Bay Area Council Blog: Transportation Archive

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COUNCIL GETS BRIEFING ON TRANSBAY TRANSIT CENTER PROGRESS

Phase 1 of the massive Transbay Transit Center in San Francisco, which has been dubbed the “Grand Central Station of the West,” is on schedule for completion in fall 2017, project Executive Director Maria Ayerdi-Kaplan told the Bay Area Council’s Transportation Committee on Thursday (Oct. 2). Ayerdi-Kaplan and her team took the committee through a short history of the project, the many elements it includes and the array of funding sources that will pay for the estimated $4.5 billion multi-use center. Ayerdi-Kaplan briefly touched on the current dispute over one of the project’s key funding sources and concerns that it might jeopardize both the schedule and what gets built. She reiterated that the project remains on schedule and noted that it has weathered numerous hurdles over many years as it has moved from vision to planning to construction. You can learn more about the project at Transbay Transit Center.

The Committee, chaired by Arup Principal John Eddy, also heard from Heller Manus Architects President Jeff Heller about his vision for a second BART transbay tube.  With nearly 400,000 riders daily, BART ridership is outgrowing capacity and future growth is expected to increase peak direction passengers across the bay by 43 percent.  A second BART tube would vastly increase capacity and improve service reliability.  Heller demonstrated several potential areas where the second BART tube could be routed, including through Jack London Square and Alameda in East Bay, and near AT&T Park and Mission Bay on the San Francisco end. Read Heller’s OpEd in the San Francisco Chronicle on a second BART tube.

To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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COUNCIL BEATS BACK ANTI-BUSINESS ATTACKS ON REGIONAL HOUSING, TRANSPORTATION PLANNING

The Bay Area Council this week (Sept. 22, 2014)  beat back an effort by anti-business groups to shape critical regional transportation and housing planning guidelines to fit their narrow agenda, and to use federal tax dollars to create a tool clearly aimed at scapegoating the tech industry for the Bay Area’s housing shortage. The Council on Wednesday (Sept. 24) testified at the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) against proposed rules that would limit local control of transportation spending decisions by counties that fail to meet certain requirements put forth by a number of anti-business groups. The MTC voted unanimously against the move, agreeing that counties need flexibility in making decisions about local transportation investments.

The Council also succeeded in getting the MTC and Association of Bay Area Governments to rework a request for proposal (RFP) to create a “tool” for analyzing the impacts of job creation on housing availability and affordability. The initial proposal called for a tool that looked exclusively at the impact of tech sector jobs on housing. In a strongly worded letter signed by numerous business groups, the Council charged that the narrow scope of the tool would unfairly scapegoat and demonize the tech sector for the region’s long-term failure to create sufficient housing to meet growing demand. MTC and ABAG are now reworking the proposal to create a tool that looks more broadly at the how job growth overall impacts housing affordability and availability.

Both efforts come as preliminary work begins on the next version of Plan Bay Area, a sweeping regional blueprint for guiding housing and transportation decisions over the next several decades. There is much at stake for the business community. The Council is working to ensure that plan reflects the region’s economic needs. To engage in our regional planning work, contact Vice President Matt Regan.

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Bay Area Council Positions on Select Ballot Measures

The Bay Area Council Executive Committee this week (Sept. 8, 2014) voted to endorse Proposition 1, the Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014, which voters will decide on the November ballot. With historic drought gripping the state, the $7.12 billion bond measure will invest in increasing water storage capacity and cleaning up and better managing polluted groundwater basins. The Bay Area Council and its Water Committee, under the leadership of Co-Chairs Andrew Ball, West Coast President of Suffolk Construction Co., and Jim Levine, Managing Partner of Montezuma Wetlands LLC, played an important role over the past year in helping shape the final package. The Council also met with state lawmakers in the days ahead of the Legislature’s vote to place the measure on the ballot, encouraging their support. A Field Poll this week found 52 percent of likely voters support the bond, but that two-thirds know very little about it. Gov. Jerry Brown has pledged to campaign vigorously for the measure.

