Bay Area bridge traffic up 14% since beginning of COVID-19 shelter-in-place order, data shows

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- At the peak of the pandemic, bridge toll crossings in the Bay Area were cut in half during the coronavirus shelter-in-place. But as restrictions loosen and more people are on the road, traffic is almost back to normal.

In April, toll crossings across the seven California-owned bridges in the Bay Area dropped by an average of 54%, dropping even further by 34% in May, according to data from Bay Area Toll Authority.

That number dropped to about 25% by mid-June. By July? we can only take a guess.

Since the beginning of shelter-in-place in mid-March, the number of toll crossings on the seven bridges totaled 346,960. By June 27, that number was 428.471. That's a 14.2% increase in total amount of vehicles.

The sparse bridge traffic during the second half of March and first half of April was "unprecedented," said John Goodwin, assistant director of communications with transportation commission.

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"Never seen anything like this," Goodwin said. "Of course no one else has, either. The drop in regional travel during the second half of March and first half of April is absolutely unprecedented - both for speed and depth."

Bay Area bridges saw a slight drop in traffic during the 2008 recession - but this year's drop was nothing in comparison, he said.

"The Great Recession was just a bump on a pickle compared to COVID-19," Goodwin said.

During the recession, traffic fell by about 2%.

At the peak of this year's shelter-in-place, traffic was cut in half.

The drop in traffic isn't just good for the Bay Area residents still spending time on the roads - but also for pollution levels in the region.

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On the 10th day of sheltering in place in the Bay Area, the region saw a dramatic drop in pollution levels with single digits in the south and north bay.

The environmental impact wasn't entirely unexpected.

China saw a similar outcome when much of the country was quarantined because of the pandemic.

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