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.
This week, the Bay Area Council’s Water Transit Committee met with Assemblymember David Chiu (D-San Francisco), who reported on opportunities to fund a rapid expansion of our region’s water transit system to help tackle our traffic crisis. He called on the committee – a broad and vocal constituency of companies pushing for expedited expansion – to further generate public support which will help with the political advocacy to secure new funds. Ridership on the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) has skyrocketed in recent years, and we’re also witnessing the emergence of the private commuter operator industry as BAC members Tideline and PROP SF are offering commute services to new locations around the bay.
Tideline announced this week that they are launching their new public commuter ferry service from Berkeley to San Francisco on Friday (today). The service provides a welcome commute alternative in the particularly strained I-80 corridor, which is consistently ranked the most congested freeway segment in the region. See the Tideline schedule>>
The committee also heard a presentation from Red and White Fleet and Sandia National Laboratories about the recent findings from their study examining the technical, regulatory, and economic feasibility of creating a zero-emission, high-speed passenger ferry powered solely by hydrogen fuel cells. The study concluded that it is possible to operate a zero-emission high speed passenger ferry on the bay, even on long routes to Vallejo and Redwood City. However, the technology would require more capital and fuel costs upfront, but a zero-emission vessel could qualify for public funds to promote the environmental health of the Bay Area. While it is currently expensive and energy-intensive to produce liquid hydrogen, an increased demand for hydrogen fuel would accelerate production and drive down the cost. The Bay Area Council has been a vocal advocate for integrating new clean propulsion technologies to improve the environmental sustainability of ferries. To engage in the Council’s Water Transit Work, please contact Policy Manager Emily Loper.
The Bay Area Council voiced strong concerns at a State Water Resources Board hearing Tuesday (Jan. 3) on proposed changes to how water is allocated for urban, agricultural and environmental uses that could mean 50 percent cuts for 2.6 million of our region’s residential and commercial users. The Council said in testimony that the proposed changes could be devastating for a region that generates a huge portion of the state’s economic activity and that already has the lowest per capita water use rates in the state. The changes would take a disproportionate share of water that the Bay Area receives from the Tuolumne River to increase flows for native salmon and other aquatic species. About 48 percent of the Tuolumne river is diverted for agriculture in the Central Valley and 38 percent is left for the environment. Just 14 percent of the river is diverted for the Bay Area, but that 14 percent accounts for 85 percent of San Francisco’s drinking water and 55 percent of the drinking water used overall in Silicon Valley and by the Alameda County Water Agency. The Council is urging the state to take whatever measures necessary to make up the cuts through voluntary settlements, or purchases, among existing water rights holders that would pose less threat to our region’s water reliability. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.
(Photo: Modesto Bee)
Forty of the Bay Area’s top water leaders convened at Google on Thursday (Dec. 15) to map out federal water advocacy in the Trump-era. The meeting was a partnership between the Bay Area Council and the U.S. Water Alliance, a national water infrastructure advocacy group, as part of the Alliance’s 13 water stakeholder “listening sessions” held across the country. The discussion in Silicon Valley elevated several common themes, including regulatory reform, the water sector’s aging workforce, public-private partnerships, tax incentives, and issue framing. The Alliance will be comparing the notes from each of the listening sessions and distilling them into a comprehensive policy platform early in 2017. To engage with the Bay Area Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.
The Bay Area Council just loves a good challenge, and there is perhaps no bigger challenge for the region than bringing some relief to the congested mess that is our transportation system. The Council’s Executive Committee, meeting at member company Facebook in Menlo Park, on Thursday endorsed a 2017 policy platform that will direct significantly more time, energy and resources to finding and implementing both short-term and longer-term solutions to the region’s grinding traffic and overwhelmed mass transit systems. The Executive Committee under the leadership of Chair Michael Covarrubias of TMG Partners also renewed the Council’s priority policy areas from 2016 that include expanding housing, closing the workforce skills gap and securing the region’s long-term water supply in the face of continuing drought and increased competition among urban, environmental and agricultural interests.
