Waze extra: the most congested spots in N. CA's Bay area

Editor's note: From time to time we'll have content on the blog that might be region-specific or a little off-topic in terms of our normally product-focused postings. Just think of it like a little somethin' somethin' extra.  ;-)



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Commuters and soccer moms alike know that driving in the Bay Area is a challenge of its own. The highway lanes aren't as wide as Los Angeles, and San Francisco has one of the highest population density rates in the United States. Carpool lanes are sparse and typically ineffective anyway.



The goal of the Bay Area driver is to get around the traffic and arrive at their location as quickly, easily, and safely as possible. With most smartphone apps, you'll only get direct directions to your destination. No traffic info, no alternative routes.  Waze, however, keeps up-to-date on the slowdowns, accidents, speedtraps, and more in the area - all with the help of real drivers. There is also the ability to learn new routes to redirect drivers stuck in traffic, so goodbye rush hour and hello smooth sailing.

East Bay







The East Bay includes the counties Alameda and Contra Costa. Through these two counties, the Interstates 80, 680, 580, 880, 238, and Routes 92, 84, and 4 run. That comes out to eight major thorough ways for drivers to travel on, or get stuck in traffic on. The following are three major areas of traffic in the East Bay.

Altamont Pass



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The Altamont Pass connects the Central Valley (e.g. Tracy, Stockton) with the East Bay cities of Pleasanton, Livermore, and everything west of that point via Interstate 580. Commuters pack the freeway westbound during morning commute hours and create a heavy flow eastbound at the end of the workday. The 580 connects with the I-680. Take the 238 to connect to 880 South, or continue on the 580 to arrive at the 880 North. Waze will be able to reroute you around the dreaded traffic, which can be tough, especially with heavy construction going on around the junctions. The app learns routes, and can help you determine the best with the assistance of other wazers in your area.





Caldecott Tunnel



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Three bores through the Berkeley Hills is all that Highway 24 is allowed.  The Caldecott Tunnel is known for heavy back-ups with commuters from Contra Costa County and the eastern part of Alameda County.  Cal-Trans regulates the middle bore for traffic to pass through in whichever direction is heaviest at the time.  During commute times, traffic is congested for miles.  Waze could help you choose alternative routes, such as the 680 southbound to the 580 west.  Highway 4 is available, but not less congested.

MacArthur Maze



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At the intersection of three freeways and the entrance to a bridge headed towards San Francisco is where you will find a parking lot. If you're headed onto the Bay Bridge, it's best to carpool or use FasTrak (which allows use of the carpool lane) - but you'll only speed through the toll booths and come to a nearly dead stop again once on the bridge itself. If you need to find a way around the Maze, your best bet is waze.

North Bay







Whilst the North Bay is slightly less trafficked in comparison to the rest of the Bay Area, folks from Marin County do need to get places and have only a few main options for how to arrive to their respective destinations. Especially in areas with seemingly limited options, the waze community really comes into play. The 101 Highway, accompanied by California State Route 1 and the ends of Highway 37 and the Interstate 580 all mark territory in Marin County.

101 Through Marin County



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Central San Rafael has their problems on Highway 101 in both directions with a large amount of cars coming from three directions, north and southbound 101 and the 580 connection.



Traveling northbound Highway 101 when you reach Novato, the northern most city in Marin County, the number of lanes will be reduced causing a bottle neck.  From Kastania in Sonoma County all the way south to the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 101 is a speedtrap.   CHP officers strictly enforce the speed limits.  Watch for more slowdowns from the Central San Rafael exit until you pass Sir Francis Drake Blvd. During daytime traffic is caused from excessive amount of cars on the freeway and in the evening there is frequent road construction.

Waldo Tunnel



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As kids, we used to see who could hold their breath all the way through the Waldo Tunnel. This would always lead to some serious blue faces during commute hours.  There is no interchange at this point, nor is there is a reduction in lanes.  So what could be causing the traffic? The outer rim of each bore is painted in a rainbow, but it's the grade of the road causing slow downs when there are not as many cars on the road.  The only alternative to get in and out of San Francisco from Marin County is to take the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge taking the 580 to the 80 south then crossing the Oakland Bay Bridge. Not too feasible if south of Corte Madera. With waze, you have a network of fellow drivers that share a goal of avoiding traffic and other causes of major slow down.

