Bay Area Council Blog: 21st Century Infrastructure Archive

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Real Reasons to Embrace Autonomous Vehicles

Autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles are undeniably cool, but, in their meeting with industry experts from Waymo (Google), Zoox, and Lyft, Bay Area Council Transportation Committee members learned that the real reasons to applaud the development of autonomous vehicles are safety, mobility, and sustainability. Over 35,000 people died in automobile accidents in 2015; 95 percent due to human error; and, after decades of declines, the number of fatalities is rising at 7 percent per year. Fully autonomous vehicles, with no human interaction ever required, are probably the safest solution, and they’re also the solution that will offer mobility to people (blind or disabled, for example) that can’t safely drive themselves.

Our industry experts and Committee members also considered how autonomous vehicles will be owned and used, and concluded that the most likely scenario is that households will choose to reduce their transportation costs by reducing or eliminating vehicle ownership, and instead turning to on-demand transportation services from fleet operators. The Council will continue its efforts to create a clear and hospitable legal environment in California for autonomous vehicle development. To participate, contact Michael Cunningham.

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Traffic is Hellish: New Measure Big on BART and Ferries Will Help A Lot

Our polling and traffic studies all confirm what you experience – traffic is the Bay Area is epically bad. The Bay Area Council is working directly with the Bay Area Caucus (our state Senators and Assemblymembers) on a $3-$4.2 billion regional plan that would massively increase ferry service throughout the region; get BART new, higher capacity cars; break critical freeway bottlenecks; improve freight movement; and secure other critical improvements our members and residents badly need (or really, needed “yesterday”).

Ferries, in particular, can play a huge role in addressing growing Bay Area traffic congestion. Ferries used to carry 55 million passengers a day. Dormant for decades, a new system was launched in 2004 behind the Council’s strong advocacy. Ridership has since skyrocketed, climbing 78 percent in just the last two years to 2 million riders a year. With terminals costing just $10 million apiece (on average) and boats costing between $1.5-$15 million depending on their size, it’s possible to get a “BART-on-the-Bay” armada crisscrossing the waters from Silicon Valley to the Carquinez Strait in a very short period of time, and at a low cost. New York City just brought a system of 20 boats online in nine months, and after 60 days the system is over capacity and the city is scrambling to get more boats built.

The improvements included in the regional plan would be paid for with a toll increase on the Bay Area’s seven state-owned bridges, which early polling suggests voters would back in a June 2018 election.  The legislation (SB 595) will have several critical votes in the next few months, and we will keep you updated. To engage in our transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Leading the Megaregion Charge for Better Rail Connections

The Bay Area Council continues to lead the charge for enhancing megaregional rail system, and on Wednesday joined a gathering of 50 key decision makers from passenger rail operators, regional planning organizations, and state agencies representing all corners of the Northern California Megaregion. Council CEO Jim Wunderman delivered the keynote address in which he laid out a future vision for dramatically enhancing rail service to keep economic growth within the megaregion by seamlessly connecting outlying areas with growing population to the job centers of the Bay Area.

The meeting built off of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s landmark 2016 report on the megaregion and the Council’s ongoing advocacy efforts to improve both passenger and freight rail service. Participants on Wednesday discussed ideas for better megaregional coordination and the steps necessary to achieve a networked train system for Northern California, including Capitol Corridor, ACE, San Joaquins, Caltrain, BART, and future high speed rail trains. The meeting was hosted by the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority in Oakland. To engage in our megaregion policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

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New Oakland A’s Stadium Would Generate $3.05 Billion in Economic Benefits, 2K Jobs

Oakland residents and businesses would reap $3.05 billion in economic benefits over the first 10 years from the construction and operation of a new privately financed Oakland A’s stadium and the increased attendance and game day spending that would come with it, according to an analysis released Tuesday (June 20) by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute. Building the stadium would also create 2,000 construction jobs, many of which would go to local workers and businesses under hiring agreements expected to accompany the project. The analysis breaks down the economic impacts from the first 10 years of stadium operations into three categories, including:

  • $768 million from construction and related spending
  • $1.54 billion from game-day spending
  • $742 million from ballpark operations

Read the Oakland A’s stadium economic analysis>>

The study does not identify a specific location in Oakland for any new stadium and does not include estimates for the considerable additional economic benefits from new commercial development and other business activity that would likely be spurred by the arrival of a new ballpark. The study also estimates that a new Athletics stadium could lift annual attendance from its 2016 level of 1.5 million to 2.55 million in the first year of operation before settling back to an average of 2.4 million in subsequent years.

