Just this past Monday October 7, I received an email from a member of Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s (SVLG) staff asking for comments on the establishment of improved passenger rail transit service from the valley (which I presume is San Joaquin Valley) to Silicon Valley.
My response to Carl Guardino, President & CEO, SVLG was that a new rapid transit rail service from the ‘Valley’ to Silicon Valley would not happen within our lifetime. The development and ‘placement into service’ of a rapid transit passenger service from, let’s say, Los Banos/Fresno area to Silicon Valley would require years to upgrade the iron rail tracks, deal with ‘right of ways’ issues, etc.
It occurred to me that a quick way to actually install a passenger transit service from the Valley to Silicon Valley would be to ask Google and/or Amazon to create a robotic guidance system for public transit buses which could use existing highways such as CA Route 152 which connects Fresno/Los Banos to Gilroy and on to Watsonville.
Then it occurred to me that major centers had already been announced by Google and Amazon. Apple has already built in a facility for 12,000 employees in Cupertino. Some 39,000 new employees will become employed here in Silicon Valley over the next few years by Amazon (12,000), Apple (12,000), and Google (15,000).
So, the corporate expansions being planned today are finally considering, “Where do these 39,000 employees live? How soon may an employee travel from Los Banos/Fresno to Silicon Valley?”
My question becomes; Why not locate future large employment facilities along the Caltrans commuter train corridor which goes from San Francisco all the way down to Gilroy – and may be extended to Salinas and Watsonville?
Silicon Valley, with San Jose as its capital, is already almost traffic gridlocked as employees commute from their homes to their work sites located in North Sant Clara County (San Jose, Santa Clara, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Saratoga, etc.) where many firms are already located.
Why should these future employees live in the San Juaquin, Salinas, and Santa Clara Valleys?
Certain corporate expansions could be located in Gilroy, Salinas, Watsonville, where open land exists which permits the total planning process to include all utilities, sewers, water supply lines, natural gas lines, underground communication lines and roads.
Today, an organization such as SVLG needs to expand its horizons by suggesting that certain corporations plan satellite facilities elsewhere rather than all piled up in Silicon Valley. This is especially true of those firms whose services deal with electronic communications.
In my formal profession, I was a ‘planner’ (and in my mind, I still am a planner, now aged 90). I have much ‘institutional memory’ which may be still applied to today’s challenges.
Silicon Valley needs to guard against becoming too concentrated. Local corporate expansion planners need to consider satellite locations which would mitigate future congestion issues. Congestion issues invariably add transit time to get employees from here to there as well as the taking of products and supplies from here to there.
Back in 1979, I could commute 17 miles from my Palo Alto home to the Bascom/Moorpark area of San Jose in 20 minutes. Recently, that same route took 90 minutes commute time.
Why should the average income employee spend four hours per day commuting? That could be mitigated by placement of future corporate satellite facilities in other communities. Today it is possible to do system planning and analysis utilizing high capacity, high speed supercomputers.
I would recommend that Santa Clara County (as well as other counties) perform corporate facility locations (proposed) analysis. That exercise would permit a better distribution and placement of high employment centers spread out over several jurisdictions rather than all piled up in a concentrated fashion.
My suggestion is that major jurisdictions, such as the County of Santa Clara and City of San Jose, become more proactive about influencing the growth of very concentrated centers of employment which create all manner of challenges. The most noticeable are those of traffic congestion and gridlock.
The logistics of corporate facility placements when done proactively, result in diminished travel times to and from work sites; less congestion; and the opportunity to retain and sustain a good place to live in and work in. And certain corporate expansions must begin to happen elsewhere if the current living environment is to be retained and sustained.
Corporate expansion planning must begin to include the question “Where will all those new employees live? Does housing exist today? Schools? Shopping centers?” If we are to retain and sustain this Silicon Valley atmosphere of creativity and innovation, then what expansions corporations are planning need to be shared to permit existing residents to make their constructive comments.
Let’s stop pushing the living areas away into the local valleys from which employees must commute. Corporate expansion planning must become more public and inclusive of those whose current residences will be impacted. Too often, the long-term homeowner must relocate without any assistance from those who created the challenging situation.
A new rail transit service from Los Banos/Fresno inquiry was the peephole through which I looked and decided to push back. A major reason is that employees need time with their kids and families. A goal is to limit their commute time to 45 minutes one way, that would result in having time for family responsibilities.
Kids who are unattended to tend to become behavior statistics and the local community underwrites the corrective measures. Corporate expansion planners need to include these considerations in their planning assessments and decision-making.