Among the main buckets of funding included in the measure are:

  • Storage – $2.5 billion
  • Watershed Protection, Watershed Ecosystem Restoration, State Settlements – $1.495 billion
  • Groundwater Sustainability – $900 million
  • Water Recycling – $725 million
  • Safe Drinking Water – $520 million
  • Statewide Flood Management – $395 million

The Bay Area Council has also taken positions on a number of other state and local measures on the November ballot, including:

  • Prop. 2 (Support): Statewide “Rainy Day” measure would stabilize spending by using capital gains, a volatile revenue source, only for debt service or savings instead on funding for ongoing critical programs; and, double the size of the state budget reserve to 10 percent, which will provide increased protection against cuts to programs and painful middle class tax increases during economic downturns.
  • Prop. 45 (Oppose): Statewide measure would politicize delivery of health care by giving single elected official power to determine insurance rates, and would create costly new and duplicative bureaucracy.
  • Prop. 46 (Oppose): Statewide measure would drive up healthcare costs by quadrupling the maximum of $250,000 in damages plaintiffs can receive for non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits, despite evidence that boosting caps doesn’t improve quality of care, reduce malpractice, or control costs.
  • Measure A (Support): San Francisco bond measure would invest $500 million, with more than half going to improve public transit and remainder making streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Endorsement came with reservations over lack of funding for regional transportation systems.
  • Measure BB (Support): Alameda County measure would raise $7.8 billion over 30 years to reduce traffic congestion and related air pollution by increasing and extending an existing sales tax. A Bay Area Council Economic Institute study found the spending plan would create $20 billion in economic activity over its lifetime and support 150,000 jobs.
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Bringing Tech to Bear Against Traffic

In the face of rapidly worsening commute congestion, the Bay Area Council’s Transportation Committee, under the leadership Chair and Arup Principal John Eddy has adopted a combination of strategies for near-term commute improvement, including a focus on active highway management.  This week (Sept. 8) Council members met with Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) Deputy Director Tess Lengyel and Principal Project Manager Raj Murthy to hear about progress being made on the I-80 Integrated Corridor Mobility Project (I-80 ICM).

This project, slated for completion in 2015, will implement dynamic ramp metering, driver information systems, and incident management solutions to improve highway and transit efficiency along the highly congested corridor.  In fact, this is the first project in the nation to integrate such extensive highway management technology into a single corridor, and the Bay Area can use this project as a model to accelerate the implementation of these strategies in other corridors.

The I-80 ICM is expected to yield immediate congestion relief, deploying technology that avoids costly transportation infrastructure projects that take decades to complete.  The Council currently is working with members and regional stakeholders to apply similar technology solutions to the critical Highway 101 corridor linking San Francisco to San Jose and the Silicon Valley. To engage in the Council’s transportation initiatives, contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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Disappointed, Not Surprised by Gigafactory Decision

The Bay Area Council responds to news reports today that Tesla has chosen Reno, Nevada, to build its battery Gigafactory:

“While we were hoping for California to come out on top, we knew Tesla would make its decision based on factors that contribute to the success of the company,” said Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council. “We continue to believe California can be the central place for Tesla’s growth and think there will be many future opportunities to see that happen.   Specifically, with this decision we recognize the prospects for the development of a robust supply chain between Reno and Tesla’s manufacturing plant in Fremont which can support businesses old and new along that corridor, which includes the Sacramento and San Joaquin regions.

“We appreciate the hard work by Governor Brown’s office to make California a contender, and we will continue to work with the Governor to pursue future opportunities that leverage the state’s many competitive advantages for growing jobs. This can serve as a good learning opportunity for California. We should look very closely at what factors ultimately led to Tesla choosing Reno, and we should determine what we can do better going forward to attract and retain middle class jobs in California.”

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Responding to Open Letter on Tesla Gigafactory

An “open letter” penned this week by the California Budget Project and other so-called “budget watchdogs” from states competing to secure the proposed Tesla Gigafactory misses the mark. The letter suggests that California and the other states are in a “race to the bottom.” We couldn’t disagree more.

California is in an important race to become a national, if not global hub, for an exciting new generation of advanced automobile manufacturing and energy storage. The latter aspect hasn’t received much attention, but will have huge economic impacts across many other industries and for the state. You don’t accomplish that without taking some reasonable degree of risk or making an investment in your future. And you don’t accomplish that by failing to compete with others who are happy to open their doors to an innovative company like Tesla.

We applaud Gov. Jerry Brown and his Administration for taking an active role in the negotiations, and for putting California squarely in the running after Tesla indicated early on that the Golden State wasn’t even on its initial list of potential sites. This is just the kind of role that government can and should play in advocating for the state and facilitating new and emerging industries. That Tesla and its products align with the state’s objectives on climate and energy makes this a strategic priority for California.

Securing Tesla will further demonstrate that California is back in business and is serious about creating good-paying middle-class jobs. In addition to the 6,500 jobs the Gigafactory will generate, the facility will support a vast ecosystem of suppliers and others that employ thousands more workers. Such manufacturing facilities are highly prized for exactly the jobs and economic spillover effect they create.

