New generation of policymakers, planners needed to solve metro area traffic congestion

Liccardo, who also sits on the commission board, said reducing traffic congestion in the South Bay will require cities to add more housing units instead of simply focusing on job growth, and it might require regional incentives and penalties on cities.“We need to get people living closer to where they work,” Liccardo said.

Source: Highways to hell: Bay Area’s worst commutes ranked by MTC – SFChronicle.com

True for those who must be on site for their work. Not true for most knowledge workers who thanks to today’s information and communications technology — much of it innovated in the Bay Area. A new generation of policymakers and planners is needed that recognizes the potential of ICT to reduce the need for daily commute trips that substantially contribute to the enormous transportation demand that’s choking the Bay Area and other metros.

Dealing with the Sprawl Devil

In the last seven years alone, 600,000 new residents have settled in the region. Alameda is the fastest growing of Bay Area counties. Here, 120,000 people found elbow room—and in many cases, vast suburban lawns, swimming pools, and multicar garages—between 2010 and 2015. The county is now home to more than 1.6 million people. Contra Costa County’s population jumped from 1 million to almost 1.1 million in the same five-year period. The city and county of San Francisco also grew, from 800,000 people in 2010 to about 870,000 today. But most of this population growth is taking place in suburban areas far from major centers of employment, according to a report released by the California Department of Finance in early May.

The suburban growth is driving traffic congestion to crisis levels as residents commute hours each day to and from work on the Bay Area’s overburdened roadways. Traffic is increasingly cited in polls as one of the top reasons that locals want to leave the area. While many towns and cities combat traffic by improving transit systems and supporting housing projects near bus and train stations, traffic is getting worse—and the housing boom in the remote suburbs is directly reversing progress by introducing tens of thousands more people into communities that can only be easily accessed by automobiles. “Sprawl creates traffic,” Devalcourt noted. “It’s designed to accommodate driving.”

Source: Dealing with the Sprawl Devil

The San Francisco Bay Area Paradox I’ve frequently referenced on this blog continues to build.  The region — an Information and Communications Technology innovator — remains mired in a 20th century, post World War II Industrial Age mindset and the consequent paralysis of ever growing commute traffic congestion. Much of it generated by knowledge workers unnecessarily commuting to centralized office spaces elsewhere in the sprawling region when ICT makes it possible to work in the communities where they live.

The continuing commuting paradox of the S.F. Bay Area, stuck in the 20th Century

Eighty percent of jobs in the Bay Area are concentrated in suburban fringes with little access to regional rail, and three-quarters of Bay Area workers drive alone to work as a result, the study’s authors note.The report highlights a seeming irony: Despite pioneering innovations in their products and work spaces, they house their lava lamps and free cafes in suburban corporate campuses with seas of parking lots. It’s a form of office that took shape in the middle of the 20th century. Google, Apple and Facebook’s offices are all more than 3 miles from the nearest rail station.This isn’t going to be good for the companies’ economic vitality in the long run, said Allison Arieff, SPUR’s editorial director. “Something’s gotta give.”

Source: Study calls on big tech companies to move closer to transit – San Francisco Chronicle

The paradox of the San Francisco Bay Area continues. The Chronicle’s Nicholas Cheng points out the irony of companies that innovated information and communications technology (ICT) advances that have made the centralized, commute-in office spaces of the previous century all but obsolete, yet continue to cling to the outdated pattern. And as SPUR’s Allison Arieff says, the current state of affairs is unsustainable. There is only so much real estate, highway lanes, parking spaces and public transit capacity to work with. ICT provides far more capacity to move the products of knowledge and information work than transportation infrastructure can to move bodies every work day.

25 years later, traffic paradox continues to bedevil SF Bay Area

A quarter of a century ago, I witnessed firsthand the emergence of a robust information and communications technology (ICT) industry in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of these companies were spawned by the then relatively young personal computer revolution that was making ICT portable and far more accessible.

Companies in the bustling region developed software that enabled tasks that were traditionally done on paper in centralized office settings to be performed on these microcomputers at a time when computer automated design and desktop publishing were the hot apps of the day. Other companies made fascinating devices called modems that made it possible to send work done on these innovative small computers to other computers, regardless of where they were located.

I saw the potential of the emerging ICT to alleviate one of the regions worst problems: suffocating, time sucking traffic congestion. I wrote an opinion piece published in March of 1991 in the San Jose Mercury News advocating widespread adoption of telecommuting using the new ICT tools as a solution.

Here it is 2016 and the situation that existed in 1991 is virtually unchanged. The region continues to paradoxically choke on traffic even though its leading companies innovated a way out of it many years ago.

Suburban office parks are dying because young people don’t want to drive there | MNN – Mother Nature Network


At a New Year’s Eve party, I was talking to a business exec running a tech company located in a suburban office building. He was complaining about the number of times he would interview a person who would say he wasn’t crazy about taking the subway and then a bus all the way out to the ‘burbs every day. The exec got increasingly frustrated and at one point responded “So get a car! That’s what grown-ups do when they get jobs!” The candidate responded that he didn’t know how to drive, didn’t have a license, and would keep looking for a job that allowed him to use a bike or transit. This scenario has played out more than once, so the company is now looking for new office space downtown. The suburban office building in his business sector is functionally obsolete. It may well become what we used to call a “see-through” — a glass box with nothing inside.

Source: Suburban office parks are dying because young people don’t want to drive there | MNN – Mother Nature Network

There’s actually a bigger story here. Centralized commuter offices are also falling out of favor because they come with substantial geographical access challenges in sprawling metro areas. Plus as the story notes, millennials aren’t keen on bearing the non tax deductible expense of getting to and from them by car in congested daily commute trips.

The solution here isn’t moving the office — a 20th century approach — but rather moving the work by leveraging today’s 21st century information and communications technology to make work more accessible without the time and money suck of the daily commute. That way, people can work in their residential communities rather than having two communities: one in which they live and another where they work, located in a distant suburb or downtown.