Commute Vehicle Miles Traveled

Sustainability Goals

Workers are able to conveniently reach their jobs via a variety of low-carbon transportation choices, including public transit, walking, biking, and ride-sharing.


San Mateo County’s central location between two major employment hubs and a lack of affordable housing on the peninsula requires cross-county commuting. On a given work day, over 400,000 workers commute into, out of, and within San Mateo County, placing tremendous stress on our aging transportation infrastructure. Commuters also pass through San Mateo County to reach jobs in San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties. The resulting traffic congestion lengthens commute times, reduces worker productivity, and increases air pollution.

  • In 2015, 146,988 residents of San Mateo County were employed within the county, while 221,947 residents were employed outside the county.
  • The number of workers that commute into the county increased from 183,885 in 2006 to 240,944 in 2015, an increase of 30% over time. Whereas, the total number of jobs in San Mateo County only increased by 20% between 2006 and 2015.


  • In 2013, southbound single occupancy drivers traveling in the morning were on highway 101 an average of 11 minutes longer, an increase of 46% compared to 2009.
  • In January 2015, Caltrain had the highest ridership of all the public transportation modes in the county with 59,916 passengers per week. Commute times are faster on bullet trains and 16 bullet trains make 92 stops in San Mateo County each morning.

Commute Time Reported by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)

MTC’s Vital Signs website reports data on a variety of community sustainability factors at the regional and county level. An analysis of commute times in San Mateo County shows fluctuations that track with the local economy. More jobs mean longer commutes. Accordingly, county commute times have increased since 2010. In 2016, commuters in the county could expect to have an average commute of 29 minutes, compared to 25 minutes in 2011. In 2016, 57.8% of commuters had an average travel times of less than 30 minutes when driving alone, while only 6.5% traveled longer than 60 minutes. This is the lowest percentage compared to all other counties in the Bay Area.


Commute Data for Report

  • In 2017, there was a slight decrease in the number of San Mateo County workers that drove alone compared to 2016.
  • The total number of those who carpooled, walked, and used “other modes”, slightly increased, while the number that traveled by taxi and bicycle decreased between 2017 and 2016.
  • Compared to 2013, the number of people who work from home increased by 25%.

  • Compared with the United States, San Mateo County has a larger share of transit commuters and a lower share of those driving alone.
  • San Francisco County, with its extensive public transit system and dense development near work, has dramatically different commute modes: only 36% of San Francisco commuters drive alone, while 36% take transit.

Average Weekday Transit Ridership by Operator San Mateo County, 2008-2017

  • CalTrain ridership continues to grow as local incomes increase.
  • SamTrans average ridership declined after the recession resulting in a decrease in service.

Reduce Parking and Make Room for Housing

  • Though parking lots and structures are usually located in areas zoned for commercial or industrial use, in a literal sense, space used for parking cars is also space diverted from potential housing development.
  • Reduction of parking requirements for new developments allows more space for people to reside and saves construction and maintenance costs, as well as encouraging the use of transit, bikes, or walking.
  • Development that unbundles the cost of housing units and parking ensures that residents who do not own cars are not required to pay the cost of parking construction and maintenance.

Public-Private shared parking facilities enable businesses to provide parking for workers during the day and the public in the evening. In Redwood City, the Box Inc. parking structure provides public parking in the evening and on weekends, and also allocates 75 spots for city vehicles and city employee parking during the week to create space at the nearby public library and City Hall.


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Vehicle Miles Traveled

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) is the total number of miles driven by all vehicles in a given time period and geographical area. Factors influencing VMT include population, the state of the economy, personal income, number of registered vehicles per person, and fuel costs. Vehicle Fuel Consumption (VFC) is the total gasoline and diesel fuel usage on all public roads in a given time period, and it is influenced by VMT and fuel efficiency of vehicles.

Updated November 2017

  • Though both vehicle miles traveled and vehicle fuel consumption have increased since the economic downturn of 2008, fuel consumption has leveled in recent years with increased fuel efficiency.

  • Gas prices will increase in California in 2017 after implementation of the state approved gas tax, which will provide funding for road improvements, public transit, expanded bike lanes, and traffic congestion relief.

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Bay Area Air Quality Management Website. (2016). Retrieved from

California Air Resources Board EMFAC Database. (2016). Retrieved from