San Francisco

Early Morning Rush Hour Getting More Crowded in the Bay Area

If you’re leaving earlier to start your Bay Area commute, you’re not alone.

Transportation officials say their numbers show traffic is increasing in the 4 a.m. hour, and on the other end, commuters have been leaving earlier to get home in the afternoon.

Painter Ron Vargas crosses the Bay Bridge into San Francisco with thousands of others for work each day.

"I have to get up approximately three o'clock in the morning to make sure I’m here by 5 a.m.," said Vargas, who commutes from Modesto and has noticed more brake lights. "It's been like this for a while, and it’s only getting worse."

John Goodwin, with the Metropolitan Transporation Commission, says the trend has been building, that the volume of traffic in the toll direction across all bridges has increased over the past three years, except in Antioch.

And the Bay Bridge stood out, with 4 a.m. traffic increasing by 22 percent in 2015 and 2016 and by 11 percent this year.

Goodwin says travel patterns are complex, and there is a dynamic economy in the Bay Area. Some commuters may be trying to arrive before the toll increases while others may just work earlier or arrive earlier to find parking.

"We can take a cue perhaps down the road from they way they approach this in SoCal, where carpool lanes are 24/7," Goodwin said.

While he doesn’t expect to see that change anytime soon, Goodwin said the Bay Area may see iniatives such as those aimed at moving buses through quicker. Meantime, drivers are leaving work earlier in the afternoon to get home.

A Caltrans spokesperson says when it comes to setting commute lane hours, it starts with a traffic survey between certain hours to look at how much relief it would provide.

The traffic department makes recommendations to the district director, but before any change, they check with community partners to make sure everyone is on board.

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