Peninsula



peninsula-traffic



The Peninsula is covered by San Mateo and parts of Santa Clara Counties, in addition to the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Traversed by Highways 1, 101, 35, 84, 92, and Interstate 280, this piece of land connects the Silicon Valley to San Francisco, and hence sees many traffic jams.

101 Through the Peninsula



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Highway 101 runs along SFO with the 380 north and the 92 minutes south. Commute hours or not, there is usually a slow down 101 southbound beginning at at S. Airport Blvd continuing south to Millbrae or Broadway.  Much of the traffic southbound comes from the merge of the 380 bringing drivers over from the 280 in both directions.



Northbound on the 101 can back-up from the 92 to the airport.  Congestion is due to drivers going to the airport and also to San Francisco coming from all directions.  The San Mateo Bridge is the Highway 92 connection to the East Bay to the Peninsula.

San Francisco







The City by the Bay is also the city of some harsh congestion at times. With the combination of varying grades, many one-way streets, few left turns, and hundreds of thousands of pedestrians and rampant double-parking, San Francisco driving wouldn't be what it is without its fair share of traffic. The Interstates 80 and 280, in addition to Highway 101 stake a claim here, while Route 1, in addition to parts of the 101, continues along on the streets of the city.

San Francisco Streets



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The abundance of people traveling to and through the City of San Francisco causes traffic jams on the freeways and especially on the streets.  Market Street, a major street running from the Embarcadero to 'The Castro' has two lanes in each direction. It can take 10 minutes to travel one block.  Best advice here is to avoid driving on the street.  Mission Street is one block south, but left-turn restrictions can make it challenging.



Van Ness acts as the 101 from Lombard Street to Downtown.  If traveling northbound, take Franklin as an alternative.  It's a one way street and has no slow downs from people yielding to oncoming traffic for that left turn.



Southbound travelers can use Gough Street for their alternate route. Grant Street running from the Chinatown Gate at Bush Street is packed with cars as one-way traffic attempts to make its way through.  Kearny is one block away and will be a few minutes shorter.



The great thing is there are constantly reports being sent in by wazers in the City by the Bay.

Highway 101 Through San Francisco



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The 101 northbound towards the Bay Bridge backs up from 1 mile before Vermont Street all the way to the bridge.  101 Southbound backs up from the Bay Bridge past Hospital Curve.

South Bay







The South Bay hold the heart of the Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County. Even with all of the ups and downs in the tech industry, the one thing that holds steady and true is the major congestion. Highways 101, 280, 85, 237, 17, and 9 cover the map in this area.

San Jose Area



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Southbound 101 just before Hwy 87 backs-up until after Capitol Expressway which is a few exits south of the 880.  Traffic jams caused by a lot of cars trying to fit in a relatively small area.  The 280 southbound is packed with cars at least five miles before reaching the 17/ 880.  All highways shown (101, 87, 17, 880, and 680) in the map above are heavily congested during commute hours.  Alternate routes would be surface streets.

Highway 17 through the Santa Cruz Mountains



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Highway 17 (or the Santa Cruz Highway) begins at the 280 where the 880 leaves off.  Traveling westbound, the freeway ends at Los Gatos and turns into a two lane road in each direction while crossing the mountains.  It creates a bottleneck that can easily begin at the 280.  During winter months heavy rains in the mountains and snow makes traveling to work a job in itself.  What is normally a 20 minute drive with light to moderate traffic has just turned into a 2-3 hour adventure for those commuters living on the coast in Santa Cruz County.



Each of these highly congested routes seem nearly impossible to get around. Waze has the capability to learn an alternate route, and remember it ... just in case rerouting is needed during heavy traffic. Bay Area drivers now have an alternative, the Waze alternative.

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