The long-term strategic, economic and environmental benefits to California of winning Tesla’s Gigafactory will put us in a race to the top.

Download the letter.

Sincerely,

Jim Wunderman
President and CEO

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TESLA GIGA PLANT IS WORTH THE FIGHT

The Bay Area Council has been advocating over the past several months for California to step up its game in competing for Tesla’s proposed Gigafactory, and recently led a group of state legislators on a tour of the electric car maker’s Fremont manufacturing plant. In the following opinion piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 18, Council President and CEO Jim Wunderman explains why California must win this competition.

All major indicators show that California has emerged from the worst recession in living memory, when home values plunged, unemployment rocketed, and, on a couple of very embarrassing occasions, the State of California was forced to pay its bills with IOUs.  Driven by a boom in technology, primarily in the Bay Area and international trade in Los Angeles, all seems well again in the Golden State.  But it’s not.  The recovery is uneven, with painful pockets of very high unemployment and a shocking dwindling of middle class jobs.  According to 2014 Bureau of Labor statistics, seven of the top ten unemployment black spots in the nation are here in booming California.  Communities up and down the Central Valley like Merced, Stockton and Fresno still struggle with double digit unemployment.

So the very highly skilled and highly paying jobs are back, but the well-paying middle class jobs in manufacturing, agriculture and construction, that don’t require advanced degrees, are scarce.  Something must be done to help these communities, but what?

You may have heard of the car maker Tesla. Tesla is a California company, born in our unique innovation economy and is a standout California success story. The company is in advanced planning to build a “Giga factory” somewhere in the western United States. This huge plant will manufacture the next generation of batteries that will power, not just the cars of the future, but our homes and office buildings too. This once-in-a-generation venture will require a $4 billion investment by Tesla and will initially create 6,500 full time jobs followed by tens of thousands more in support and service industries, such as construction and retail.

Tesla’s mission is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling mass market electric cars to market as soon as possible.” To complete that noble goal, Tesla must get this plant up as quickly and for the least cost possible, and indeed, the plan is to be open and operational, making batteries and printing pay checks, in just over two years!

As you can imagine there is intense competition in the U.S. to attract Tesla’s attention.  Other states are offering huge financial incentives, land, and a fast tracked permitting process.  We too must use every tool available to us to compete for these jobs. California’s entrepreneurs and engineers created Tesla and we are the number one market for Tesla cars.  California is a world leader in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and ground breaking climate change legislation and it is clear that Tesla shares our values.  There is no reason other than a lack of will or imagination for this factory to locate anywhere but California.

There are several proposed sites in the central valley that reportedly meet Tesla’s needs from a logistics perspective.  Should Tesla select one of those, it is projected that a cluster of battery technology companies will soon follow, accompanied by a chain of logistics and supply companies along the I-5 corridor from Redding to San Diego creating tens of thousands of good paying middle class manufacturing jobs.  This factory will be a win for the whole state. It will kick start a new growth industry for the State and make us the world’s leader in battery technology and manufacturing.

With balanced and on-time budgets, a new water bond, and a strengthened commitment to clean energy, California is proving to the world that we are back, stronger than ever and ready for the future.  Losing the Tesla Giga plant would be a huge blow to our image, and a huge loss for our economy, particularly the middle class and the Central Valley.  Nevada, Arizona and Texas will push hard and a final decision is expected from Tesla in the very near future.  We urge Tesla to build this plant in their home state and we urge the Legislature and the Governor to step out of their comfort zones to make this happen in California.  This one’s worth the fight.

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Deadline Approaching for Commuter Benefits Program

With near crisis traffic congestion and compounding commute challenges, the Bay Area Council is getting behind a new program that provides employees benefits for not driving solo to work. Under the Bay Area Commuter Benefits Program, jointly launched by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Air District), businesses with 50 or more full-time employees are required by law to offer commuter benefits to their employees by September 30, 2014.

The Bay Area Council in conjunction with other business associations across the region sent a letter of support to local employers detailing the robust resources available to educate and assist them with tailoring a program that best suits the needs of their businesses and employees. “Designing the right package of commuter benefits will allow every employer to ease the burden of commuting on its employees, reduce the business cost that it suffers from commute delay, and participate in the broad community of employers that are collectively improving traffic conditions for everyone,” the letter states.

With the economic costs associated with commute delay estimated at $4 billion in 2011, the program will help promote the use of alternative commute modes, reduce traffic congestion and emissions of greenhouse gases, improve air quality and protect public health, and save money for employers and employees by expanding the use of the commuter tax benefit provisions in the federal tax code. With an extensive and varied selection of options from which employers can choose, the Commuter Benefits Program will encourage employees to take mass transit, vanpool, carpool, bicycle and walk rather than drive alone to work.

