Bay Area Council Blog

Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Expected To Increase 11 Percent From 2009

Council Doubling Down on Solving Regional Commute Mess

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.


Prime Minister of Ireland Addresses Council Leadership

Enda Kenny, Prime Minister (An Taoiseach) of the Republic of Ireland, addressed the Bay Area Council’s Board of Directors on Thursday, discussing his country’s strong business and economic connections with the Bay Area, the implications of Britain’s exit from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as President. Kenny said he had spoken with both the President-elect and Vice President-elect and is prepared to work constructively with the Administration on issues of trade and economic cooperation. He spoke eloquently and passionately about the imperative for creating real and meaningful career opportunities for young workers, a message that resonated with the Council’s own work here to strengthen linkages between employers and educators. Kenny highlighted the many advantages that Ireland offers as a platform for companies looking to expand or start business in Europe, calling out the successes of Council member companies like Apple, Oracle, Salesforce, Intel and Facebook, among many others. The Prime Minister also thanked the Council for honoring Charles Feeney last year with induction into the Bay Area Business Hall of Fame, noting that Feeney’s incredible charitable investments in Ireland’s higher education system is a major reason for the country’s growing technology presence.


Commuter Shuttles Program Getting Better and Better

The commuter shuttles program that the Bay Area Council helped develop on behalf of employers just gets better and better. A mid-year progress report the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority (SFMTA) released Tuesday (Nov. 15) found that ridership is up while impacts on neighborhoods, streets and air quality continue to decline. Specifically, shuttles are carrying 15 percent more riders while requiring the same number of loading stops. The use of MUNI bus stops is down and most of the shuttle routes have now shifted from small streets to main arterials. Complaints remain stable and 76 percent of shuttles are now using technology that reduce tailpipe emissions.

At the same time, a separate SFMTA study released Tuesday that looked at replacing the successful system the shuttles use to pick up and drop off riders with fewer centralized “hub” locations found the change would be a disaster. A hub system would result in an additional 3,300 cars on already traffic-clogged city streets every day, resulting in an additional 23,000 tons of carbon and 65 million additional vehicle miles travelled every year, and putting commuters and pedestrians at increased risk of traffic accidents. The SFMTA took no action on the “hub” study for now. To engage in the Council’s commuter shuttles work, please contact Vice President Adrian Covert at


Stricter Homesharing Limits Hurt Housing Affordability

Placing stricter limits on homesharing does almost nothing to increase housing supply and only makes things worse for homeowners that rely on short-term rental income to make ends meet, according to an analysis the Bay Area Council Economic Institute released this week. The study examined a proposal by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to reduce the number of days homeowners participating in homesharing services like Airbnb can rent rooms from 90 to 60 days. Critics blame homesharing for reducing affordable housing supply. However, the stricter cap would do little to increase supply and the analysis finds that 1,500 hosts will lose income amounting to $11 million a year. Among those hosts, that loss of income translates into 300 households seeing their housing-to-income cost ratio rise above the 30 percent that is considered the threshold for affordability. Although the Supervisors approved the tighter cap, it could still face a veto by Mayor Ed Lee.

Read the homesharing analysis>>

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Exciting News for Expanding Ferry Service to Silicon Valley

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



Commuter Shuttles “Hub” Approach Means More Traffic, Emissions, Accidents

Replacing the successful system that private commuter shuttles use to pick up and drop off riders with fewer centralized “hub” locations would devastate an important mass transit system and choke San Francisco streets with traffic and pollution, according to a new study by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority. SFMTA estimates a hub system could result in an additional 3,300 cars on city streets every day, resulting in an additional 23,000 tons of carbon and 65 million additional vehicle miles traveled every year, and putting commuters and pedestrians at increased risk of traffic accidents. The study was conducted as part of an agreement that the Bay Area Council helped broker in February with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to regulate commuter shuttle operations.

“Less is more with the hub approach—more traffic, more emissions, more accidents,” said Adrian Covert, Vice President of Policy for the Bay Area Council. “This study confirms that the current system, which was developed thoughtfully over many, many months, is working well and getting better. Jamming commuter shuttles into fewer locations will drive down ridership, pushing thousands of riders into their cars and onto our already congested streets.”

The study examined four different scenarios for replacing the current system of 109 shuttle stops distributed along mostly large arterial streets with between one and up to 17 centralized “hubs.” Fewer stops would decrease shuttle ridership by up 54 percent, the study found, pouring as many as 3,300 more cars onto city streets and almost doubling greenhouse gas emissions. The “hub” approach would also mean the elimination of up to 230 parking spaces.

“This study was extremely valuable in showing that the current system for regulating commuter shuttles is the most effective in keeping down traffic, keeping streets safe and keeping our air clean,” Covert said.

The study findings are scheduled to be presented at the SFMTA Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday, November 15 at 1 p.m. along with a mid-year review of the existing Commuter Shuttle Program. See the full report>>

SFMTA’s Board will also receive a mid-year review of the Commuter Shuttle Program, which clearly shows the city’s current regulations are working, and that shuttles are getting cleaner, more efficient, and moving away from non-arterial streets. The SFMTA found 76 percent of the fleet now meets 2012 emissions standards or better, up from 59 percent during the pilot program. Shuttles have become more efficient by adding over 1,000 riders using the same number of stop-events. In addition, use of non-arterial streets is down from 26 percent to 9 percent.

