“The number of people on the move between 4 and 5 o’clock is up, and up strongly,” Metropolitan Transit Commission spokesman John Goodwin told KRON 4 last month. Echoing that statement — traffic across toll bridges is getting worse, even at earlier, typically non-rush hours like 5 a.m. — the Chronicle ran some numbers.
The Bay Area Toll Authority reports that across the Bay Bridge, travel between 5 and 10 a.m. is up by 11 percent over 2010. Meanwhile the San Mateo Bridge has seen a 29 percent increase in morning commuters over the same period, the Dumbarton Bridge is up by 27 percent, with the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge up 21 percent.
KTVU’s traffic reporter Sal Castaneda notes that metering lights on the Bay Bridge are, these mornings, flickering on 15 minutes earlier than was once typical, at around 5:30 a.m. compared to 5:45 a.m. Since that same 2010 benchmark, on the Bay Bridge there's been a 75 percent increase in cars between 5 and 6 a.m., an 81 percent increase on the San Mateo Bridge, a 61 percent spike on the Dumbarton Bridge, and a 43 percent increase on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
“The 5 o’clock hour is like the 6 o’clock hour used to be," Castanada said. "A broken-down car at 5:30 can affect traffic until 10 a.m.”
As senior vice president for public policy at the business group the Bay Area Council, Michael Cunningham adds his perspective on job growth to the conversation surrounding commute woes. “As jobs have been getting added in San Francisco or on the Peninsula,” he said, “the choice has been either to go in early while there still is some capacity on the bridge — and that time keeps getting pushed earlier and earlier — or go in later, or go in during peak and just wait in line.”
As far as traffic within the City of San Francisco proper, the Chronicle wrote this spring that the numbers don't tell the whole sad story. Still, one somewhat speculative figure they do point to is the perhaps 15,000 Uber and Lyft cars on our streets. While those fleets may speed some up, they slow others down.