Huge crowds at the Oakland Zoo have created parking and traffic problems in the Oakland hills neighborhood.

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It's A Zoo Out There

Popularity Of New Exhibits Creates Traffic Nightmare Near Oakland Zoo

Holly Quan
September 18, 2018 - 2:16 pm

OAKLAND — Crowds have been piling in to the Oakland Zoo’s grizzly bear paddling pool, where zookeepers sling-shot carrots into the water as snacks. Ever since the long awaited California Trail exhibit opened in mid-summer with wolves, mountain lions, condors and other species native to the state, the zoo has seen a 40 percent jump in attendance.

But while the zoo has welcomed the surge in popularity, long lines have aggravated visitors and neighbors in the Oakland hills have complained about clogged streets. 

Patrons often have extended waits at the gates to the zoo, only to be squeezed out of parking. The recent three-day Labor Day weekend saw an increase of over 60 percent from the same holiday weekend two years ago.

Gus Gonzales recently brought his niece from San Jose and waited for 30 to 40 minutes to pay at the entrance. Then he ended up parking on the lawn in his off-road truck, like hundreds of others.

“People were just doing what they wanted to do, I guess,” he said. After his experience, Gonzales recommended buying tickets in advance.

But the line was too long for Gonzales and his niece to get up to the new California natives exhibit on the gondola, which has 180-degree Bay views. They hope to return to it another time. 

Zoo director Dr. Joel Parrott said he will meet with Oakland city engineers and Caltrans on Wednesday to discuss how to keep traffic from backing up onto Interstate 580 at Golf Links Road exit every weekend. Parrott hopes that Caltrans can install a dedicated zoo lane off the freeway before next summer.

Parrott said that part of the problem is that many visitors arrive around the same time in the morning, leading to bottlenecks. The traffic backup spills over onto the interstate, which he described as a safety risk. The zoo expects another surge of traffic this holiday season.

Written by Jordan Bowen.