for 17 years by choice but now feel I may need to reconsider. When I moved, I moved to San Rafael so that I could walk to my work, but I find it unbelievable that it is so difficult for me to even get into San Francisco. There is no good reason for the Bay to be so tied to individual vehicles. Public transit should be reliable, affordable, and extended into areas that need it. BART should go into the North Bay, despite people’s fears of what that might mean to the wealthy Marin people. Make driving in the Bay area more expensive. Increase tolls. Tax vehicle use and use the money to fund public transit. The current system seems to favor the wealthy and punish the poor or those of us who choose not to drive.

    • Another Mike

      Marin was traditionally rural and lightly populated. Back in 1962, when Marin County pulled out of the BART system, there was no pressing need to extend BART north, and the engineering challenges seemed formidable. The Golden Gate Bridge folks run commuter buses and ferries for those folks who need to cross back and forth.

      • thucy

        I wouldn’t call Marin “rural” – not when so much of it was built between 1945 and 1962 as a bedroom community.
        Marin, where the property was shielded from minority ownership by racial covenants, voted down BART for one reason only: to maintain its lily-white nature. Just my observation having attended public and private school there.

        • Another Mike

          Marin County Population
          1950: 85.6K
          1960: 146.8K
          1970: 206K
          1980: 222.5K
          1990: 230K
          2000: 247K

          Racial covenants were unenforceable after 1948 (Shelley v. Kraemer)

          • thucy

            Your data shows the largest population jump was from 1950 to 1960, which actually buttresses my contention, not yours. Care to provide the 1945 population data?

            Further, “unenforceable” covenant laws remain enforced. There are many ways to enforce socially (and in matters of business and RE sales) racial covenants. It was still done in the County up into the 90s.

          • Another Mike

            With a current population density of less than 500 people per square mile, Marin is classified as rural by this Census Bureau standard. Compare the urban San Francisco, with a population density 36 times as great.

          • thucy

            By your logic, San Francisco is rural compared to New York.

            And no, Marin county is suburban, not rural. You’re welcome to show that part of the Census that defines Marin County (not West Marin) as rural. Queens still has a few working farms as of 2002, but that does not make New York City “rural”.

          • CamBam415

            Wow… you guys are both wrong. Sorry! This is not revisionist history… The real truth to the matter is that Marin residents voted 88% in favor of joining BART! Marin was asked to leave BART once San Mateo County pulled out as the Marin tax base couldn’t support the costs of bring the trains over GG. While I think Marin missed out on BART, the real loosers in Marin dropping out are the SF residents who would’ve benefited from the Geary line and BART in western SF.

            And while I would support BART in Marin today, I think the Bay Area has more pressing needs for limited transit dollars (keep building the low cost, high benefit protected bike paths and keep adding ferry service and that will go a long way for Marin in the short term). Let’s be honest, 101/580 backs up in the afternoon, but the Peninsula, Santa Clara County and the East Bay all have bigger issues/more pressing needs and larger populations than Marin for Public Transit.

    • Narayanan

      Having spent a few years in Boston, I hear your concerns. Public transport is damn expensive in the bayarea. Boston was dead cheap ($60 for monthly pass, $2 takes you a long distance) There are many parts of the bayarea not well connected by public transit.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Tele-commuting, anyone? Why is it so little used by business and could it be incentivized? Think of all the jobs and MEETINGs that could be done from home via skype or other ways.

  • gez devlin

    accidents cause congestion… distracted drivers cause accidents…. issue points for texting @ the wheel… motorcyclists may live a day longer!

    In Europe, during rush hours, they open up those hard shoulders that are wide enough for vehicles, especially smaller vehicles like motorcycles.

  • Dan

    I ride my bike to work and had get into many many many arguments with car drivers because they don’t want to share the road. I pay taxes like everybody also… Drivers need to be less arrogant and selfish… Often times the drive away angry and speeding and I get a laugh when I run into them at the next light.

    • Another Mike

      Can you keep up with motorized traffic? If so, they have nothing to complain about.

    • Pacifica Progress

      Bike riders who hog a lane and refuse to move over are a problem. So is the cities new policy of taking away car lanes for bikes.

      • thucy

        Overweight and out-of-shape Americans are the problem, PP. Not cyclists.

        • Pacifica Progress

          Yeah, because bikers are never overweight or out of shape.

          • thucy

            Statistics show that cyclists – even US cyclists – are far less likely to be overweight or obese than the general population. As for “out of shape” – why don’t you get on a bike and show ’em how it’s done?

          • Pacifica Progress

            Source please?

          • thucy

            you need a source to tell you that physically active americans, and that would include anyone who can handle the terrain in Pacifica, have a lower bmi than the grotesque modern “norm”?
            Okay, check out the websites for the WHO, the CDC, the NCBI, the AMA, et cetera. Or better yet, rent a bike some morning and try to pass even a mediocre rider in your nabe – I guarantee you that you can’t.

