Skip to main content

Know Your Northern California Megaregion

Northern California Megaregion Map

A "megaregion" is a large network of cities or metropolitan regions that share common features, such as a similar environment, interconnected infrastructure systems, economic ties, and a shared culture and history.  

The Northern California Megaregion comprises 164 cities, 21 counties, and four regions — the greater San Francisco Bay Area, the Monterey Bay area, the Sacramento area, and the Northern San Joaquin Valley. The Megaregion accounts for 31.5% of California's population, totaling 12.7 million people.1

Northern California is a Powerhouse Economy

The Northern California Megaregion is one of the strongest and most productive economies in the world.1 With a gross regional product of $875 billion, it accounts for 5% of the total U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).2 
This makes Northern California the fifth largest megaregional economy in the U.S. and one of the most productive with the highest GDP per capita.3 The Northern California Megaregion boasts one of the fastest growing economies in the U.S. since 2010. If the Megaregion were a country, it would be the sixteenth largest economy worldwide.4 
Link21 will propel Northern California into economic expansion. Link21’s positive ripple effect will generate an estimated 377,000 jobs and $145 billion in economic benefits. The return on the Program is expected to be five times its investment.5 

Transportation makes the American dream possible, getting people and goods to where they need to be, directly and indirectly creating good-paying jobs.

Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Secretary of Transportation 

Transportation Challenges

Map of the Northern California Megaregion

Northern Californians face transportation challenges every day. The Bay Area has the second worst congestion in the nation and the average commuter loses nearly five full days each year sitting in traffic on increasingly congested highways.6 The Megaregion’s lack of multiple, reliable, and affordable transportation choices limits opportunities for residents and businesses. 
Transportation that does exist is not dependable due to infrequent service, lack of evening, weekend, and late-night service, and long travel times requiring multiple transfers and fares. In particular, the transbay corridor between Oakland and San Francisco is overcrowded. 
Without investments to upgrade the current passenger rail system, traffic, pollution, and long travel times will get worse. Most commuters in and around the Megaregion will continue to use cars. The result will be increasingly unreliable travel times and damage to the environment and public health. 
Link21 and its partners will help solve Northern California’s transportation challenges. 

Housing-to-Jobs Connections

The high cost of living in Northern California has forced many residents to relocate further from their jobs to less expensive areas within the Megaregion, increasing the number of travelers on roadways and transit systems. Many residents now struggle to live affordably within easy reach of work, school, shopping, and recreation. Super commutes, or those greater than 50 minutes, are on the rise.1
In 2018, median home values in the San Francisco Bay Area were nearly $996,000, triple the median home values of nearby Northern San Joaquin Valley.5 Residents migrating from the Bay Area to places like the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento area — but still working in the Bay Area — have increased the number of trips crossing regional boundaries by 78% between 1990 and 2013.1 
Link21 will help bridge the gap between affordable housing and job centers. 

1Bay Area Council Economic Institute (BACEI), The Megaregional Case for a New Transbay Rail Crossing (Report), January 2021

2BACEI, Tri-Valley Rising: Its Vital Role in the Bay Area Economy, October 2014

3BACEI, The Northern California Megaregion: Innovative, Connected, and Growing, June 2016

4BACEI, Bay Area Impact: The Megaregional Case for a New Transbay Rail Crossing (Webinar), February 2021

5American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Economic Impact of Public Transportation Investment, 2020 Update (prepared by EBP, formerly Economic Development Research Group), April 2020

6Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Urban Mobility Report, August 2019