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California's Golden Gate Bridge, which connects San Francisco and Sausalito. Photo: Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

As housing prices in the Bay Area have skyrocketed, more people have moved to peripheral cities and seen their commutes lengthen as a result. Between 2005 and 2016, the number of people in the region who commute more than 90 minutes per day increased 113%.

The big picture: Once autonomous vehicles come to market, this issue will only get worse. As spending time in a car becomes less onerous, the tradeoff of moving a few hours away to save money on rent will look increasingly favorable. Aside from its environmental impact, this shift could also lead to increased income inequality: Recent studies have uncovered an inverse relationship between time spent commuting and economic mobility.

Despite the environmental effects of “super commutes,” climate-minded policymakers have paid it little attention. At the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) in San Francisco last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed an array of clean transportation bills, but speakers were almost silent on the issue of housing. Even as electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles proliferate, California will still have to contend with this central issue: More sprawl equals more miles traveled, and more miles traveled equals more emissions.

There is a simple solution: More affordable housing close to employment centers. The Bay Area has performed particularly poorly on this count. Whereas most cities have added roughly one unit of housing for every two jobs added since 2010, the San Francisco–Oakland metropolitan area has added only one unit for every five jobs. Geography plays a role, but Seattle, a city with similar geographic constraints that is also experiencing a tech boom, added almost twice as many housing units over the same period. Even Portland added more units than the Bay Area, despite strict urban boundary laws and less than half the job growth.

Much more important than geography is policy. The Bay Area was one of the first areas in the country to establish zoning regulations, often with an intent to exclude minorities and low-income families. To this day, local politicians continue to fight affordable housing projects and policies that could make a significant difference.

The bottom line: Any climate policy without housing policy remains incomplete. If no action is taken, the combination of AVs and continued housing pressure could erase many of the benefits gained from other clean transportation policies.

Gordon Bauer is a National Science Foundation Research Fellow in the Energy and Resources Group at UC Berkeley.

Go deeper

Former Sen. David Perdue to launch bid for Georgia governor

Photo: Megan Varner/Getty Images

Former Senator David Perdue (R) plans to announce a campaign against Georgia's incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp Monday, according to a source familiar with Perdue's thinking.

Why it matters: Perdue's challenge to his former ally Kemp sets up an unprecedented "scorched earth" battle between Georgia Republicans fueled by former President Donald Trump, in the battleground state. The news was first reported by Politico.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan tributes flood in for "giant of the Senate" Bob Dole

Then-Vice President Joe Biden and former Sen. Bob Dole at an event put on by the World Food Program where he was awarded the first “McGovern-Dole Leadership Award” in December 2013. Photo: Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call

Republican and Democratic politicians, including former Senate colleagues, are sharing condolences and memories commemorating the life of Bob Dole, who passed away at 98 on Sunday morning.

The big picture: Dole, the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, was the longest serving Republican leader in the Senate until 2018, when current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell surpassed his record.

Former Sen. Bob Dole dies

Former Sen. Bob Dole in 2019. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole passed away Sunday morning at the age of 98, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced in a statement.

Driving the news: Dole, a revered figure in U.S. politics and the Republican presidential nominee in 1996, served in the Senate for 27 years, including 11 years as GOP leader. Earlier this year he revealed he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.