The Bay Area’s population was boosted by 90,834 people — the size of Santa Barbara — between 2014 and 2015, according to estimates in a U.S. Census Bureau report, dramatically outpacing housing and transportation needs of the region, experts say. […] the relatively steady upswing in the past five years, policymakers say, underscores deficiencies in housing supply and public transportation. “What should be a great story about job growth and very desirable communities is instead a story about housing displacement and gridlock,” said Gabriel Metcalf, president of SPUR. Roadblocks to increasing the region’s housing stock, he pointed out, include zoning laws that prohibit high-density housing, prolonged project approval processes and the fact that many voters are homeowners not directly hurt by soaring home prices and who want to minimize congestion for themselves. The unevenness, especially when new residents are living far from their workplaces, has increased strains on public transit lines. The crowded commuter trains were cast into an ugly spotlight in the past month as mysterious power surges knocked dozens of cars out of operation, and service shut down between the Pittsburg/Bay Point and North Concord stations.
The San Francisco Bay Area is at a decision point. As this story points out, housing market dynamics in this large geographic region of nine counties increase the distance between where residents work and where they can afford to live, overloading highways and public transit systems. This extracts enormous costs on residents’ daily time budgets, pocketbooks and overall quality of life.
The situation is unsustainable. The Bay Area must now decide whether it will continue to suffer, carrying on as if it were still in the less populated pre-Internet 1970s — when the aging Bay Area Rapid Transit District operated efficiently and within design capacity — or leverage its considerable information and communications technology moxie to replace daily commute trips to distant offices.