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The San Francisco Bay Area, commonly known as the Bay Area, is a populated region that surrounds the San Francisco and San Pablo estuaries in Northern California, United States. The region encompasses the major cities and metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, along with smaller urban and rural areas. The Bay Area's nine counties are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, andSonoma. Home to approximately 7.15 million people, the nine-county Bay Area contains many cities, towns, airports, and associated regional, state, and national parks, connected by a network of roads, highways, railroads, bridges, tunnels and commuter rail. The combined urban area of San Jose and San Francisco is the largest in Northern California, the second largest in California (after Los Angeles), and the 55th largest urban area in the world.
The nine-county definition of the San Francisco Bay Area is not recognized by the United States Census Bureau; rather, they define a larger 11-county Combined Statistical Area (CSA) designated the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA, including Santa Cruz and San Benito counties to the south; counties that do not have a border on the San Francisco Bay but are tied economically to counties that do. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, this larger CSA contains 7.46 million people—the sixth-largest CSA in the U.S.
The San Francisco Bay Area is renowned for its natural beauty, liberal politics, entrepreneurship, and diversity. The area has high incomes; it includes the five highest California counties by per capita income and two of the top 25 wealthiest counties in the United States.
The Bay Area is served by many public transportation systems, including three international airports (SFO, OAK, SJC), six major overlapping bus transit agencies (AC Transit, Muni, SamTrans, VTA, Golden Gate Transit, County Connection), in addition to dozens of smaller ones. There are four rapid transit and regional rail systems including BART and Caltrain and two light rail systems (San Francisco Muni Metro and VTA Light-rail). There are also several regional rail lines provided byAmtrak, notable the Capitol Corridor. In addition to rail lines, there are multiple public and private ferry services (notably Golden Gate Ferry and Blue and Gold Fleet), which are being expanded by the San Francisco Bay Water Transit Authority. The regional ferry hub is San Francisco Ferry Building. AC Transit and some other agencies provide an extensive network of express "transbay" commuter buses from the suburbs to San Francisco Transbay Terminal.
The freeway and highway system is very extensive; however, many freeways are heavily congested during rush hour, especially two of the trans-bay bridges (Golden Gate and Bay Bridge). Furthermore there are some large gaps in the highways which run onto city streets in San Francisco, partially due to the Freeway Revolt (SF Board of Supervisors decisions made in 1959, 1964 and 1966), which prevented completion of freeways connecting the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridgewestern terminus (Interstate 80) with the southern terminus of the Golden Gate Bridge, and U.S. 101 through San Francisco, and additionally due to the destruction of several of those very freeway structures that sparked the revolt, which were damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and subsequently removed rather than being reinforced or rebuilt.