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Bay Area traffic delays rank second longest in nation

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March 31, 2019 Oakland / CA / USA - Heavy traffic on the freeway in east San Francisco bay area

Heavy traffic on the freeway in the East Bay.

Bay Area commuters have the second toughest trek in the entire country getting to work, shopping areas, the dentist and a not-so-simple night out for a movie and maybe dinner afterward.

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Those are a few conclusions of this year’s Urban Mobility Report, released Thursday by the prestigious Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) that has tracked this stuff since 1982.

The report examined conditions in 494 urban areas across all states and Puerto Rico in 2017.

Of course, Southern California has it tougher, ranking No. 1 with an annual average of 119 hours delay per person compared to 103 in the Bay Area. But it’s a getting a lot tougher to get around across America from Des Moines to Dallas. The numbers show Bay Area commuters are spending more time and money in their car than ever since 1982.

— The number of hours per commuter lost to traffic delay has nearly doubled in the region, climbing to 103 hours a year. from 55.

— The annual cost of that delay per commuter has nearly doubled to $2.4 billion a year from $1.3 billion.

— And the amount of fuel wasted in stalled traffic in the Bay Area has more than tripled to 3.3 billion gallons a year.

— The nationwide cost of gridlock has grown more than tenfold to $166 billion a year.

What’s the solution? Rule out nothing.

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Express/carpool lanes in the Bay Area, a lot more Caltrain service, BART to San Jose, all-day metering lights on Interstate 80, maybe a new bridge across the bay and extra lanes on Highway 101 to Gilroy.

“No single approach will ever solve this complex problem,” said Tim Lomax, a regents fellow at TTI. “We know what works. What the country needs is a robust, information-powered conversation at the local, state and national levels about what steps should be taken.

“We have many strategies; we have to figure out the right solution for each problem and a way to pay for them.”

That is starting to change in California where voters have passed a higher gas tax, bridge tolls and new sales taxes across the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Nearly a dozen states have also increased their gas tax, but there’s been little appetite for a higher national gas tax.

The result is that the average freeway traveler has to allow almost twice the expected trip duration to ensure dependable arrival for time-sensitive things like medical appointments, daycare pickup, and airline flights. Instead of the 20 minutes needed in light traffic, it’s best to plan for 34 minutes.

“Those minutes don’t sound like much, but they add up quickly over a year,” said David Schrank, a report author. “Eventually, we’re talking billions of wasted hours, and the cost of delay at that scale is just enormous.”

For decades, San Jose streets were among the bumpiest in the region. But now the city plans to repave all 14,000 miles streets within the next decade.

“For far too long our community has suffered increased expenses to their pocketbooks due to blown tires, traffic accidents, and needed alignments,” said Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco. “For our poorest families, this could be mean the difference of paying for a car repair and putting food on the table. Our families rely on smooth roads to go to and from work, take their children to school, and run errands.”

This used to be a problem limited to big cities. No more.

And the phrase “rush hour” is now a long-outdated reference. On northbound Interstate 680 over the Sunol Grade, it can begin as early as 2 p.m and go to 8 p.m. — the longest in the region.

“Every day it’s like this,” said Jeff Miller of Dublin. “Every day.

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