Bay Bridge traffic named Bay Area’s worst

The most congested roadways in the Bay Area are also the paths to the region’s busiest job centers, according to a report released today by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

With average speeds of just 4 miles per hour at the peak of the commute, traffic slows to crawl on the Bay Bridge eastbound toward Alameda County during the evening commute, according to the report.

The commute lasts from approximately 1:30 to 8:30 p.m., making it the worst place and time to be stuck in a car in the Bay Area.

Unlike in 2009, the last time the MTC released a regional traffic congestion report, the commute out of San Francisco during evening hours is worse than the morning commute into The City, which currently holds the no. 4 spot, according to the report.

Holding the no. 2 and no. 3 spots are two routes heading towards San Jose, Interstate Highway 880 southbound during the morning commute and U.S. Highway 101 southbound in Santa Clara County during the evening, respectively.

The report, which details the region’s top 10 congested freeways, is just one of more than dozen metrics the agency plans to release this month as part of its Vital Signs initiative.

The Vital Signs initiative focuses on tracking regional performance measures for transportation, land use, environmental and economic policy goals identified in Plan Bay Area, a long-range planning document adopted by the Association of Bay Area Governments in 2013.

MTC Commissioner Scott Haggerty said:

“Yes, the return of the thriving economy is a very good thing for our region but of course the cloud to this silver lining is traffic congestion. … The strong line between congestion and employment can be seen when you zero in on the region’s 10 most congested freeways. Many of the routes lead into the region’s two largest employment centers, which are San Francisco and Silicon Valley.”

MTC Chairwoman Amy Rein Worth said the agency changed the way it collected data for the report. Unlike in past years, when the agency employed “floating car runs” — basically driving cars during peak commute hours and measuring how long it takes — Rein Worth said the MTC used GPS, cellphone, traffic camera and roadway censor data for a “nearly constant source of information”:

“It’s taken us a while but we have a clearer and much better picture than ever before of where commuters are experiencing congestion-related delays and when they are experiencing congestion-related delays.”

Caltrans Deputy District Director Sean Nozzari said the data will help the agency target its investments in areas that are the most congested:

“It allows us to figure out where the problem areas are and where we should direct our investments and where we can benefit from making connections with other modes of transportation.”

The 2009 report was successful in identifying some key areas for improvement, Nozzari said, pointing to Highway 101 in Marin, Interstate Highway 580 in Alameda County and state Highway 4 in Contra Costa County.

Each corridor was listed as major points of congestion in 2008, received roadway investments and has since dropped in rank on the congested freeway list, Nozzari said.

Haggerty said the MTC and the Association of Bay Area Governments in 2013 called for the investment of more than $2 billion over the next 25 years to implement freeway improvements, including adding express and carpool lanes, activating ramp metering lights, installing traffic cameras and changeable message signs to inform commuters of real-time transit conditions:

“MTC is committed to making our freeways operate as efficiently and reliably as possible.”

Haggerty said. The agency’s Vital Signs website will be up and running on Jan. 28, Rein Worth said. Residents will be able to access the interactive website and determine how the Bay Area compares to other regions in the state and country.

The website will include information on myriad metrics, including multi-modal transportation, system maintenance and commute choices.