San Francisco Bay Area

From Academic Kids

USGS Satellite photo of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The San Francisco Bay Area, sometimes referred to as The Bay Area or The Bay, is a metropolitan area that lies along the San Francisco Bay. It is a collection of a series of cities, towns, villages, military bases, airports, regional, state, and national parks sprawled over 9 counties and are connected by a massive network of roads, highways, rail, and commuter rail. The city of San Francisco serves as the traditional focal point and the cultural, economic, transportation nerve center of the region. Unlike other major metropolitan areas, the urban areas here are completely independent entities with their own completeley independent governments and public services and city borders instead of one huge city. Because San Francisco was the largest city in the region (until recently surpassed by San Jose) and remains the traditional and cultural center, the region was referred to and is generally confused as the city of San Francisco proper. Realising the independent and relatively 'Balkanized' nature of the region, the region is referred to as the 'Bay Area' instead. San Francisco has only 11% of the Bay Area's population.


The Region

  • The region north of the Golden Gate Bridge is known as the North Bay. This area consists of Marin County and extends northward into Napa and Sonoma counties and eastward to Solano County. With some exceptions, this region is extremely affluent, and is generally the least urbanized part of the Bay Area, with many areas of undeveloped park and farm land. It is the only section of the Bay Area that is not served by a commuter rail transit service, though Sonoma-Marin service has entered the planning phase.

The East Bay is split into two regions, the inner East Bay that sits on the bay coastline proper as the outer East Bay is in the inner inland valleys and are landlocked by mountains and valleys.

  • The inner East Bay consists of the major cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond, the University of California, Berkeley and smaller suburbs in between the three major cities and south of Oakland such as Emeryville, San Leandro, and Fremont. The inner East Bay is more urban, more densly populated, has a much older building stock (built before World War II), more ethnically diverse, and much poorer and have higher crime rates (especially in Oakland and Richmond). Oakland is the region's chief seaport. The regional basketball, Football and Baseball teams play from Oakland.
  • The outer East Bay consists of the major cities of Walnut Creek, Concord, Antioch, to the north (also referred as Central Contra Costa County) and the cities of Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon to the south (sometimes referred to as the Livermore-Amador Valley or the Tri-Valley). They are connected to the inner East Bay by BART and by highways and the Caldecott Tunnel. The outer East Bay is mostly suburban to rural, was mostly built after World War II, and is more affluent.
  • The communities along the southern edge of the Bay are known as the South Bay and Silicon Valley, although some Peninsula and East Bay towns are sometimes included in the latter. It includes the cities of San Jose, Fremont, and the high-tech hub of Santa Clara, as well as many smaller communities.

A booming Silicon Valley has shifted the regional population and economic center away from San Francisco and Oakland and towards the South Bay; San Jose is now the largest city in the region. The technology boom has also brought a large amounts of immigrants and driven housing, rents, gasoline prices up to the highest in the nation.

  • The City and County of San Francisco is generally placed in a category by itself geographically, mentally, and culturally. It is separated by water from the north and east, and by county line from its neighbor cities to the South. Locals refer to San Francisco as The City or SF in writing. It is generally not referred to as San Fran or Frisco by locals. By extension, South San Francisco is often referred to as South City even though there are other towns between SSF and SF. San Francisco serves as the cultural and financial center of the region, and once was the population and economic center.


Because the hills, mountains, and large bodies of water produce such vast geographic diversity within this region, the Bay Area offers a significant variety of microclimates. The areas near the Pacific Ocean are generally characterized by relatively small temperature variations during the year, with cool foggy summers and mild rainy winters. Inland areas, especially those separated from the ocean by hills or mountains, have hotter summers and colder overnight temperatures during the winter. The Bay Area is generally subdivided into several smaller subregions.



The largest and oldest airport in the region and 2nd largest on the west coast. It is the only major international hub airport in California after LAX in Los Angeles.

The second largest airport in the region and a hub for mostly low-cost domestic flights.

The smallest of the major airports. Undergoing a major expansion and renovation to handle major flights.

Public transportation

Numerous and often overlapping bus transit agencies service the area (see Muni, AC Transit, SamTrans, VTA and County Connection). Muni and VTA also operate light rail networks. In addition, the Bay Area is served by a number of mass transit systems:

Freeways and highways

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Interstate 80 is a major urban freeway in the Bay Area (seen here near Berkeley, California as the Eastshore Freeway). This section of freeway is among the busiest in the region carrying a peak average of roughly 300,000 cars per day.

The Bay Area possesses an extensive freeway and highway system.

