The Bay Area is a global center for transportation technology innovation, rapidly developing technologies that are pushing the conventional boundaries of our transportation system. Autonomous vehicles are expected to hit the roads in a mere couple of years, smart grid developments are optimizing transportation systems, and ridesharing technologies are revolutionizing the way people get around. How will government evolve to accommodate these new advancements?
This week Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D-Illinois) came to the Bay Area to learn just that. The Bay Area Council under the leadership of Transportation Committee Chair and Arup Principal John Eddy on March 12 hosted an invigorating discussion about transportation technology and its implications for the future of the transportation system throughout the country. Rep. Lipinski leads the House Intelligent Transportation Systems caucus so he was especially interested to hear from the Bay Area’s leading transportation technology companies about how emerging technologies are developing and how the federal government should respond to take greatest advantage of these advancements. The companies identified numerous regulatory solutions that would optimize the efficiency of the current infrastructure, including incentivizing ridesharing, supporting a network for autonomous vehicles, streamlining standards, and adapting land use planning to accommodate future advancements.
The discussion tied nicely into the Bay Area Council Transportation Committee’s focus on near-term commute improvement strategies that include implementing transportation technology to squeeze the most efficiency out of the current transportation infrastructure. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
What does California need to do to ensure it has the energy and communications infrastructure necessary to compete globally? Is the Bay Area prepared to weather severe storms and rising tides and what will the cost be if we’re not? What is the cost of BART delays on the Bay Area economy? These are the questions that will be answered by a series of reports the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release in the coming weeks and months.
Enabling increased investment in building California’s 21st Century energy and communications infrastructure is among the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities. This infrastructure will be critical in supporting California’s continuing efforts to combat climate change, create jobs, improve education and public services and grow our innovation economy. The Council’s Economic Institute report will examine what’s at stake and what’s holding us back from modernizing our energy and communications systems. Coming in late March/early April.
Dramatic and unpredictable swings in our weather make the Bay Area vulnerable to the kinds of severe storms that have devastated other parts of the country. Rising tides also put us at risk for huge economic losses. A new report by the Economic Institute will examine the potential economic cost of severe storms here in the Bay Area. Coming in late March.
BART is unquestionably the Bay Area’s mass transit backbone and critical to our economic success. But with growing ridership, rising maintenance costs and constrained funding, increasing service outages on the aging system wreak havoc on commuters, businesses and the economy. A Bay Area Economic Institute report will tally the economic cost to the region when BART goes down. Coming in late spring/early summer.
To commission an economic or other study related to your business or industry, contact Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose.
The Bay Area Council’s work over the past year to speed traffic relief on the badly congested Highway 101 corridor between San Francisco and San Jose took a major step forward this week with new legislation (AB 378) introduced by Assemblymember Kevin Mullin (D-San Mateo). The bill includes a number of solutions the Council identified through its work Silicon Valley and Peninsula member companies and that we believe can be game-changers in easing gridlock. Among the solutions are expanding carpool lanes, deploying advanced traffic management technologies and aggressively promoting ridesharing apps. There is much at stake. Traffic delays along one of the nation’s most economically productive corridors have grown intolerable, collectively worsening the commute by 760 hours a day on average and fast emerging as a strategic business issue for employers. The Council applauds Assemblymember Mullin for his great leadership on this issue and will be working closely with him in the coming weeks to add further detail to the solutions proposed in AB 378. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
The Bay Area Council is responding quickly to a troubling move by several Bay Area cities to impose moratoriums on new housing. After the Council voiced its strong opposition to a proposed moratorium in Emeryville, the City Council last Friday (Feb. 20) narrowly rejected the plan. A similar proposal emerged this week in San Francisco and the issue has also surfaced in Walnut Creek. With the region experiencing a major housing shortage and affordability crisis, the Bay Area Council believes that halting housing construction is bad policy. Moratorium backers express concern about the impact of rapid housing development in their communities. In a letter to the Emeryville City Council, the Bay Area Council said “a moratorium will not bring down costs or ease displacement concerns; in fact by further restricting new supply this proposal will have the exact opposite effect, further pushing up prices and forcing more longtime residents out.” The Council is convening a region-wide summit on the issue of housing moratoriums. Stay tuned for details. To engage in our housing policy work, contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.
Michael Scanlon, the retiring General Manager of the San Mateo County Transit District, was the featured guest and speaker at the Bay Area Council Transportation Committee’s meeting this week (Feb. 19). During his 15 years leading the District, Scanlon transformed SamTrans into a modern mobility transit system and led the growth of Caltrain into a regional and record-setting rail system. Scanlon discussed past achievements with Caltrain and highway management in San Mateo County. As projected job growth along the corridor will further exacerbate traffic delays and strain transit systems, Scanlon emphasized the need to fund infrastructure improvements and harness new technologies to improve performance. Scanlon also made bold predictions about the future of the corridor, projecting that San Mateo County would get an HOV lane in the next three to four years and that driverless cars would be a regular feature on Bay Area highways by 2017. Following the meeting, Scanlon was honored for his public service at a reception that was generously sponsored by Hanson Bridgett LLP. To engage in the Council’s transportation work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.