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Council Agenda Gets Receptive Ear in D.C.

Transportation, housing, trade and healthcare were among the issues a Bay Area Council-led business delegation discussed this week in Washington, D.C., with top Congressional and White House leaders. Led by Council Chair Michael Covarrubias (Chairman and CEO, TMG Partners) and Council CEO Jim Wunderman, the delegation met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Central Valley Rep. Jeff Denham, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, among many other legislators, cabinet and administration officials.

Delegates highlighted the importance of investment in transportation, particularly as it relates to future Northern California megaregion planning. As a growing economy blurs historic Bay Area, Sacramento and San Joaquin regional boundaries, the Bay Area Council is taking action now to address the future transportation, housing and workforce needs of the emerging megaregion. Much of the immediate focus and a major topic in meetings this week was investing to expand megaregion rail capacity, including securing federal transportation dollars for the Amtrak Capitol Corridor service and the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE Train).

The Council shared a sneak peek at new research by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that shows the strong and growing connections between Silicon Valley and other parts of the country and how those connections can be leveraged to expand knowledge-based economic opportunities and grow jobs nationwide. The Council also advocated for free and open global trade and immigration policies. Special thanks to our sponsors Microsoft, Oracle, and Alaska Airlines. To learn more about the Council’s federal policy agenda, please contact Senior Advisor George Broder.

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Statement on President Trump’s Decision to Withdraw U.S. from Paris Climate Accord

The Bay Area Council today (June 1) issued the following statement in response to President Donald Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the landmark 2015 U.N. Convention of Parties climate change agreement (COP21). The Council has long supported California’s global leadership on clean energy and was the first major business group to endorse the historic California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. In 2016, the Council hosted energy ministers from the world’s largest 23 economies and the European Union for the Clean Energy Ministerial 7 (CEM7) in San Francisco—a follow-up to the COP21 talks—and next week is leading a delegation to Beijing for CEM8 along with Governor Jerry Brown.

“California and the Bay Area remain on an irreversible course forward to lead the world into a sustainable clean energy future,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Addressing climate change is not just an environmental or moral imperative, it is an economic imperative and an economic opportunity. California’s ambitious assault on climate change has spawned a vibrant and fast-growing clean technology industry that is creating new jobs, attracting investment and new businesses and producing innovative new products. It has also given us a strong competitive advantage in a sector we believe will continue to grow and thrive as more and more companies embrace a clean energy future.”

The Bay Area Council is working on a variety of initiatives focused on addressing the climate change challenge, including:

  • Promoting urban infill and transit-oriented housing development that reduces long, polluting commutes
  • Building stronger connections with China and other countries to expand the development and use of clean energy technologies
  • Championing investment in the expansion and modernization of mass transit systems, including BART, ferries and Caltrain
  • Leading an innovative regional effort to restore wetlands and build infrastructure to protect against the threat of rising seas and extreme storms
  • Advocating for investment and policies that support the creation of a new, modern energy grid to better integrate and manage growing renewable energy sources
  • Modernizing and expanding our water storage and delivery system to prepare for future droughts
  • Supporting business in adopting corporate renewable energy goals and strategies
  • Advancing the deployment and adoption of electric and other zero emission vehicles
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COUNCIL KEEPING UP PRESSURE FOR CALTRAIN ELECTRIFICATION FUNDING

