San Francisco Bay Area sees increase in traffic despite lockdown

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San Francisco’s bridges have seen an increase in toll-paying crossings, despite the Bay Area’s ‘lockdown’ being extended through May.

Reflecting a trend seen around the world, restless citizens have been seen jumping back into their cars in modest numbers, with traffic data helping authorities to keep a careful eye on how well restrictions are holding.

The Bay Area’s bridges had a pre-Covid-19 daily average of 421,000 trips in the toll-paying direction. This hit a new low the week of 6 April, with an average of just 208,000 bridge crossings per day, and has since been trending upwards. In the last week of April, average daily bridge traffic exceeded 243,000 toll-paid trips – a 16% increase over the lockdown low.

After an immediate, steep drop-off in bridge traffic when the statewide stay-at-home order was first issued on 19 March, data now indicates a steady increase in the number of vehicles crossing Bay Area toll bridges. Weekday traffic across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, by far the region’s most heavily-traveled crossing, last week averaged just over 77,000 vehicles in the westbound direction each day, compared to about 68,000 from April 6 to April 10. But even with this increased activity, Bay Bridge traffic volume is still more than 41% below the average 131,263 daily westbound crossings during the comparable week in late April and early May 2019.

Caltrans and other agencies have been able to take advantage of this period of reduced traffic by undertaking infrastructure improvement projects, including the replacement of the twin freeway decks at the U.S. 101/Alemany Circle junction, completed ahead of schedule last Saturday (9 May)

Similar trends can be seen at the Bay Area’s other toll bridges as well. Westbound traffic across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, which last week climbed to an average of almost 22,000 vehicles each weekday from fewer than 19,000 in early April, remains more than 46% below 2019 levels.

Measured by percentage, the San Mateo-Hayward and Dumbarton bridges have seen the largest year-to-year declines in traffic volume. While westbound traffic across both spans connecting Alameda and San Mateo counties has edged up in recent weeks, the number of average weekday crossings at the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge is still about 56% below last spring’s volume, and weekday crossings of the Dumbarton Bridge average more than 60% below 2019 levels.

 

 

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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