One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix – The New York Times

The built environment of the Valley does not reflect the innovation that’s driving the region’s stratospheric growth; it looks instead like the 1950s. Looking at aerial views of midcentury campuses like the Eero Saarinen-designed Bell Labs next to contemporary ones like Apple, it’s nearly impossible to tell the midcentury structures from the 21st-century ones. Designing job centers this way contributes mightily to the region’s ever-worsening traffic. If you found yourself stuck on Highway 101 between San Francisco and San Jose, you’d really see what Silicon Valley looks like for many. Building campuses on isolated suburban tracts guarantees long commutes, and this is one of the worst in the country.

Source: One Thing Silicon Valley Can’t Seem to Fix – The New York Times

Kudos to Allison Arieff of The New York Times for raising this issue as I have many times in this space. I’ve also noted the irony that Silicon Valley’s legendary information and communications technology (ICT) innovation has effectively obsoleted the 1950s centralized, commute-in office (CCO), yet the region remains mired in commute traffic.

As Silicon Valley tech pioneer Bill Davidow pointed out in his 2011 book Overconnected, those office complexes came about because the “killer app” of the 1950s was a combination of pavement (freeways), cheap gasoline and the automobile that made it possible to work in another location far from home. Now ICT allows knowledge work to be done anywhere, eliminating the need to move bodies over highways every work day to CCOs. That’s a real killer app for our time to slay commute traffic congestion — in Silicon Valley and other metro areas.

Jerry Brown ponders the high cost of the car as he departs Paris climate confab

The California governor had spent five days in the city promoting measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lobbying world leaders as they met to negotiate a global climate pact.On Thursday, with those negotiations entering their final stretch, Brown sat with a sweater on his shoulders, Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich’s concept of counter-productivity on his mind.“He said if you count the cost of the hours that you have to work to pay for your car and the insurance and the gasoline, and then add that, kind of translate that into time,” Brown said, “you could go faster on a bicycle.”But looking out the window at the traffic rushing by, Brown said he didn’t “know what to do with all of that, because everybody is working all the time for their car.”“That’s why this is so challenging,” he said. “What we’re doing relative to what needs to be done leaves open a lot of things to be figured out.”

Source: Jerry Brown leaves Paris: ‘We’ll see how we do’ | The Sacramento Bee

One place Brown can begin is asking why there’s so much dependence on automobiles. It’s hard to get people out of their cars when they need them to earn a living. Bill Davidow, author of the book Overconnected, writes on how the rise of the automobile and modern highways following World War II made it possible for people to work in a community far distant from the one in which they live. Now decades later, we are virtually “locked in” to commuting to work by car, Davidow asserts in his book.

But the last two decades have seen the rise of a new information and communications technology infrastructure that obviates the need to drive to a centralized, commute-in office every work day. People can use that infrastructure to bring their work to them rather than the traveling to a distant workplace, working at home or in distributed co-working shared office facilities in their communities. The latter option is also far more accessible by the bicycle commute Brown envisions.