Bay Area Commute Traffic Starting to Return to Pre-Pandemic Levels

NBC Universal, Inc.

One year after the Bay Area shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic is starting to rev back up on the region's busiest roads.

For the past year, workers who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs have spent a lot less time in their cars. But there are signs that trend is changing.

At the peak of the shutdown, drivers in the Bay Area saw the amount of time spent in their commute cut in half, by 51% to be exact, according to the INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard. Since then, the commute gradually has become busier, approaching pre-pandemic levels.

Bridge traffic, for instance, is at 84.8% of where it was before the pandemic. About 1.6 million drivers passed through the Bay Area's seven bridge tolls the week of March 5-11, according to data from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

For the same week a year ago, the number was about 1.9 million.

In February 2020, about a month before the shutdown, NBC Bay Area featured super-commuter Fermin Vasquez, who drove 90 miles every morning from his home in Soledad to Campbell, where he works as a hair stylist.

Before the pandemic, his commute took him two hours and 15 minutes. Now, Vasquez is making the same drive in just 90 minutes.

Unfortunately, hair salons were closed for most of 2020, and Vasquez, mostly working just two or three days a week, said the drive hardly has been worth it. He has relied on his faith to keep him going.

"Yeah, pray to keep me healthy, and us, to keep us in our house," he said. "You know, because I am struggling a little bit here, trying to keep my house."

Vasquez said traffic has been heavy the past three Friday nights on the drive back home to Soledad -- stop and go starting at Bailey Avenue on Highway 101 heading into Morgan Hill. He believes it's a sign California is opening back up as more people are heading out of town for the weekend.

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