For anyone who has been stuck on the Golden Gate or any of the other six bridges that span San Francisco Bay during rush hour, it will come as no surprise that Bay Area residents are driving more than ever before. Combined with decreases in fuel efficiency and a growing population, that trend means we're burning increasing amounts of gasoline. In fact, gas consumption in the Bay Area rose more than 13 percent between 1995 and 2000. These developments portend grave problems for our region's air quality and climate, and for our health.
NRDC researchers, relying on data from the California Department of Transportation, found that annual gasoline consumption in the Bay Area increased by more than 13 percent between 1995 and 2000. They also found that the number of vehicle miles traveled in the Bay Area between 1990 and 2000 increased more than 20 percent.
In addition, as the Bay Area's population continues to grow (by an expected 14 percent by 2020), new housing built farther and farther from central San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose will mean that more drivers will travel greater distances. But even apart from population increases, the outlook is grim: if current trends continue, over the next 20 years gasoline consumed and vehicle miles traveled will grow more than 2.5 times faster than the area's population is expected to grow. The California Department of Transportation estimates that over the next two decades, the Bay Area can expect a 36 percent increase in gasoline consumption and a 41 percent increase in the number of vehicle miles traveled.