May 8, 2020
While clean air and traffic-free roads have been one of the few silver linings amid the coronavirus pandemic, there are worrying signs that the Bay Area’s fearsome congestion could come roaring back once public life resumes — and perhaps be worse than ever.
That’s because many of those who once packed into crowded buses and BART trains could opt to drive whenever people begin physically returning to work in large numbers.
It’s an understandable shift for virus-scarred commuters seeking the physical distance of a private car. But it presents a host of troubling consequences for a region where officials have long tried to lure people out of their automobiles: gridlocked freeways and traffic misery, increased tailpipe emissions and deteriorating air quality, financial hardship for public transportation agencies.
“We are going to have lesser ridership on transit for the near future,” said Professor Frances Edwards of San Jose State’s Mineta Transportation Institute. And as a result, Edwards said, “We are going to have bad traffic.”
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