Trans-bay crossings
The Peninsula to the South Bay
  • Interstate 280 and U.S. Highway 101 - 8 lane, and in some parts, 10 lane freeways connecting San Francisco to San Jose, passing through the Peninsula. Highway 101 continues south to Gilroy and Salinas, California, before continuing to Los Angeles. For most of its route I-280 runs along the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and is very scenic, while 101 is highly urban and is locally known as "the world's longest parking lot."
  • California State Routes 1 and 35 - two lane highways also traveling down the Peninsula, CA-1 along the Pacific coast, and CA-35 near the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains. CA-1 connects to Half Moon Bay, Santa Cruz and Monterey, before continuing to Los Angeles.
  • California State Routes 17 and 9 - highways through the Santa Cruz Mountains, connecting the South Bay to Santa Cruz. Part of CA-17 in San Jose is an 8 lane freeway.
  • California Routes 237 and 85 - freeways connecting the west Santa Clara Valley to the east Santa Clara Valley, bypassing Downtown San Jose.
  • California State Route 87 - north-south freeway entirely in San Jose, connects Downtown to the Almaden Valley.
  • California State Route 152 - two lane highway from Watsonville, crosses the Santa Cruz Mountains to Gilroy, then crosses the Diablo Range through Pacheco Pass to I-5 near Los Banos.
  • California State Route 82 - highway running from San Jose to Interstate 280 in San Francisco. It is designated a State Route, although it is much more similar to an inner-city boulevard, and contains either 2, 4, or 6 lanes. Through much of the San Mateo County, it is also known as the El Camino Real. It runs from Daly City in the north through the peninsula and beyond.
  • The freeway system in Santa Clara county is augmented by its expressway system.
North Bay
  • US-101 and CA-1 - continue north of San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and connecting San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties, and eventually to Oregon.
  • California State Route 29 - Four-lane expressway connecting Interstate 80 in Vallejo in Solano County to the towns of American Canyon and Napa. North of Napa, SR-29 is a 2 lane rural highway through the towns of the Napa Valley, California's Wine Country to Clear Lake.
  • California State Route 37 - Four and two-lane expressway connecting US-101 in Novato with Interstate 80 in Vallejo, along the northern shore of San Pablo Bay.
  • California State Route 12 - A highway connecting Santa Rosa with suburbs to the east and west.
East Bay

Universities & Colleges

The regions boasts of some of the most prestigious Universities in the world. The Nobel Peace Prize winners combined from these Universities are more than what certain countries have won as a whole.






American Football



College Sports

Regional counties, cities and suburbs

The following lists are based on the ten county definition of the Bay Area. Those places listed in italics would be excluded by the nine county definition which excludes Santa Cruz County.


Cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants

Suburbs with 10,000 to 100,000 inhabitants

Suburbs with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants

See also


Flag of California

State of California

Capital Sacramento
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California poppy

Antelope Valley | Central Valley | Central Coast | Channel Islands | Coachella Valley | Conejo Valley | Death Valley | Emerald Triangle | Gold Country | Greater Los Angeles | Imperial Valley | Inland Empire | Mojave | Northern California | Owens Valley | Palm Springs Area | Pomona Valley | Sacramento Valley | The Peninsula | Redwood Empire | San Fernando Valley | San Francisco Bay Area | San Gabriel Valley | Santa Clara Valley | Santa Clarita Valley | Shasta Cascade | Sierra Nevada | Silicon Valley | Southern California | Wine Country
California state seal

Urban areas and major cities
Anaheim-Santa Ana-Irvine | Antioch-Pittsburg | Arroyo Grande-Grover Beach | Atascadero-Paso Robles | Bakersfield | Camarillo | Chico | Concord-Walnut Creek-Pleasanton | Davis | El Centro | Fairfield | Fresno-Clovis | Gilroy-Morgan Hill | Hemet | Indio-Palm Springs-Cathedral City | Livermore | Lodi | Lompoc | Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale | Madera | Manteca | Merced | Mission Viejo-Lake Forest | Modesto | Napa | Oakland-Berkeley | Oxnard-San Buenaventura | Palmdale-Lancaster | Petaluma | Porterville | Redding | Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario | Sacramento-Folsom-Roseville | Salinas | San Diego-Encinitas-Oceanside | San Francisco-Richmond-Redwood City | San José-Cupertino-Mountain View | San Luis Obispo | San Rafael-Novato | Santa Barbara-Goleta | Santa Clarita | Santa Cruz | Santa Maria | Santa Rosa | Seaside-Monterey-Marina | Stockton | Temecula-Murrieta | Thousand Oaks-Simi Valley | Tracy | Turlock | Vallejo | Victorville-Hesperia-Apple Valley | Visalia-Tulare-Porterville | Watsonville | Yuba City
Missing image
California map

Alameda | Alpine | Amador | Butte | Calaveras | Colusa | Contra Costa | Del Norte | El Dorado | Fresno | Glenn | Humboldt | Imperial | Inyo | Kern | Kings | Lake | Lassen | Los Angeles | Madera | Marin | Mariposa | Mendocino | Merced | Modoc | Mono | Monterey | Napa | Nevada | Orange | Placer | Plumas | Riverside | Sacramento | San Benito | San Bernardino | San Diego | San Francisco | San Joaquin | San Luis Obispo | San Mateo | Santa Barbara | Santa Clara | Santa Cruz | Shasta | Sierra | Siskiyou | Solano | Sonoma | Stanislaus | Sutter | Tehama | Trinity | Tulare | Tuolumne | Ventura | Yolo | Yuba

External links

The Bay Area comprises 9 countuies, not 8...San Francsico, Marin, Contra Costa, Alameda, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Sonoma, Solano, and Napa.


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