The message was clear, however, that the highest priority must be on fixing the region’s dysfunctional commute, which ranks among the worst in the country and threatens to undermine the Bay Area’s economic success. Michael Matthews, Director of California Public Policy for Facebook, emphasized the importance of commute improvement in his remarks welcoming the Council to the social media giant’s campus, saying it is a key issue for the company along with housing (just today, Facebook announced a $20 million commitment to help local nonprofit housing and rental assistance programs).
Longer commutes, slower traffic and congested mass transit are choking the region’s economic productivity and putting us at growing competitive disadvantage with other states and regions. The Council has already begun laying the groundwork for a bold and aggressive regional transportation improvement vision that will be unveiled in the coming months. In addition, the Council will be exploring new technologies that can help manage the demand side of the transportation equation, promoting the development of autonomous vehicles and continuing our work to increase the use of private commuter shuttles. Expanding public and private water transportation services will figure prominently, and builds on great progress the Council has already made to increase public ferry service around the entire bay and promote fast-emerging private water taxi services.
Housing, of course, is another area on which the Council will continue to put heavy focus. Our leadership and advocacy this year helped win passage of the only significant housing bill in Sacramento – SB 1069 to expand accessory dwelling units (also known as in-law units) — and elevate the housing issue among elected leaders who as a result are now pointing to 2017 as the year of housing. The Council also backed affordable housing measures in Santa Clara and Alameda counties that both passed last month. Stay tuned for further details on planning for our work on housing, transportation, workforce and water policy. 2017 is going to be a big year.
The Bay Area Council is wading forward in its work to expand ferry service to the Peninsula and South Bay, where exploding job growth has led to severe congestion on highways and overwhelmed existing transit systems. The Council’s Water Transit Committee met this week with the Port of Redwood City, which gave a thorough update on its plans to move forward with the development of a ferry terminal that will be designed to support both private service in the near term and public service in the long term. The Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) Strategic Plan identifies Redwood City as a preferred location for future expansion of the public ferry service, but the agency will need to secure sufficient operating funds to support the service.
The committee also heard a presentation from PROP SF, which will begin high speed private ferry service to Redwood City in January. This route will serve commuters in both directions and enable them to avoid gridlock on Highway 101. The Council was supportive in helping to secure the appropriate permits for PROP SF and Tideline Marine Group to begin regularly scheduled commuter service to new destinations around the bay. PROP SF also announced at the meeting a new partnership with Chariot, the private bus service, which will provide first and last mile connections to and from terminals for commuters choosing the commute on the water. To engage in the Council’s water transit work, contact Policy Manager Emily Loper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Millions of Bay Area commuters could breathe a sigh of relief Tuesday when 70 percent of voters passed Measure RR to fix and upgrade BART, the region’s aging and overcrowded mass transit backbone. The Bay Area Council was a leading advocate for Measure RR, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the campaign and countering vocal, but misguided opposition led by state Sen. Steve Glazer that would have been content to see the measure fail and watch BART descend into chaos. The $3.5 billion Measure RR raises will help keep the system running, increase ridership capacity, keep cars off congested roads and highways and keep the region moving.
It was one of several successful measures across the region that the Council was backing to invest in affordable housing and transportation. Measure B in Santa Clara County also reached the 70 percent threshold and will generate $6.5 billion to extend BART to Silicon Valley, expand Caltrain and fix local roads. That campaign was led by Silicon Valley Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino. Also in Santa Clara County, Measure A passed with flying colors and will provide $950 billion for a variety of affordable housing programs. In Alameda County, Measure A1 will provide $580 billion for affordable housing. The Council also endorsed Measure KK in Oakland to invest $600 million in affordable housing, transportation and other vital city services.
