In-depth: Long-time Bay Area driver says she’s spent what seems like a ‘lifetime’ stuck in traffic

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(KRON) — The Bay Area commute is among the worst in the country, and with more and more people moving here, the problem isn’t getting any better.

On Tuesday night, KRON4 continues its series Road Warriors with an in-depth look at Bay Area congestion.

KRON4 met up with a long-time Bay Area driver who said she has spent what seems like a “lifetime” stuck in traffic.

On a daily basis, like a soldier gearing up for battle on the unforgiving front lines of Bay Area traffic, having racked up more than 172,000 miles in her car, commuter Carolyn Jones hits the road behind the wheel of her 2005 Toyota Corolla. Without her car, Jones says she’d be lost, essentially thrown into the battlefield without a sword or shield.

“The Corolla has not done me wrong–my second home, this is my vacation home,” Jones said.

But she wishes it didn’t have to be this way.

It’s just that the alternatives to driving, for her, are not convenient.

She says BART is good, but often problematic, and there’s just not enough of it.

“Anything helps, but there just needs to be lots and lots more of it,” Jones said.

Jones is a former reporter who retired from the San Francisco Chronicle.

She lives in Oakland and now works for the East Bay Regional Parks District.

She doesn’t travel far–just often–and always at a snail’s pace.

“Traffic I think has become so horrific that for me and just about everyone else I know, their lives have become increasingly constricted,” Jones said.

In part because of the growing population, Jones says the congestion is just getting worse.

In 2015, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission says nearly half of a record 3.7 million Bay Area jobs were located in either San Francisco or the Silicon Valley.

But more affordable housing was and still is found elsewhere, increasing the number of cars passing from one corridor to the next.

“I think eventually some people are just going to move,” Jones said. “They’re just not gonna take that job in the Silicon Valley. They’re going to say, you know, this is really not worth it, no matter how beautiful it is here. I think I’m moving to Nevada.”

As for the 172,000 miles, it’s not like she’s traveling to Los Angeles and back. Not at all.

She mainly goes to neighboring Alameda to pick her two kids up from school or Marin County where she cares for her elderly mother.

“Somewhere in there, I go to the grocery store,” Jones said. “I mean it could be hours of just driving in circles, stop and go, stop and go.”

Her story may sound familiar because tens of thousands of Bay Area commuters feel the same pain.

Local leaders and transportation experts say purely automated vehicles may be the way of the future and could lessen the dependency on BART and unclog our roads.

The idea behind this is to increase public transit ridership by using automation as a connector to public transit.

The ultimate goal is to pack people into fewer vehicles, reducing the number of single-occupancy cars.

Expanded bike and ride-sharing programs are other options.

Anything but status quo, says Jones, who contends there’s nothing worse than the endless battle that is the Bay Area commute.

“It’s a major impact on the quality of life. I mean, we live in this beautiful place, and yet, we have some of the worst traffic in the country, and I think that public officials need to make that an absolute priority,” Jones said.

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