I wish that the Bay Area were typical. I lived there 25 years myself, so that's undoubtedly part of the problem. When I was there, you could pick up an HT at any hour of the day or night and find somebody with which to have a good QSO. You could work people from Santa Barbara to Oregon about any night on 144.200 SSB. There was a linear translator in the foothills of the Sierra providing 'SSB repeater' capability. The repeaters were linked from Arizona to Vancouver. I knew lots of Technicians who were very active and never got bored. We didn't realize how spoiled we are.
On trips over the last decade, though, I think that there is a discernible drop-off of activity in the Bay Area, too.
I had trouble getting answers at times there, too.
Yet, I think the situation has actually improved in the last year or so. With effort, you can find at least short QSO's much of the time when you are travelling. But, with a smaller ham population, it is very difficult to scare up a QSO on most of the repeaters in the Upper Midwest during non-commute hours, and there really isn't that much going on at commute time.
The problem is two-fold. If nobody is talking, we don't even know if our gear still works correctly. Regularly checking into nets will overcome that problem.
The second problem is for retaining our new 'entry-level' amateurs in this part of the country. No two meter activity means little opportunity for them to enjoy their priveleges.
I think there are reasons that we are not likely to get huge numbers of teenaged hams gathering on the air as we used to in the Bay Area years ago. They can chat with their girlfriends on the Internet while they download the latest music. Given the choice between chatting with KC0XYZ and the good looking gal down the street, guess who wins.
So, I think we need to try to get existing hams, particularly the older ones, to be more active on VHF/UHF.
Someone suggested a 'bootcamp' for new hams to demonstrate all the different modes that you can do on VHF, and proper operating techniques so they won't be scared to get on the air. I won't call it a bootcamp, but if I can find some helpers, I think I'll try to organize something like that.
To make it successful, we'll need to do it here, and at the clubs in the larger towns 100 miles distant from here, so we will have some DX to work! Small groups here are doing SSTV, PSK31, and other exotic modes on VHF. There are quite a few of us on SSB and APRS, too.