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News Release

Fresh Data on Bay Area’s Vital Signs Include New Top 10 List for Freeway Congestion

Noah Berger

OAKLAND, CA — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) today unveiled its annual ranking of the Bay Area’s most congested freeway segments, with the westbound morning commute along Interstate 80 from Hercules to Oakland regaining its oft-held position in 2014 as the region’s most notorious location for traffic trouble. The nearly 17-mile stretch from the State Route 4 interchange to the Bay Bridge toll plaza ranked #4 on the regional congestion list for 2013.

The freeway congestion data is one of a suite of transportation indicators released today as part of MTC’s web-based Vital Signs performance-monitoring initiative. Across the region, “congested delay,” which MTC defines as time spent in traffic moving at speeds of 35 miles per hour or less, ticked up 3 percent in 2014 to an average of 2.7 minutes per commuter each weekday from 2.6 minutes in 2013.  This marks the Bay Area’s highest recorded level of congested delay on a per-commuter basis and a nearly 40 percent increase over the 1.9-minutes-per-commuter-per-day figure registered in 2010.

Freeway congestion around the Bay Area is increasing faster than either population or employment. Since 2000, per-commuter congested delay has risen by 23 percent while the region’s population has grown by 10 percent, and total regional employment at the end of 2014 was only about 1 percent higher than turn-of-the-century levels.

While the morning commute along westbound I-80 jumped three spots to #1 on the Top 10 list — swapping positions with the eastbound afternoon drive on U.S. 101 and I-80 from I-280 in San Francisco out to the Bay Bridge — nine of the region’s 10 most congested freeway segments in 2014 ranked in the Top 10 for 2013 as well.  The only newcomer to the list is the morning commute along northbound U.S. 101 from Story Road in East San Jose to Montague Expressway in Santa Clara, which climbed to #10 last year after ranking #18 in 2013.

The remainder of the Top 10 list includes the morning drive on southbound I-880 from San Leandro to Milpitas, which retained its #2 position; the afternoon commute on southbound U.S. 101 from Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale to Oakland Road in North San Jose, which ranked #3 for the second year in a row; the afternoon crawl northbound on I-680 from San Ramon to Pleasant Hill, which held steady at #5; the northbound I-680 commute over the Sunol Grade from Mission Blvd. in Fremont to State Route 84 in Sunol, rising one spot to #6; the afternoon slog on eastbound I-80 from the Bay Bridge toll plaza area to Albany, which climbed one spot to #7; the westbound morning commute on I-205 and I-580 over the Altamont Pass to Dublin, which dropped to #8 from #6 a year earlier; and the afternoon drive on eastbound State Route 24 from the I-580 interchange in Oakland through the Caldecott Tunnel to Orinda, which remained at #9.

“A few things really stand out when you look at the data,” explained Santa Clara County Supervisor and MTC Chair Dave Cortese. “One is that congestion is concentrated in a select few corridors, primarily on routes leading into or out of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. Another is that over three-quarters of the congested delay is found on freeways in Alameda, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties. A third is that commuters on a lot of the most congested corridors stand to benefit as major investments such as BART to San Jose, BART capacity improvements, Caltrain electrification and new freeway express lanes come on line in the years ahead.”

Vital Signs Show Big Jump in Transit Commuting

While the resurgence of the regional economy has spurred an increase in congestion-related delays on Bay Area freeways, data compiled by MTC’s Vital Signs team show the percentage of commuters traveling to and from work by car is actually shrinking. Solo drivers and carpoolers together accounted for just 76 percent of commute trips around the Bay Area in 2014, down from 78 percent in 2010 and from 81 percent in 2000. At the same time, the share of workers commuting by transit has jumped 20 percent over the past four years — to 12 percent of all commuters last year from 10 percent in 2010. This marks the largest percentage of Bay Area workers commuting by transit since 1960.

East Bay and Peninsula commuters are driving the bulk of transit ridership growth, particularly on BART and Caltrain. In San Francisco, the number of residents bicycling to work has doubled over the past decade and the number who walk is at its highest level since 1960. A majority of residents in both San Francisco and Berkeley no longer use cars to get to work, and more than four in 10 commuters from Albany and Emeryville choose to leave their cars at home.

The release of the new transportation data from the Vital Signs performance-monitoring initiative coincides with several upgrades to the interactive Vital Signs website (, which is a recent recipient of a Silver Quill “Award of Excellence” from the International Association of Business Communicators (Pacific Plains Region).

Among the upgrades are redesigned maps that allow residents to get detailed corridor-by-corridor information about freeway congestion and travel time reliability. The website also illustrates historical trends, differences and similarities among Bay Area communities, and how our region stacks up with other major U.S. metro areas. This month’s release of nine updated transportation indicators joins dozens of other metrics related to land-use, economic and environmental conditions released over the past year as part of the Vital Signs project. Transportation measures include:

  • Commute mode choice
  • Commute time
  • Traffic volumes at regional gateways
  • Time spent in congestion
  • Miles traveled in congestion
  • Travel time reliability
  • Transit ridership
  • Transit system efficiency
  • Daily miles traveled

MTC is the transportation planning, financing and coordinating agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.

John Goodwin, (415) 778-5262
Randy Rentschler (415) 778-6780

Vital Signs: Transportation