Bay Area Council Blog

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SOLVING ENERGY STORAGE PUZZLE KEY TO RENEWABLES FUTURE

California’s continuing efforts to shift to renewable energy will depend to a large degree on solving the challenge of how to store that energy. The Bay Area Council’s Energy Committee under the leadership of PG&E CEO Tony Earley is taking on that challenge and this week hosted an engaging discussion on the various and complex policy, regulatory and market mechanisms that are involved. A major issue involves coming up with the business case for the various energy storage approaches, including lithium-ion batteries, pumped water, thermal storage, flow batteries and flywheel storage, available and how to deploy them in such a way to ensure they are economically feasible and reliable. To engage with our Energy Committee, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham.

The Bay Area Council Economic Institute currently is drafting a report on energy storage. To contribute to that research, please contact Senior Director Sean Randolph.

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FINAL DECISION NEAR FOR INNOVATIVE COMMUTER SHUTTLES PROGRAM

A commuter shuttles program that the Bay Area Council was instrumental in developing on behalf of regional employers is poised to be made permanent when the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority meets next Tuesday (Feb. 21). The Council will be there to advocate for final approval of the program, capping an intensive five-year effort to craft sensible and reasonable regulations for allowing the shuttles to operate. The innovative shuttles program serves an estimated 10,000 workers and residents, eliminating 2 million single passenger car trips annually from the region’s congested roads and highways, and 2,000 metric tons of carbon from our air. The program has been wildly successful in reducing the impact of shuttles on local streets and improving safety for motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists. And, it is serving as a model for managing commuter shuttles in other cities throughout the Bay Area. To engage in our commuter shuttles work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert at acovert@bayareacouncil.org.

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COUNCIL ADVOCATES FOR FINAL CALTRAIN ELECTRIFICATION FUNDING

After years of hard work and advocacy, the Bay Area Council is making a final push to secure the remaining funding needed to electrify and modernize Caltrain. The project will increase speed and capacity on the overcrowded commuter rail line and help ease traffic congestion along one of the nation’s most economically important and productive corridors serving San Francisco, Silicon Valley and San Jose. Local, regional, and state funds have been secured, environmental clearances and preliminary engineering are done, and construction crews are ready to begin work. All that’s left is U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) approval of a $647 million Core Capacity Grant (comprising about one third of total project costs).

Electrifying Caltrain has been one of the Council top priorities, and a study by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute in 2012 found that the project would support 9,600 construction and related jobs and generate $2.5 billion in economic benefits. DOT approval was expected later this month, at which point contractors in the Bay Area and across the country would begin work, but some last minute confusion in Congress about what the project is, and what it is not, has now put that federal funding in jeopardy. The Council is rallying business leaders to let U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao know how important this project is to the Bay Area’s economy and that it has the full support of the Bay Area business community.

If you’d like your company to appear on a joint letter urging Sec. Chao to greenlight the grant, please contact Senior Vice President Michael Cunningham at mcunningham@bayareacouncil.org.

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FORUM FOCUSES ON DISRUPTIVE APPROACHES TO SOLVING BAY AREA TRAFFIC

An overflow audience of Bay Area business and transportation leaders met today at the Bay Area Council for a riveting forum on innovative approaches for solving the region’s economy-sapping traffic congestion and mass transit overload. Council Executive Committee member and Commute Improvement Committee Chair Rosemary Turner of UPS led the discussion – The New Commute: Disrupting Bay Area Traffic – with leaders from Google, LinkedIn, Lyft, MVgo, PROP SF, Scoop, Tideline, UC Berkeley, Waze Carpool, Chariot, Zoox and Bishop Ranch. As part of its 2017 agenda, the Council has committed to doubling down on solving one of the region’s most vexing problems. Speakers shared thinking on driverless cars, high-speed ferries, the future of carpooling and ride-sharing, first and last mile connections, and private commuter regional services, among others. One speaker said that commute considerations are second only to salary in whether employees chose to work in the Bay Area. Special thanks to Council Executive Committee member Morrison & Foerster for sponsoring this important discussion and to WeDriveU for providing a delicious breakfast. Check back next week for a video of the forum. To engage in the Council’s Commute Improvement Committee, please contact Policy Director Emily Loper at eloper@bayareacouncil.org.

