How Bad Is San Francisco Traffic?

San Francisco has the fifth-worst traffic of any US city, with an average of 59 hours lost to congestion in 2021 alone.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
Drivers in San Francisco lose about 59 hours to congestion each year—which gives the Golden City the number five spot among US cities with the worst traffic. 
An eclectic city with a lot of history, San Fran is known for heavy traffic, especially around its beautiful bridges.
Here with a breakdown of San Francisco’s traffic trends is
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San Francisco car insurance cost
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How bad is San Francisco traffic?

With some of the worst traffic congestion in America, getting around in San Francisco can be a bit of a nightmare. Traffic is the fifth-worst in the United States, with the average San Francisco driver spending 59 hours in traffic per year
As drivers return to daily commutes and public health restrictions continue to ease, even more traffic will result.

Why is San Francisco traffic so bad?

Traffic can be the result of many factors, including population density, commuting drivers, and the quality of infrastructure. Here are a few reasons that San Francisco traffic is some of the worst in the country. 

Population size 

The greater metro area of San Francisco contains around 3,313,000 people. Thousands of people drive to work every day, creating massive traffic jams around the Bay Bridge from the South 101 to the 280 Interchange as people living outside of downtown make the commute into the city. 

Major chokepoints

The Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge are the two obvious chokepoints in San Francisco. The electronic tolls and variable lane system have improved the usability, but the main problem is still that so many people are trying to get from one place to another, in generally the same area, at the same time. 

Infrastructure

Although there are public transportation options in San Francisco that could help alleviate some of the congestion, the available alternatives leave something to be desired. BART has limited reach and gets overloaded during busy times. MUNI also suffers from overloading during high traffic times, but the city has started adding more bus lanes, which has helped.
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How to navigate San Francisco traffic like a pro

In addition to being stressful, heavy traffic can lead to more accidents
More cars on the road creates more scenarios where a collision could occur. And with a high volume of traffic especially during rush hour, it’s no wonder that San Francisco has a bad reputation when it comes to driving. 
Still, you can steer clear of accidents—and increased insurance rates—by following these tips for driving in San Fran:
  • Don’t drive during rush hour if possible. San Francisco’s rush hours run from about 7:00 am to 9:00 am and 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, with the worst traffic happening on Fridays between 5:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
  • Take back roads. Instead of driving down Marina Boulevard or 880 South, see if you can map out an alternative route to help you miss the worst of the traffic.
  • Listen to traffic updates on the radio or download a traffic app. Tune in to 106.9 FM, 740 AM, 980 AM, or 1070 AM for traffic updates in San Francisco.
  • Stay focused. Avoid distractions as much as possible! Even when you’re stuck in traffic, you should still keep your distance from other vehicles and remain alert.

Prepare for San Francisco traffic by updating your car insurance

Planning a road to San Francisco? Or maybe you’re just focused on making your daily commute as painless as possible! Either way, you can make sure you’re getting the best rates and update your car insurance policy with
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FAQs

If you’re new to San Francisco, it can be difficult to navigate. There are plenty of one-way streets and steep hills, and the rules of the road aren’t always clear. To help make your drive easier, plan out your route beforehand using Google Maps or another app—if you know what to expect, it can help take the stress out of driving.
Avoid rush hour if you can! Driving through San Francisco is generally best before 6:00 am, after 7:00 pm, or between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm.
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