Bay Area traffic nears pre-pandemic levels

As pandemic restrictions begin easing up, more people are stepping on the gas and hitting the roads.

John Goodwin, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman says the empty roads from last year's pandemic shutdown are filling up.

"Bay Bridge traffic in particular is running at about 90% of pre-pandemic levels," said Goodwin.

Toll crossings at other bridges also are recovering, although the two South Bay bridges remain low.

"San Mateo Hayward is maybe 75% of normal and Dumbarton is maybe 65% of where it was pre-pandemic," said Goodwin.

Goodwin says those bridges have been impacted by many Silicon Valley company employees working from home. The pandemic has changed people's transportation patterns, perhaps for the long term.

In cities, the debate is just beginning over whether to reopen the so-called slow streets.

"Since things started to open up for sure. Lots more cars on the road," said Alex Putnam of San Francisco.

Those corridors such as JFK Drive in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park were closed to cars during the pandemic to give people more room to walk, run, bicycle and move around the city.

"It's really nice, just being able to bike down the street, not to worry about cars," said Molly Pile, a San Francisco eighth grader.

Molly says she and her father now use JFK Drive to bike to soccer and the grocery store. They'd like to see the safe streets become permanent.

"I go grocery shopping. My daughter's soccer practice," said Skip Pile of San Francisco, "I'm using the slow streets a lot to get around the city, as much as I can."

Cities emerging from the pandemic face a new balancing act trying to appease pedestrian and bicyclists' needs with space for drivers.

"Keeping the horizontal roads that cut through the park open, I think that's a good idea, going from the Richmond to the Sunset," said Putnam.

And transportation officials warn, with transit ridership dropping and many people readjusting their routines, expect a reshaping of Bay Area traffic patterns and some bumps in the road.

"Until people return to transit and take some of the load off, we could be looking at much worse traffic then we got accustomed to say back in 2019," said Goodwin.

Jana Katsuyama is a reporter for KTVU.  Email Jana at and follow her on Twitter @JanaKTVU or Facebook @NewsJana or