The Bay Area Council urges employers to visit commuterbenefits.511.org to learn how to create a commute program that is right for their business. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, please contact Policy Vice President Michael Cunningham.

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SHUTTLE PILOT PROGRAM LAUNCHES IN SAN FRANCISCO

The Bay Area Council today (Aug. 1) hailed the launch of the 18-month Commuter Shuttles Pilot Program that will keep thousands of cars off already congested roads and contribute to continued economic growth across the region. For more than a year now, the Bay Area Council has convened shuttle operators in meetings with city transportation officials to develop this innovative transportation solution.  With more than 17,000 riders daily, the shuttles drastically reduce traffic and air pollution by removing an estimated 327,000 single passenger car trips and 9,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year.  The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) approved the pilot program in January.

“Today, we embark on an historic test that we believe will prove just how important commuter shuttles can be in bolstering our transportation system,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.  “Commuter shuttles provide an important transportation option for thousands of San Francisco workers, students and others across a range of industries, easing traffic and reducing pollution across the region.  We applaud the SFMTA and Mayor Ed Lee for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to continuing to work together as we move forward.”

Support for the program is overwhelming.  A recent poll of 500 likely San Francisco voters by EMC Research found that 70 percent support doing the pilot program.  Voters also support common sense regulation that does not hinder shuttle bus operations or expansion.  The pilot program will provide valuable data that will ensure shuttles operate in close coordination with public transit and minimize impacts on neighborhoods. To engage in the Council’s commuter shuttle policy work, contact Policy Manager Adrian Covert.

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Executive Committee, Board Focus on Policy Priorities at July Meeting

The Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities took center stage at the July 25 meeting of the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, chaired by Virgin America CEO David Cush and hosted by the San Francisco 49ers at their stunning new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. In addition to updates on the Council’s policy priorities, there was action on several key ballot initiatives, discussion on ways to improve California’s business climate through regulatory reform and presentations by Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce, SF 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke and David Welch, whose education reform efforts produced landmark rulings to end teacher tenure.

The Executive Committee heard from AT&T California President Ken McNeely on the work of the 21st Century Infrastructure Committee, which he co-chairs with PG&E CEO Tony Earley. McNeely reported good progress on a study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that will serve as the centerpiece of a future advocacy effort. Arup Principal Transportation Committee Chair John Eddy outlined several initiatives that seek to leverage technology to improve traffic flows on congested Bay Area freeways, particularly along Highway 101 connecting San Francisco to Silicon Valley and San Jose. PwC Market Managing Partner Jim Henry, Chair of the Healthcare Committee, reported on exciting work to slow the growth of costs through greater transparency of healthcare information. TMG Partners CEO Michael Covarrubias and Chair of the Housing and Sustainable Development Committee described an initiative to speed development within targeted areas that Bay Area cities have identified for new housing. And Ken Petrilla, Head of Wells Fargo Bank’s China Desk, briefed members on the work of the California-China Office of Trade and Investment.

With the November election fast approaching, the Executive Committee took positions on three measures, giving its endorsement to statewide Proposition 44 to create a “rainy day” budget fund, an Alameda County transportation sales tax that will invest heavily in expanding BART and a San Francisco transportation bond measure. The endorsement of the SF measure came with some reservations over a lack of significant funding for regional transportation services on which the city relies.

Board members engaged in a discussion on California’s business climate, which regularly resides near the bottom of national rankings. Members gave vivid and painful examples of how various regulations and rules, from environmental to workplace, have slowed or halted the ability of their companies to maximize growth opportunities. The Council is exploring whether and where it might focus resources to address some of the most egregious obstacles to making California a friendlier place to do business. Stay tuned for more information on this effort.

The Board heard an update from Super Bowl 50 Host Committee CEO Keith Bruce on exciting progress in planning for the big game in February 2016. Following a landmark court ruling in June striking down teacher tenure and other teacher workplace rules, the Council was pleased to welcome speaker David Welch, whose group Student Matters spearheaded the lawsuit. Welch talked about the importance of the ruling and his expectation that it will spawn similar challenges across the country. The Board was also treated to remarks from 49ers General Manager Trent Baalke, who said the team’s roster is the most talented it’s been in recent years. He fielded questions about the Niner’s defensive backfield and expectations for QB Colin Kaepernick.

Board members also enjoyed an escorted tour of the new stadium, including the many unique and luxurious event and meeting spaces available for rent. Learn more about meeting spaces at Levi’s Stadium.