Traffic Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels in Most Bay Area Counties

Caltrans data shows the number of miles driven in Bay Area counties is bouncing back after a decline during the pandemic

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Data Caltrans shared with NBC Bay Area show that, generally, Bay Area traffic is returning to pre-pandemic levels. But the trends you experience may vary significantly depending on what part of the Bay Area you drive through.

Bart Ney, with Caltrans Bay Area, explained that Bay Area traffic dipped at the start of the pandemic: in May of 2020 the average weekday vehicle miles traveled in the Bay Area was down 24% from May of 2019.

That number has rebounded over the past year, since May of 2020 the Bay Area's vehicle miles traveled has increased 29%, which Ney said leaves the region's miles just 1% less than pre-pandemic levels.

However, the numbers vary significantly between counties. Six of the nine Bay Area counties have seen miles traveled to return to or exceed pre-COVID-19 levels.

However, in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties, Caltrans said that the vehicle miles traveled are still less than what they were prior to the pandemic. San Mateo County saw the largest reduction in miles driven and largest percentage reduction, with numbers 20% below pre-COVID-19 levels.

Traffic numbers are rising once again to pre-pandemic numbers. Different counties are considering options to alleviate congestion, such as San Francisco thinking about implementing congestion pricing. Cierra Johnson reports.

Contra Costa County, however, is currently exceeding pre-COVID-19 vehicle miles traveled by 4%.

In Walnut Creek at the Color Me Mine paint shop near I-680 and Highway 24, employee Megan Larsen said she has noticed an uptick in traffic just outside the shop.

"It’s like you can’t even pull out of this parking lot!” she noted, explaining that sometimes it can take her half an hour to get to Walnut Creek now.

While the added traffic is inconvenient for Larsen and customers at Color Me Mine, she acknowledges that it may also come with a welcome boost in business.

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