The Alameda Times-Star reports that the San Francisco-Oakland and San Jose areas rank as the country’s fifth and sixth most congested commutes. The rankings are based on the total number of hours a driver spends delayed in traffic in a year. For San Francisco-Oakland, the time was 55 hours, for San Jose and the South Bay the delay was 53 hours. And, in case you were wondering, yes, Los Angeles does rank first in the nation.

As terrible as all that sounds, it might get a lot worse. As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, highway fatalities are down, and a major reason is that people aren’t driving because the economy is bad. It’s pretty expensive to maintain and fuel a car, and these days people simply aren’t doing it.

So how are they getting around?

Enter the fabulous Bay Area Rapid Transit system—serving 355,000 riders a day, BART delivers me and many others to work everyday without the long commute and excess carbon dioxide that comes with driving. But the BART workers’ contracts are up for negotiation, and though the deadline for a new contract is tonight at midnight, nothing has been settled yet. Workers are asking for a 3% raise, while management is asking to cut some employee benefits. The reality is that BART is facing a $250 million deficit, and it needs to be made up somewhere. Whether and how it will remains to be seen, but if BART workers strike, you can bet there will be quite a few more cars clogging our already congested highways.

Not only will a BART strike lead to more cars on our roads, but the rebounding economy will play a role as well. Though it doesn’t seem as though there will be a massive economic boom in the next few weeks, the economy is forecasted to be on the up. More money in people’s pockets equals more drivers on the road.

As the roads get more crowded, and especially if BART workers go on strike, it will be important to build extra time into your schedule for your commute. Rushed drivers are usually unsafe drivers, so be careful, and give yourself enough time. Or try one of the many other public transit services that are available in the Bay Area. BART’s website provides a nice list of alternate options. And for more information on the strike from the workers’ side, you can visit the union website. Here’s hoping our highways don’t get any more clogged than they are…let’s let Los Angeles keep their number one ranking.

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Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Since 1972 he has been helping seriously injured victims throughout northern California fight & win their personal injury cases. Andy is one of the top awarded & recognized wrongful death lawyers in northern California.