Extreme commuting: All workers should have reasonable commutes.

Insights & Analyses

  • Growth in extreme commuting seems to coincide with the region's economic booms and accompanying housing crises. In 2000, 3.4 percent of Bay Area commuters traveled 90 minutes or more to work.
  • The rate fell to about 2.3 percent in 2010 but is on the rise again. In 2020, about 4.6 percent of Bay Area commuters were extreme commuters.
  • Region-wide, in 2020, Native American workers are most burdened by excessive commutes, particularly Native American males.
  • Contra Costa and Solano County workers have the highest rates of extreme commuting at 9.1% and 7.1% respectively, while Santa Clara and San Mateo County workers have the lowest at 3.1% and 2.1% respectively.

Drivers of Inequity

Following World War II, government policies and investments in housing and transportation facilitated the development of wealthy suburbs in the Bay Area, which were connected to core city jobs via commuter rail systems, and highways. At the same time, disinvested low-income communities and communities of color in the urban core were largely reliant on chronically underfunded public transit systems. The geography of opportunity in the Bay Area has shifted again as higher-wage jobs in the tech sector, concentrated in the inner core parts of the region, have driven up the price of housing. Low-wage workers are being pulled to the outer parts of the region by lower housing costs, or they find themselves pushed out through direct and indirect displacement. Yet in those communities, public transportation systems are not as robust. These housing, land use, and transportation challenges are contributing to extreme commutes overall and wide racial, income, and gender gaps in extreme commuting.


Strengthen places: Policies to reduce extreme commutes

  • Adopt an equity-focused approach to transportation and land use planning at the regional and local level.
  • Protect low-wage workers living in inner Bay Area neighborhoods from being displaced by implementing strong renter protections and legal supports.
  • Preserve existing affordable housing and build new affordable homes near job centers and around transit hubs, and create dedicated funding for this purpose.
  • Coordinate housing, economic development, and transportation investments in the region.
  • Strengthen public transit systems, including the development of a high-quality, frequent, and coordinated regional express bus network, to better connect low-income residents to jobs, education and training opportunities, and services throughout the region. 
  • Develop a regional innovation fund that helps leverage new technology to provide “on demand” micro-transit options, especially for first/last mile service and rural communities.
  • Provide free or reduced-price transit passes or tickets to youth and other transit-dependent populations.
  • Expand transit options in suburban and rural communities, where more low-wage workers live, including van pools, shuttles, low-income car ownership programs, and bus routes.

Strategy in Action

BART extension opens in Antioch. In May 2018, BART reached deeper into East Contra Costa County with an extension from Pittsburg to Antioch along Highway 4. Antioch riders can now reach downtown Oakland without bus transfers in just over an hour. BART projects that 5,600 people will ride the extension each day during its first year. Learn more.

In Their Own Words...

“ There isn’t that much time for me to do laundry or go grocery shopping on my working days because I'll be too tired.”

— Jayson Beslig, Pittsburg

Jayson Beslig is one of 29,000 Contra Costa county workers who spend at least three hours commuting to and from work. Five or six days a week, Jayson takes the BART train from his home in Pittsburg to work the graveyard shift as a cabin cleaner at San Francisco International Airport. He is a union member, and receives overtime pay for his 10 or 12-hour shifts and a 50 percent transit discount. Still, he cannot afford to rent a home closer to work and he says that all of his current pay goes to groceries and rent. Learn more


Photo: Felix Uribe

Jayson Beslig

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