Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Traffic in SF: Now and in the future

Photo by Scott James for Bay Citizen

As the Chronicle reported today (below in italics), San Francisco has the third worst traffic congestion in the country, behind only Los Angeles and Honolulu.

According to the DMV, there are 458,093 motor vehicles registered in SF (I subtracted the trailers from the total). According to the MTA's Transportation Fact Sheet, only 21.6% of city households don't have a car, down from 28.6% in the 2007 Fact Sheet. 78.4% of city households have a car.

There's a 35,400 "increase in vehicle population in the city on a typical work day."

Nevertheless, San Francisco is implementing various anti-car "improvements" to city streets to encourage more people to ride bicycles, even though ten years of such projects has increased cyclists from 2.1% of city commuters to only 3.5%. There's no evidence that continuing these policies will do anything but make traffic worse for everyone, let alone increase cycling to 20% of all trips in the city by 2020.

Think traffic in the city is bad now? Wait until the traffic caused by City Hall's recent Smart Growth projects starts to kick in, like Treasure Island (16,700 new residents), Parkmerced and the 19th Avenue corridor (16,850 new residents), the Market and Octavia Plan (10,000 new residents), and UC's housing development on the old extension property on lower Haight Street (1,000 new residents).

A prediction: These developments will make traffic so bad that the Big Thinkers in the MTA will renew their push for Congestion Pricing in downtown San Francisco. But what about 19th Avenue? Congestion pricing on a state highway? 

Gridlock: Nope, it wasn't just your imagination: San Francisco has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation.

Beating out jammed-up East Coast cities such as New York and Boston, San Francisco ranked third in the country for worst traffic congestion in 2011. Inrix, a company that specializes in traffic and navigation, released its 2011 traffic scorecard Tuesday.

On average, San Francisco drivers were stuck in traffic for about 48 hours in 2011, the findings show. Traffic in the city tends to hit its peak on Thursdays, from 5:45 to 6:00 p.m.

No other Bay Area cities made the top 10, but the East Bay earned some recognition for having the No. 10 most congested corridor in the nation, according to the scorecard. The stretch of Highway 4, from the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station at Bailey Road in Bay Point to Somersville Road in Antioch, takes a driver 16 minutes on average to drive through, with about 11 minutes of delay.

It's no surprise that Los Angeles, where terms like "Carmaggedon" are born, ranked higher than San Francisco for worst traffic---No. 2 on the list with drivers having wasted on average 56 hours in traffic, and four corridors on the top 10 most congested list, But No. 1 on the list is actually a city in paradise. Drivers in Honolulu wasted about 58 hours in 2011, according to the findings.

But overall, researchers at Inrix found that traffic has dropped nationwide by about 30 percent in 2011---something company CEO and President Bryan Mistele attributes to Americans wanting to save more money in a bad economy and high gas prices.

Cities showing the biggest drops in congestion---San Francisco was one---were those cities where gas prices exceeded the national average at its April 2011 peak. San Francisco beat out the national average, $3.96, by 29 cents.
- Vivian Ho

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