Quick Facts


  • Shuttle ridership predicted to drop by up to 54 percent
  • Equivalent of up to 3,300 more cars on the road
  • Up to an additional 65 million VMTs added to city streets
  • Up to 40,000 tons of CO2
  • “Increased risk of collisions in general”
  • Significant removal of parking
  • More competition for parking


  • $2.1 million in permit fees through August 2016
  • Ridership is up from 8,500 (pilot) to 9,800
  • Stop events are the same (3,200) so efficiency is increasing
  • Complaints have remained stable
  • Use of shared MUNI zones is down from 72% (pilot) to 57% (shift to white zones).
  • Use of non-arterial streets is down from 26% (pilot) to 9% of current shuttle stops
  • Use of vehicles that meet 2012 emissions standards or better is up from 59% (pilot) to 76%

Big Election Wins for Bay Area, Council on Housing, Transportation

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 Takes on Big Data

California is a hotbed for big data innovation. Against that backdrop, the Bay Area Council recently welcomed some of the region’s brightest minds from across industries to a luncheon sponsored by member Experian for a discussion on how businesses and society can benefit most from the immense amount of data that exists today. The field of data science is a relatively new one, and there’s much to learn from sharing best practices across different types of enterprises.

The discussion was led by Craig Boundy, Experian North America CEO,  and Eric Haller, Global Head of Experian DataLabs. Here is a summary of the conversation.

Everyone in the room inherently understood the tremendous benefit big data can provide to society.

It’s commonly estimated that in just the past five years, more than 90 percent of data in the world has been generated. Experian continues to make considerable investments in data, innovation and technology to identify new ways to glean greater insights from this data. These insights have real world application that can help tens of thousands of Americans. Small businesses, for example, create nearly two-thirds of net new jobs in the United States and notoriously struggle to obtain loans to grow their business due to a perceived lack of data on their credit worthiness. Without access to credit these businesses aren’t able to expand and are often prevented from hiring more people.  Looking for a solution to this problem, our data scientists at Experian experimented with social media data and found an innovative way to help small businesses with credit verification through an advanced data analysis approach.

Boundy said he envisions many more ways we can unlock the power of data to transform our world tomorrow, not the least of which is in the realm of consumer credit. So many of life’s biggest moments are defined by money, including access to it, and the ability to borrow it. Yet, in the United States alone, 64 million people have no credit histories. This makes it hard to secure a loan to achieve their dreams. Around the world, millions more under-banked consumers are living on cash-only systems. Changing that means using data to build more detailed and accurate pictures of people’s financial lives so that people seeking access to credit hear “no” less often, and lenders can lend with confidence.

To capitalize most effectively on these and other opportunities for big data, a key theme emerged from the Bay Area Council discussion. Across the board, we need greater consistency in the way we collect and analyze data.

As various industries have been embracing big data at a rapid pace – estimates anticipate a 50% increase in big data and business analytics software revenues over five years – there hasn’t been time to formalize a set of standards that enable different data collection and analysis systems to “talk” to each other. That’s particularly evident in the healthcare industry, where electronic health records have elevated medical practice, yet the multiple systems available lack interoperability. Without such uniformity, it is difficult to draw high-level conclusions applicable in a number of situations.


BAC Insiders Tour: SFO

SFO International Airport reflects the City itself: small but mighty.  In its compact 2,500 acres of developed land, it manages to move more than 50 million passengers a year, employ 31, 000 staff, and ease traffic congestion for its 2,300 parking stalls.  This week, the Bay Area Council and 20 Bay Area business leaders took their special tour by meeting new General Manager Ivar Satero, who discussed SFO’s future. This included focusing on domestic travel, and continuing support of traffic and transportation decongestion by promoting relationships with BART, Uber and Lyft.


SFO’s runway is a precise, geometrically intricate diagram, like a multi-level game of frogger, with planes able to take off and land within seconds of each other. Included at this busy airport are three fire stations, a complete repair facility, marine facility, and Coast Guard office. Baggage claim is run by computers, with just one individual overseeing brightly-lit monitors that give an overview of every baggage conveyer.  Automation has significantly decreased incidents of baggage being lost or misrouted.


A stroll through LEED Gold certified Terminal 2 illustrates why it is the model for future airport check-in design. After the check-point, passengers are surrounded by soothing artwork in a very large, spacious lobby that leads to mid- to high-level shopping, cafes, and mini-museums.  Another overall goal for SFO is utilizing space and “flow” to direct passengers to where they need to enter or exit the airport.  Combining efficiency to enhance passenger experience by coordinating execution with state of the art technology, SFO International stays current, relevant, and continues to lead the way to better air travel.


Getting Down to Business to Enact In-Law Legislation

Energized by our victory in passing SB 1069 to make building in-law units easier, faster and cheaper for homeowners, the Bay Area Council’s Housing Committee got down to work this week mapping out how to raise awareness of the new law and refining its provisions. State housing officials, builders, lenders, architects, advocates and others discussed creating an online portal to encourage homeowners to take advantage of the new opportunity to build accessory dwelling units, also known as granny or in-law units, and provide cities with technical guidance for adopting the law. The Council estimates that if just 10 percent of Bay Area homeowners added an in-law unit, the region would add up to 150,000 units of naturally affordable rental housing. The Housing Committee is co-chaired by Denise Pinkston of TMG Partners and Kofi Bonner of FivePoint. To engage in the Council’s housing policy work, please contact Senior Vice President Matt Regan at