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Restricting Immigration Hurts the Bay Area, Council Members Say

Recent actions and statements by President Trump and his administration on immigration, including an executive order ostensibly banning citizens and others from certain predominately Muslim countries from entering the U.S., have sparked strong reaction and debate nationwide and here in the Bay Area. The Bay Area Council joins with many others that are expressing serious policy concerns about the ban and its impacts – social, human and economic.

A survey this week (Feb. 1) of our members – while not unanimous – highlighted the depth of those concerns, with 79 percent saying that the immigration ban will have a negative impact on the Bay Area and 13 percent saying the impact will be positive. A larger 88 percent of the 183 companies that responded said draft proposals to limit or do away with H1-B visas, which allow U.S. employers and others to temporarily employ workers in specialty occupations, would negatively impact our region as we compete for talent in a global economy, while 9 percent said the Bay Area would benefit from restrictions.

As a member-driven, nonpartisan organization that has focused for more than 70 years on making the Bay Area the most innovative, globally competitive, and sustainable region in the world, the Bay Area Council knows well the incredible value and importance of both home-grown and immigrant talent to our region, and nation.

The Bay Area is the thriving, diverse and economically productive region it is today because of the immense contributions that immigrants have made over many, many generations. Our many strong connections with the global community interweave natives and immigrants into the business, social and cultural fabric and history of the Bay Area, a region that firmly embraces the values of inclusion, diversity and freedom.

Many of our greatest companies have been founded by former immigrants – and the children and grandchildren of immigrants — who came here seeking opportunity and the freedom to realize their dreams. Some are here temporarily. Most become regular American citizens. They have been responsible for some of our greatest discoveries—discoveries that have made the United States and the world a better place for millions of people. They have been a tremendous source of ideas, innovation, investment and leadership. And, immigrants have been a great source of talent for our many employers.

Protecting our national interests and the safety of our citizens is extremely important, but we must be equally careful not to infringe on the civil and human rights for which we stand. The Bay Area Council has long advocated for federal action on immigration reform, and we continue to believe that such reform should be developed comprehensively and thoughtfully.

 

Sample of anonymous pro and con comments from the survey

“California is the manifestation of immigrant ingenuity and investment. This state is held as an example across the world of what an economy looks like when we unleash boundless opportunity. These [Executive Orders] will damage the talent pool, thereby limiting the source of new ideas and energy. Growth always suffers when we shut the door on immigrants.”

“I believe we needed to do something. We will adjust and adapt as we always have. Citizens first. Immigrants 2nd, so long as they follow the proper rules to become citizens.”

“These executive orders are extremely damaging, in terms of inhumane treatment of people, violation of civil liberties, economic health of the region, state and nation, and national security.”

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MENLO PARK HOUSING PROJECT ENDORSED BY COUNCIL APPROVED

A transit-oriented housing, retail and office development that the Bay Area Council endorsed won unanimous approval by the Menlo Park City Council this week. Station 1300 will create 183 high quality apartment units, including 20 below market rate units, within blocks of Caltrain. Building transit-oriented housing is critical both for helping address the region’s historic housing shortage and reducing dependency on traffic-causing automobiles. The Bay Area Council was proud to attend the meeting Tuesday and testify in support as we advocate for building more housing faster and at less cost to make the Bay Area more affordable for workers and residents.

The Workforce Housing Committee recently endorsed Gateway at Millbrae, which will provide 376 new homes with a large number set aside as affordable units for military veterans. A second project the Council endorsed at MacArthur Transit Village in Oakland will provide 402 sorely needed new homes, 40 of which will be below market rate. To engage in our housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan.

