SAN FRANCISCO—As San Francisco prepares to enter phase 2 of reopening, the city is anticipating a huge surge in auto traffic as a result. The Bay Area’s transportation Commission is worried that traffic might become even worse than before the outbreak began because of a prediction that fewer people will take public transportation.
The Bay Area transportation commission predicts that morning commutes across the Bay Area could become 42 minutes longer than they were before.
Researchers are predicting that people will not be willing to chance public transport, even carpooling, out of fear of unnecessary exposure.
“Even if it was allowed, which I don’t think it will be, people are going to be very hesitant into crowded public transit system, and transit works because lots of people use it. Many of those people still need to get to work, I think the automobile will be their vehicle of choice. I likely think we are going to see some pretty congested freeways,” warns Randy Rentschler, the Metropolitan Transportation Agency Commission spokesperson.
The hope is that this prediction will help city council members and transportation planners to come up with a recovery strategy in time.
As stay-at-home orders lift, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency states that they will only have a matter of months, most likely between now and August, to make those decisions.
Jeffrey Tumlin, the SFMTA Agency Director, stated “We also see some really difficult problems on the horizon. As we look at what is happening in the East Asian capitals who are further along in their recovery, they are experiencing levels of traffic congestion that greatly exceed the congestion in the pre-Covid economy. It only takes a relatively small shift of travel demand from public transit to driving alone to completely gridlock the entire transportation system,” Jeffrey Tumlin, the SFMTA Agency director explained in a publicly broadcasted Board of Directors meeting.
“The rates of driving are ticking up steadily. Our own data here in San Francisco is already showing a return of congestion in some key quarters. We believe we have a very narrow window of time in order to set the transportation system up so that the city’s economy is not strangled in traffic congestion,” Tumlin further stated.
In order to help minimize congestion, the SFMTA is advising San Francisco locals to consider using other modes of transportation, such as walking and biking, for short distances where automobile transport is not completely necessary.
In the meantime, the SFMTA is currently discussing other methods that might make the city better prepared for the expected traffic surge.