        • luke7478

          I would NEVER ride a bike to school. I value my life too much. And FYI, I’m a couple years shy of 40 and don’t have an ounce excess of fat on my body. 6 days at the gym in a controlled environment works much better than arriving tired and smelly at the office *rollseyes*

          • thucy

            Sorry, but If the gym worked as well as you claimed, you’d be able to bike your 40-y.o. derriere to work without getting “tired” or “smelly”.

    • luke7478

      Bike riders ARE the problem. They are far more arrogant and are a bunch of whiners who don’t think the rules of the road apply to them. Did you know that you can’t simply RIDE your bike across a pedestrian crossing. You have to WALK IT.

    • Mrdioji

      As a responsible bike commuter, I hope that your are also sharing the road. Also, if you are not buying gasoline, then you are not paying taxes like everyone else.

  • Dave

    I called in and e-mailed throughout the program, and was disappointed that the issue of price was never addressed; as a public school teacher making $55k a year and commuting throughout the bay area to various gigs, the issue could not be simpler: I save money, substantial money, by driving. It should be the other way around.

    Driving from San Jose to Los Altos costs me about $4.00 round trip. It costs a whopping $14 for a two-way caltrain ticket + a VTA ticket. I only do this commute 2 days a week, so the monthly pass doesn’t add up for me.

    I recently almost moved the Richmond District in SF, where my best friends live. My car was in the shop once so I took Caltrain ($18) to Bart ($7 to MUNI ($4), costing me $29 by the time I got home. When I drive (and I don’t drive a Prius; my 4 door kia gets about 30 mpg) the cost is about $9.

    There are savings, of course, if I bought 8 ride tickets and monthly passes, in my 15 years of commuting around the Bay Area, including 3 years where I almost exclusively used public transit, I can assure you: It’s still always cheaper to drive, provided you have an approximately 30 mpg car, which is not hard to find these days. I simply cannot afford to ride to train. That’s RIDICULOUS. When I lived in NYC (8 years ago), a 5 borough subway pass cost $79. I’m sure it’s more now, but that covered an area even larger than SF to SJ. I figured out what it would have cost me to live in the Richmond district: a little north of $300 a month, and that’s not even with unlimited usage. Is BART the only major urban mass transit system in the country (or the world?) that has no discount for daily users? The bulk discount is a joke; you get a $64 card for $60; big deal; If I ride 5 days a week, that’s still 168 a month, and that’s just one leg of a three leg journey.

    My friends are mostly public school teachers, social workers, and non-profit admin workers, and we’re all in the same boat: city bus lines are fine, but we use cross-county transit (ie, BART, Caltrain) only on special occasions, because it adds up fast. With gas at $4 a gallon, this should simply not be the case; driving ought to cost us more, but it simply doesn’t.

    • Another Mike

      The IRS assumes operating a car costs $0.56 a mile. Driving 32 miles round trip thus costs $17.92, meaning transit is still cheaper. If $.56 a mile seems too generous, realize the cost of operating a car includes purchase price, interest, insurance, and maintenance, not just gas.

      • CamBam415

        While you are correct, most people don’t take the big picture view and only look at the cost of driving as the marginal cost of ownership (i.e. the cost of gas). This could be psychological/lazy thinking or it could be that many people are willing to go car-lite but not car free and therefore the cost of purchase, insurance and maintenance are assumed/fixed costs in peoples mind; thus the incremental cost of commuting is only the cost of gas. Whereas transit to Dave’s point, people still have the overhead of car ownership, but have to pay a lot more cash out of pocket. The bottom line is that cars are highly subsidized (roads, gas, parking, etc) and transit is not subsidized (to the same degree as car use).

  • Narayanan

    Usually forum guests are well-informed and open to ideas. Not the ones that showed up today, they kept saying the same thing (express lane instead of carpool) from start to finish.

    Tri-valley concerns were completely ignored. Wake up! 101 is not the only concern and tri-valley has grown exponentially in the last decade.
    Commuting from Dublin/Pleasanton/San Ramon to south bay has been a pain with no clear alternative to 680. Add more park & ride slots, provide services for carpoolers like me. Even those who want to carpool are left with limited options to park!

  • Pacifica Progress

    Now San Francisco is eliminating entire lanes of traffic to make room for bikes. This morning I saw they did this to San Jose Ave, a major artery into the city. I saw one bike on it this morning while traffic was backed up twice as much as usual. They’ve eliminated traffic lanes on Bayshore, Polk and other streets. This is causing more traffic, pollution and all the medical conditions that come from it. Mayor Lee, please stop this crazy plan.

