By Tim Hunt
Commute traffic is coming back despite widespread work from homeUploaded: Dec 9, 2021
Statistics are backing up what I’ve observed anecdotally—people are getting back on the road during commute hours.
Last week, driving on Sunol Boulevard at Interstate 680 at about 7:30 in the morning, the metering lights were actually in use on the southbound onramp and there were several cars waiting. The oncoming traffic on Sunol also was moderately heavy.
Most of Silicon Valley employers are still allowing remote work so the times we’ve gone south in the morning have been easy rides. It’s not that way in the afternoon—it’s just a question of where the Sunol Grade back-up starts.
The situation is similar and started back sooner on I-580 during the afternoon commute that mixes container traffic from the Port of Oakland, commuting motorists and tractor-trailer rigs returning to distribution centers in San Joaquin County after servicing Bay Area retailers. And the Bay Bridge morning back-up has returned most weekdays.
It’s also been striking on weekends to see how heavy the traffic on northbound I-680 is in the afternoon.
The San Francisco Business Times reported in its Tuesday newsletter that a Bay Area Council survey of major businesses showed that most expected employees to work in the office three days a week (Tuesday-Thursday) starting when they go back in 2022. That will save more than 1 million commuter trips per day—good news for traffic congestion.
Traffic on the state-owned bridges (every one with the exception of the Golden Gate) has nearly reached its pre-pandemic levels (86%). And the Bay Bridge is already topping its 2019 traffic level. That is tied to people choosing to drive to work instead of riding mass transit. BART ridership is just 26% of its pre-pandemic number. It will be interesting, given how fear mongering the media continues to be fed by Bay Area health officers, to see when Covid 19 will cease to be seen as a pandemic will pass into the endemic stage like the common cold.
One Bay Area Council staffer said that unless that pattern changes and people start using mass transit again we will see the worst traffic congestion in our lifetimes.
Updating Tuesday’s blog: Checking out Safeway’s weekly ad, I see as part of the grand re-pening of the Bernal Avenue store, tri-tip roasts with a digital coupon are available for $3.99 a pound—quite a savings compared to what Raley’s was offering recently.