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As COVID-19 precautions ease around the Bay Area, more people are jumping back into some semblance of the work-a-day world and nowhere is that more apparent than in the region’s rebounding bridge traffic.
According to data from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Toll Authority, bridge traffic has slowly increased after a dramatic drop off due to state and local stay-at-home orders that were implemented in March 2020.
“Broadly speaking, what you see in these graphs is a vivid illustration of the impact of COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place mandates on bridge traffic specifically and, by proxy, travel all around the region,” said MTC/BATA spokesman John Goodwin. “It just fell off a cliff from the middle of March 2020 to early April of 2020.”
But beginning in February 2020, the numbers began to rebound to the point where now traffic on the northern bridges – San Francisco Bay, Richmond, Carquinez and Antioch – is at roughly 90 percent of pre-pandemic levels, Goodwin said.
Meanwhile, traffic on the two southern bridges – San Mateo and Dumbarton – is still running at significantly lower numbers compared to pre-pandemic volumes.
Data shows that traffic on the San Mateo Bridge is running at about 75 percent of what it was prior to March 2020 and at about 65 percent of what it was on the Dumbarton Bridge.
“I think that it is largely a function of larger employers in the South Bay and along the Peninsula who were better positioned and probably had more experience with people working remotely,” Goodwin said. “Think of it as the Silicon Valley effect.”
What the numbers don’t show is public transit ridership, which is slowly increasing but still suffering significant passenger losses as a result of the pandemic, he said.
“Travel decisions are really complicated and they are born of a lot of different factors. In a region of close to 8 million people there are close to 8 million different calculations that are being made by people in terms of their time of travel, day of travel, route of travel and mode of travel,” Goodwin said.