Read about Station 1300 here>>

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THE NEW COMMUTE: DISRUPTING BAY AREA TRAFFIC

In response to the Bay Area’s traffic crisis, emerging private transportation companies are offering new, innovative solutions for a comfortable, convenient commute. Disrupting the Bay Area’s congestion-stricken status quo, these budding technologies and services are filling gaps in the region’s current transit systems and reinventing how people get around. Join the Bay Area Council for a series of interactive discussions with the nation’s leading movers and shakers in private transportation. Topics will explore driverless cars, high-speed ferries, the future of carpooling and ride-sharing, last mile connections, and revolutionary regional commute services. Panelists include speakers from Bishop Ranch, Chariot, Google, LinkedIn, Lyft, MVgo, PROP, Scoop, Tideline, UC Berkeley, Waze Carpool, and Zoox. For the full agenda and to register, click here.

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WATER TRANSIT COMMITTEE MAKING WAVES

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.

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TOP ECONOMISTS, BUSINESS LEADERS GIVE ECONOMIC FORECASTS ON INAUGURATION DAY

As the world watched the inauguration of President Donald Trump, the Bay Area Council Economic Institute’s 10th Annual Economic Forecast presented by McKinsey & Company and hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco convened leading economists and top experts to give their economic forecast for the Bay Area, California, and the nation.

The prognosis was clear. As we usher in the new administration, we are on stable footing. Dr. Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and a leading expert on the California economy, presented on a set of economic indicators, showing that much of the national political rhetoric around stagnant wages, the impact of trade, and unemployment is not borne out in the economic data. Labor markets are tight and becoming tighter across most of the United States. This is particularly true in California where the housing supply problem is one of the biggest challenges to continued growth. He also assessed that, while GDP is growing relatively slowly, it is growing and economic fundamentals, such as consumer spending, remain strong. Among the challenges cited for slow growth were self-inflcted wounds and political gridlock, a weak global economy, and the shift to an information economy among others.  And, while there is little chance for a recession (for now), uncertainty surrounding the new administration’s policy agenda clouds the view forward. There are broad ramifications for potential change in policy in healthcare, immigration, social insurance, trade, manufacturing, and more.

San Francisco Fed President and Council Executive Committee member John Williams offered an exclusive perspective on the U.S. economy and federal monetary policy. Williams talked about the dynamics surrounding the U.S. labor market and how the Fed is likely to gradually increase its interest rate targets over time so that the economy grows without risking a bubble. Williams emphasized how the central bank is not influenced by partisan politics, staying politically independent, data-driven and focused on its narrow goals to promote low inflation, full employment and financial stability.

Bay Area Council Economic Institute Chair and McKinsey & Company Western Region Managing Partner Kausik Rajgopal and Aspen Institute Fellow Natalie Foster explored the “Future of the Worker” in the new age of automation and the growing gig economy. In the Bay Area, the independent workforce is 30 percent of the working age population with most digital independents working in order to earn when traditional jobs falter, to provide extra income for high cost of living or to buffer uneven income streams. One of the key points discussed was how automation is focused on specific activities rather than entire jobs, and can spur more job growth.

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Council Secures Grant for New, Innovative Workforce Program

A regional initiative the Bay Area Council is leading to increase employment opportunities for young men of color in the Bay Area got a major boost with the award of a $150,000 grant from California Workforce Development Board. The funding will enable the Council and its partners, including LeadersUp, PolicyLink and the Urban Strategies Council, to launch an innovative hiring and training pilot program that leverages our considerable network of large Bay Area employers. The Bay Area Young Men of Color Employment Partnership (BAYEP) was created last year to address the yawning gap between employers’ urgent need for entry- and middle-skills jobs and the large number of young men of color that are seeking work. Under the pilot program, five Bay Area employers will be recruited to work with BAYEP in developing a seamless process for training and hiring young men of color and building pathways within companies to enable workers to move up the employment ladder. Using findings and results from the pilot project, the program would later be scaled to include more employers and workers. To engage in the Council’s workforce policy, please contact Policy Associate Rachele Trigueros.