A note on changes in transportation patterns related to COVID-19: The commute data presented on Vital Signs represent typical commuting activity through 2016, the most recent year for which data are available. While transportation patterns today have been impacted by COVID-19 and the statewide Shelter in Place order, data on 2020 commute trends will not be made available through the Census Transportation Planning Program files until Fall 2024.

Commute Patterns

Where are Bay Area workers commuting from?

Commute Patterns

Commute patterns, more commonly referred to as county-to-county commute flows, reflect the number of individuals traveling within and between various counties for commuting purposes.

For most of us, the only commute pattern that matters is the one that leads from our front door to our place of work. But when we examine millions of workers’ daily activity patterns, we can gain valuable insight into the region’s housing and job markets, as well as the effect they have on our multifaceted transportation system. In the case of the Bay Area, San Francisco and Silicon Valley job centers demonstrate their abilities to operate as magnets, attracting commuters from across the region.

Local Focus
While most Bay Area counties have a reasonable balance between jobs and residents, San Francisco and Silicon Valley import workers from other communities, primarily in the East Bay.

The Bay Area’s dynamic economy and well-developed transportation system give workers access to jobs located in numerous places within the region’s 7,000-square-mile territory. And while many workers are lured across county borders, a much larger proportion work closer to home. Overall, 65 percent of Bay Area workers hold jobs in the same county they live in. Jobs-rich communities in Santa Clara County top the charts for this metric with 88 percent of residents working in-county. Conversely, four in ten Contra Costa County residents commute to neighboring counties for work.

Of the counties that attract workers from outside their borders, San Francisco is far and away the leader, pulling in a net 150,000 commuters daily. Santa Clara County is number two in this category, with a net inflow of nearly 100,000 workers each day. These counties attract significant numbers of workers from suburban areas with significant amounts of housing but few higher-wage jobs. In addition to these intraregional commute patterns, the Bay Area experiences a net inflow of nearly 120,000 people who commute into the region each day for work.

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2010 Commute Flows between Bay Area Counties


U.S. Census Bureau: Census Transportation Planning Package (2010)

Image: MTC Library, Photographer: Noah Berger (ID# DSC_6340)

Methodology Notes: 

The Census Transportation Planning Package is produced only every five years and relies upon 5-year rolling average data for all data tables. In order to analyze trends related to the Bay Area, commute patterns were evaluated for all interactions between the nine Bay Area counties and for all interactions between other California counties and any Bay Area county. Commute flows between non-California counties and the San Francisco Bay Area were assumed to be negligible.