    • Seamus Berkeley

      Actually, this is good news. More bikes equals less cars equals less traffic. Added health benefits are clean air and physical well-being. You could make use of this empty lane yourself; consider a folding bike, too.

      • Pacifica Progress

        It doesn’t work like that Seamus. There is more traffic, pollution and ga wasted due to the added bike lanes. Bikers aren’t increasing but cars are as our economy improves. Reality is that most people MUST drive a car to work.

        • Seamus Berkeley

          I have driven cars most of my life. Three years ago I made a commitment to give it up and use a bike, public transportation and walk. Once I made the commitment to it I found that I’m less stressed, healthier and happier. Not only that, I’m not wasting any gas, since I’m not driving. So, in fact, it does work, just like that! Perhaps you might consider reviewing your habits and attitudes about ‘how it doesn’t work’?

          • Pacifica Progress

            You are not most people. That’s great for you but most can’t, won’t and never will bike to work.

          • thucy

            Pacifica Progress,
            As a former health care worker, let me assure you that the type of dependence on cars that you can’t imagine giving up is going to bankrupt this country’s health care system.
            Please. Get out of your vehicle. Your derriere, your cardio system, and your blood sugar will thank you, and so will the ozone.

          • reyah

            I just toured several cities in Europe and they have bike lanes everywhere. There are a lot of bike parking lots and they are full. We saw people, men and women, dressed in business suites biking, to work, apparently. Trains are heavily used as well. I think most people don’t want to change habits until they’re forced to and making driving to work a nightmare might just force them from breaking that habit.

          • Another Mike

            Munich has plenty of bike lanes — on the sidewalks.

          • reyah

            Yes. We were not aware of that in the beginning and was “honked” at more than once to get out of the way.

          • Pacifica Progress

            There’s a reason our economy is superior to Europe’s.. We work harder and longer.

          • reyah

            Are you saying that the reason that a lot of people bike in Europe is they can’t afford cars? I believe the reason is they are much more environment-friendly than the US. They have a much more concerted effort to use products that will not harm, or minimize, the environment.

          • Another Mike

            Gasoline in Munich right now is $8.29 a gallon (1.599 Euro/liter) That makes people think twice before driving.

          • City Resident

            Our family of four (2 adults, 2 kids) get around just fine without a car in SF, including travelling to/from work in San Mateo County and occasional trips out of the city as a family. I, too, had my doubts about its viability, but it works well and since we don’t drive we have (much) more time to read.

        • thucy

          It doesn’t work like that, PP. More bikes = less exhaust, period.

          • Pacifica Progress

            It’s great to be a dreamer and wish people out of their cars but the reality is that it is not going to happen anytime soon. Cars in the Bay Area are increasing by about 5%a year while bike commuters stay the same. So why clog up the roads even more by eliminating car lanes for bikes?

          • thucy

            That’s an interesting claim – please cite your source.

  • voltairesmistress

    Hey, here is a bit of good news, if only anecdotal: my spouse was carpooling or driving alone from SF to Mountain View many days a week, so much so that we were thinking of acquiring a second car. But lately her tech company increased the number of shuttle buses from 1 per morning on one long route to 9 per morning along three different routes. Voila, she and her colleagues mostly pack those company buses, taking all their cars off 101 and cities’ streets. We are now looking to delay getting a second car until we have kids, and may not get the second car at all. And I feel better that she is in a big bus with a professional driver, not as exposed to traffic collisions, etc.

  • Paul

    For larger employers their CEOs and company officers tend to live in SF, the ‘Peninsula’ & Silicon Valley, where comfortable housing is extremely expensive. For the average employee-commuter to live in a nice home or apartment, they need to go far-south, east, or far- north for affordable & comfortable housing.

    But there’s little chance most CEOs and the company officers will re-locate their businesses to the east, far-south & far-north bay zones, because they do not want to commute to Hayward, Fremont, Livermore, Santa Rosa, Concord, Oakland, Gliroy etc. where housing is relatively more affordable. So we are stuck with a huge part of the Bay Area workforce having to commute west in the morning and east in the evening — creating directionally unbalanced traffic congestion on our roads & freeways.

    Some corporations have moved eastward, and for that they should be applauded as it re-balances vehicle traffic and diffuses congestion, and provides happier employees on average. It is surprising more employers do not settle in Oakland, Hayward, Pleasanton or Walnut Creek, due to their central locations and relatively more affordable housing. But it’s very hard to go against the axiom: “location, location, location…”

    • Another Mike

      Pleasanton and Walnut Creek are both quite upscale, with housing prices to match. And very few roads lead to Walnut Creek.

      Getting to Santa Rosa is a true nightmare, with only 101 as a practical route to and from the Bay Area.

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