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California Adds More Cars To Roadways As Economy, Housing Costs Rise

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- For years California has been trying to get people out of their cars, but a new report suggests that just the opposite appears to be happening.

A recent report by the California Air Resources Board report found that between 2005 and 2016 an estimated 3.2 million cars were added to the state's roadways.

At the same time there was a 12 percent increase in the number of miles driven by single passenger vehicles. The result is a in a seven percent increase in passenger car emissions.

The reasons for the driving surge are many, but two of the biggest reasons appear to be the booming economy and the rising cost of housing costs in job rich areas like the Bay Area.

"In San Francisco, $1.3 million gets you a one-bedroom, one-bath home. In Livermore, that gets you six bedrooms four baths," said Jeff Bellisario, an analyst with the Bay Area Council. "If you want that suburban lifestyle with a back yard, you are going to have to commute for it."

The recent Bay Area Council survey found that an estimated 161,000 people a day commute into the job-rich area from as far away as Stockton and Sacramento.

"That's up by 40,000 people or so since 2010," Bellisario said.

One of those mega-commuters is William Fredelsworth, a construction worker who leaves his Sacramento home at 2 a.m. to make his 4 a.m start time in San Francisco.

Fredelsworth said the drive is worth it. "Takes an hour and 45 minutes," he said. "My rent is cheaper, by lot. Twice as much."

But the new mega-commutes come with a price.

"It's bad for traffic, bad for the environment, bad for quality of life overall," said Bellisario.

And bad for the air as well. According to state air quality auditors, the surge in driving has lead to a seven percent increase in car emissions.

Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman Randy Rentschler said it all boils down to a simple economic equation.

"When the economy goes up people drive more here and you see it reflected in how many vehicle miles are traveled," Rentschler said.

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