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Commute Patterns

Where are Bay Area workers commuting from?

For most of us, the only commute pattern that matters is the one that leads from our front door to our place of work. However, looking at the way millions of workers travel every day helps us to better understand the housing and job markets throughout the Bay Area, as well as the impact commuting has on our transportation system. Within the region, San Francisco and Silicon Valley job centers continue to attract the largest number of commuters.

Updated: may 2020


More than 3 times as many workers commute into the region as out each day


workers commute into the Bay Area from outside the region each day


of Bay Area workers live and work in same county


Local Focus

While more than half of all Bay Area residents work in the county where they live, San Francisco and Silicon Valley continue to import workers from other communities, primarily in the East Bay.

The Bay Area’s dynamic economy and transportation system provide workers access to jobs throughout the region’s 7,000-square-mile area. Although many people travel across county borders as part of their commute, nearly 60 percent work and live in the same county. In Santa Clara County, 87 percent stay in-county – the highest in the Bay Area – with its numerous job centers also attracting thousands of commuters from outside of the nine-county Bay Area. By contrast, four in ten Contra Costa County residents commute to neighboring counties for work.


San Francisco leads the Bay Area in attracting the most workers from outside its boundaries, with a net inflow of more than 200,000 commuters each day. Santa Clara County follows with a net inflow of 120,000 commuters each day. Both counties attract workers from suburban areas, particularly San Mateo and Alameda counties. In addition to commute patterns within the nine counties, the region experiences a net inflow of an additional 120,000 commuters from outside the Bay Area each day.


of Santa Clara County's employed residents work in the county (highest in the region)


of Contra Costa County employed residents commute to jobs in the county (lowest in the region)

Commute Flows between Bay Area Counties (2016)


ABAG/MTC, from U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2016-2020 PUMS

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Sources & Methodology

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.

Data Sources

U.S. Census Transportation Planning Package
Table A302103 5-Year Average (2012-2016)

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The Vital Signs initiative is led by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

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