The Tri-Valley is fast emerging as a new, white-hot technology and innovation powerhouse for the Bay Area, according to a report by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute that was the focus of a forum this week (Feb.19) co-hosted by the Economic Institute, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group and generously sponsored by Comcast. “Tri-Valley Rising into the 21st Century” convened the area’s top business executives, community leaders and elected officials to explore the Tri-Valley’s vital role in the greater Bay Area economy and identify the transportation improvements that will be needed to sustain its record growth. Economic Institute Vice President Tracey Grose presented findings from the report, followed by a discussion with Supervisor Haggerty and Bay Area Council President & CEO Jim Wunderman on the Tri-Valley’s heavily impacted transportation system and opportunities to improve to the I-580 corridor and extend BART to Livermore. The forum closed with a panel discussion featuring top executives from Tri-Valley businesses and heads of the national laboratories. They said the Tri-Valley’s high quality of life and proximity to Silicon Valley will continue to make it an attractive location for businesses and families, but agreed that housing and transportation are the biggest barriers to the area’s continued success.
Read the full report — Tri-Valley Rising: Its Vital Role in the Bay Area Economy>>
Just days after the Bay Area Council convened top leaders to rally support for fast-tracking the re-opening of a third lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) did exactly that. BATA on Wednesday (Feb. 11) approved a plan that could slice up to 18 months off the original schedule for the overall project. Congestion on the bridge during the evening commute is horrendous and adds to existing backups on Highways 101 and 580, as well as clogging local streets. The action by BATA is welcome, but the Council thinks more can be done to move the project along. Even with the accelerated timeline, the project wouldn’t be completed until 2017. Following testimony by the Council and other fast-track supporters, BATA agreed to explore ways to shorten the timeline even more. To engage in the Council’s transportation policy work, contact Policy Associate Emily Loper.
The Bay Area Council this week (Feb. 13) publicly called for an end to the more than nine-month labor dispute that has brought the Port of Oakland and other West Coast ports to a near standstill. The Port of Oakland alone is the hub of $41 billion in trade activity annually and supports 73,000 jobs around the region. Ports here and in Southern California were shut down completely last weekend and were expected to be closed again this coming weekend for up to five days. Although no specific figures exist on the daily economic cost of a shutdown, the tally likely reaches into the tens of millions of dollars. More gravely, the disruption and shutdowns will have profound and potentially permanent long-term impacts as importers and exporters turn to ports in other parts of the nation to do business. This would be a severe blow following millions of dollars in public investment to upgrade the port to handle larger and more container shipments to remain globally competitive.
Following the weekend (Feb. 7-8) closure of the Port of Oakland and 28 other West Coast ports over a long-running contract dispute, the Bay Area Council is calling for an immediate end to the protracted impasse that is causing major economic impacts and undermining the Bay Area and Northern California’s ability to compete globally.
“We’ve got to give this damaging port dispute the heave ho,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “The Bay Area can’t afford a further escalation of a labor dispute that is unnecessarily costing our economy billions of dollars and threatening to drive our valuable trade business elsewhere. We’ve invested millions of taxpayer dollars to upgrade our port and position the Bay Area to compete in the ruthless global trade market. The Port of Oakland alone generates $41 billion annually in trade activity, supports 73,000 jobs and contributes $10 billion annually in economic benefits to the East Bay and beyond.* There’s too much at stake for this impasse to hold hostage such a critical segment of our economy and threaten its long-term viability.”
*California Chamber of Commerce, 2014
It was a good week for transportation investment, a topic near and dear to our hearts – it’s one of the Bay Area Council’s lead policy priorities — but not one that regularly incites roaring excitement among the masses. On the federal level, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx visited the Bay Area on Tuesday to highlight President Obama’s “Beyond Traffic: Trends and Choices.” The report, which describes the dismal condition of the nation’s transportation infrastructure and the dire implications for our future economic competitiveness, is intended to spark a national discussion and solicit ideas for how we can make traffic gridlock a thing of the past. Bay Area Council President Jim Wunderman and other business and transportation leaders joined Sec. Foxx on Monday at a briefing and discussion hosted by Council member Google and Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.
And then on Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced a proposal to raise $10 billion for transportation infrastructure that would largely come from a new user fee on motorists. A 2014 report estimated the statewide infrastructure need in the billions of dollars annually, not including $59 billion worth of deferred maintenance work. The Council has long supported user fees to pay for transportation infrastructure and we look forward to working with Speaker Atkins to help shape how such a user fee could be passed and implemented. To engage in our transportation policy work, contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.