With the clock ticking on a June deadline to begin work on electrifying Caltrain, the Bay Area Council is continuing its advocacy to secure $647 million in funding the federal government had promised to help pay for the project. Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman on Monday will join Rep. Jackie Speier, Rep. Anna Eshoo and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, among others, in a press conference to urge President Trump and Congress to release the funding. Electrifying Caltrain has been a top Council priority for many years, and the Council was instrumental in assembling the original $1.5 billion package of federal, state and regional funding to pay for it. The federal funding was halted earlier this year at the request of a group of GOP Congressmembers over their concerns the project is connected to the California high speed rail line they oppose. The Council argues the Caltrain project is critical regardless of what happens with high speed rail. Wunderman emphasized that point in a meeting with GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy several weeks ago. Operating with slow, outdated and dirty diesel trains, Caltrain has struggled to keep pace with record ridership growth on one of the nation’s most economically productive corridors. The electrification project will allow for more and faster trains and help ease congestion along the entire corridor, while supporting 9,600 construction-related jobs and generating $2 billion in economic activity. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham at mcunningham@bayareacouncil.org.

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NEW REGIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE PLAN TAKES UNPRECEDENTED REACH

A sweeping plan approved this week by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District to address climate change takes unprecedented reach in cracking down on regional carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions. The plan outlines 85 measures that seek to reduce pollutants from industry, transportation, agriculture, homes and businesses. Among the measures is imposing new or higher tolls on roadways to discourage driving, completely eliminating natural gas from home heating and other domestic uses, requiring rooftop solar on new homes and reducing consumer consumption of carbon-intensive meat products. The Bay Area Council has long supported efforts to address climate change that also balance the region’s need for affordable housing, sustained economic growth and mobility. Many of the proposed measures require additional regulatory or legislative action before they can be implemented and the Bay Area Council will be working to shape how the plan is enacted. To engage in our regional governance work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan at mregan@bayareacouncil.org.

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COLIN POWELL, FAREED ZAKARIA, ERIC GARCETTI HEADLINE OUTLOOK CONFERENCE

Time is running out to secure your seat at the Bay Area Council’s 2017 Outlook Conference: The Pacific Summit presented by Kaiser Permanente on Tuesday, May 23. We have assembled an incredible dais of leaders who will provide invaluable insights on the dramatic political and economic changes that are dominating the regional, state and national landscapes. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell and CNN host and global thinker Dr. Fareed Zakaria will talk about the populist forces that propelled Donald Trump into the White House and what it means for the Bay Area and California. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will share his thoughts on how large metropolitan regions can address the massive challenges of housing and transportation. And San Francisco Chronicle Editor in Chief Audrey Cooper will lead a fascinating discussion on the great flight of millennials from our region and the trouble it bodes for our economy. In addition to hearing from these leaders, attendees will also have an opportunity to talk directly with them in small group discussions that are new to the conference this year. The conference will be held at The Presidio, affording attendees a beautiful, retreat-like setting to hear top thinking and interact with a high-level audience.

Learn about sponsorship opportunities and register today at www.bayareacouncil.org/outlook.

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COUNCIL OFFERS INSIGHTS ON US-CHINA AGTECH GROWTH

Bay Area Council Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen on Thursday (April 6) led a panel at the Silicon Valley Forum’s “AgTech and the Connected World” Conference on the evolution of American and Chinese agriculture technology sectors. Panelists KY Cheng of East West Bank and Simon Shao Green Pasture International Inc. explained the challenges that China faces in modernizing its agriculture industry – with an small average farm size of 1.5 acres and an aging rural demographic, the world’s second largest economy has been searching for ways to increase its agricultural productivity. This creates a big opportunity for Californian companies and funds looking to do business in China. While global venture capital investments decreased in 2016, the central government invested $450 billion to redesign its agriculture capabilities. For these reasons, the Council has focused on assisting agtech companies’ access to Chinese markets for the past three years and is leading a delegation in agtech and clean energy this coming June. To engage in the Council’s China work, please contact Chief of Global Business Development Del Christensen at dchristensen@bayareacouncil.org.