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Study Shows New Strategy for Cutting Bay Area Commute Traffic

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Craig Miller/KQED

In a new study of Bay Area traffic patterns, UC Berkeley researchers have found that commuters from some cities make traffic worse than others do - and not just because of their driving habits.
 
The Bay Area has a number of notorious traffic bottlenecks, like the connector between the Dumbarton Bridge and 880. Traffic there has a ripple effect, says Alex Bayen, a transportation professor at UC Berkeley.
 
“Once these bottlenecks are activated, suddenly you have a local reduction in capacity and then the congestion will expand,” Bayen says.
 
Commuters from particular cities in the Bay Area feed these bottlenecks in greater numbers. Reducing just one percent of commutes from those neighborhoods could reduce travel time for all drivers as much as 18 percent.
 
“It is a very surprising fact that a very tiny reduction in demand can lead to a very significant improvement in travel time,” Bayen says.
 
The study was done with anonymous data from cell phone towers that is giving researchers a new look at Bay Area commute patterns. With the information from this new methodology, policymakers could focus ride-sharing or public transit programs in the specific cities that feed traffic bottlenecks.
 
 
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