On the Presidential front the nonpartisan Council didn’t take sides, but is now working to see where we may have agreement with President-elect Donald Trump and where we may need to advocate on issues important to ensuring the Bay Area economy remains strong. Trump signaled during the campaign his support for massive infrastructure investment, including for transportation, water and energy. He also identified early education as an area he supports. On trade, the President-elect has voiced strong concerns about free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership which the Council supports. A report the Bay Area Council Economic Institute is preparing to release next week examines the huge benefits of foreign trade to local, state and national economies. Trump’s position on climate change may also put him at odds with California’s global leadership on clean energy technology, a growing area of the state’s economy that the Council has long embraced. Immigration may be another area where the Council calls for moderation on policies that could hurt the ability of employers to attract needed talent.
Statewide, the Council nearly ran the table in its endorsements. Of the eight propositions for which the Council took a position, all but one went the right way.
See a full results roundup of the Council’s ballot positions>>
The Bay Area Council’s advocacy efforts to rapidly expand our region’s water transit system are paying off. This week the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA) opened a new North Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility on Vallejo’s Mare Island, signifying the rapid growth of its ferry operations. The facility will provide operations dispatch and routine vessel maintenance for its current fleet, as well as WETA’s seven new boats that are expected to come online in the next few years. The accelerated development of new boats will add significant capacity to the system, both providing commuters with a new transportation option and enhancing the agency’s emergency response capability.
This new facility comes just a month after WETA announced the groundbreaking of the Ron Cowan Central Bay Operations and Maintenance Facility in Alameda, marking a key milestone in advancing the agency’s new bold vision for expanding regional commuter ferry service as laid out in its new Strategic Plan. The Bay Area Council has been working hard to support the expansion of the public ferry system to provide commuters with a comfortable and convenient alternative to our region’s severely congested highways and transit systems. The Council was also instrumental in securing the CPUC approval of two private operators last month, which are set to begin service to new locations such as Berkeley, Emeryville, and Redwood City as early as the next few months.
Watch the exciting KTVU news segment on WETA’s growing operations>>
To engage in the Council’s water transit policy work, please contact Policy Manager Emily Loper.
The Bay Area could lose as much as 10 percent of its water supply if draft recommendations by the State Water Resources Control Board are adopted next year. The Bay Area Council Water Committee is currently reviewing the proposed rules closely and considering strategies to protect the region’s water supply while supporting efforts to restore California’s iconic delta ecosystem. The state board argues the cuts are necessary to provide more water for the San Joaquin river, one of the two rivers that feed the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the largest estuary on the west coast.
Current diversions for farms and cities leaves between 15 to 20 percent of the San Joaquin’s natural flows to reach the estuary. The water board wants to increase that figure to between 35 and 40 percent. That would mean big cuts to the regional Hetch Hetchy water system, which serves 2.6 million customers in 30 cities across four counties, including San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and Alameda. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which owns and operates the Hetch Hetchy system, estimates the cuts could cost tens of thousands of jobs and require customers, already some of the most efficient water users in California, to conserve an additional 40 percent during drought years, and exacerbate the region’s housing crisis. To engage in the Council’s water policy work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert.
There were no special dances or incantations at the Bay Area Council Water Committee meeting last Friday (Oct. 7) at member HNTB in Oakland, and yet not a week passed and the skies have opened after a seven-month dry spell. The Committee basked briefly in the glow of success, as its two top 2016 priorities, regional Measure AA and the Bay Area Council-sponsored AB 1755, each became law. Then it was on to business, as the committee discussed the 2017 water policy landscape with Water Foundation CEO Wade Crowfoot. The discussion centered on the ongoing struggle of getting clean drinking water to poor rural areas of California, and ensuring AB 1755 is implemented wisely.
The Committee heard remarks from David Esmaili from the Water Career Pathways Consortium, which connects high schools, community colleges, and industry and non-profit partners to offset the anticipated retirement of skilled water/wastewater employees. The consortium is partnering with the Bay Area Council to help connect water industry leaders to their program. The meeting closed on a discussion with Jennifer Persike from the Save Our Water campaign. Persike unveiled new tools and partnership opportunities business can take to help ensure conservation becomes a way of life across California even after the drought. The Water Committee is chaired by Andy Ball of Suffolk Construction and Jim Levine of Montezuma Wetlands LLC.
To engage with the Bay Area Council Water Committee, please contact Policy Director Adrian Covert.