It’s time for Version 2.0

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November 5  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . In Silicon Valley, when a product or service doesn’t succeed, it’s time for “Version 2.0.”

Such is the case before our San José City Council on Tuesday, November 10, at 1:30pm, when the Council considers a new pilot project that to allow ridesharing companies like Lyft and Uber to pick-up passengers at Mineta San José International Airport. The Council passed a “pilot program” in June, but its onerous provisions precluded any rideshare company from participating. To its credit, the Council has sought a modified pilot program, much more in-line with the stringent but consistent requirements mandated at 25 other airports and nearly 300 cities across the country.

As you can imagine, the incumbent taxicab industry is fighting such market-competition tooth and nail. Their latest gambit is public safety. Let’s dissect that argument. Rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber provide well over 2 million rides in the U.S. each week. If even one percent of those rides were unsafe, that would be 20,000 incidents or accidents every single week. But perhaps the taxi industry thinks it’s only one-tenth of 1 percent that are unsafe. Then we would be reading news reports of 2,000 incidents or accidents each week. But maybe the taxi lobbyists only mean one-hundredth of 1 percent are unsafe – but then we would be reading news reports about 200 incidents or accidents each week, 52 weeks per year.

So let’s really talk safety, accountability and transparency: A rideshare passenger clicks an app and knows instantly the license plate, car make, driver, and consumer rating of the driver. GPS tracking follows every ride. At the end of every ride, the passengers and the driver rate each other. These safety and accountability precautions are unheard-of in taxis. It also underscores why rideshare companies like Lyft enjoy a passenger base that is 60 percent women. They know they are safer.

Let’s support our City Council in providing real choices for San José residents and employees flying into San José International. Join me at the council meeting or email your San José Councilmember and Mayor today. When it comes to customer choice at San José’s airport, let’s not let the taxi lobby leave the rest of us stuck at the curb.

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Leveling the Playing Field for Ridesharing at SJC

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November 3  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Taxis have a monopoly over rideshare companies.

“Unlevel Playing Field.” It has been the incessant – yet completely inaccurate – rallying cry of incumbent taxi companies over rideshare companies like Lyft and Uber, that cannot currently pick up passengers at Mineta San José International Airport.

In June, I predicted before the City Council that its “pilot program” to allow rideshare companies to pick up passengers, launched on September 1, would have zero participants. Seven weeks after the “pilot program’s” launch, there isn’t a single participant. City residents, workers and visitors have been left standing, literally, at the curb.

It is why 93 Silicon Valley CEOs – with tens of thousands of employees based in San José – have written to the City Council to urge the adoption of a policy that allows ridesharing companies to serve our airport. Read their letter here.

Yet the cries of “unlevel playing field” are actually the opposite.

* Seeking accountability and transparency? A ridesharing passenger clicks an app and knows instantly the license plate, car make, driver, and consumer rating of the driver. GPS tracking follows every ride. And at the end, the passengers and the driver rate each other. These safety precautions are unheard of in taxis. It also explains why ridesharing companies like Lyft enjoy a passenger base that is 60 percent women.

* Concerned about the City budget for essential services? The City’s own 2013 audit reveals the incumbent taxi industry costs taxpayers $272,000 in lost revenue. The airport acknowledges rideshare companies will earn revenue for the City. At SFO, allowing rideshare companies at the airport has already earned it $4 million in just 10 months.

* Concerned about safety? The exhaustive screening process of ridesharing companies turns away 4 of every 5 potential drivers. When a recent official in another jurisdiction found a few Uber drivers had criminal records that should have kept them from driving, most media accounts ignored that Uber’s process screened out more than 600 would-be drivers, self-identified as current taxi drivers, who had criminal records.

Yes, let’s have a “level playing field.” But as so often happens, it is the entrenched incumbent industry that cries “foul,” while enjoying all the power of incumbency; including a playing field greatly slanted in its favor.

San José, it’s time for “version 2.0.” Let’s not leave our residents, workers and visitors standing at the curb.

The San José City Council wants to assist the taxi industry to help it continue to survive and thrive. That’s fine. Let’s keep in mind that when rideshare companies were allowed to serve customers at SFO and in Denver the amount of taxi rides actually increased. Rather than fighting over the crumbs, the pie grew for both taxis and rideshare companies.

The cries of an “unlevel playing field” are simply not accurate. Let’s let those who wish to ride decide.

If you wish to join me in respectfully weighing in with the City Council, please join me at the Council hearing on November 10 at 1:30 pm, and call or email your San Jose Councilmember and the mayor today.

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San Jose International is Taking Off

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October 15  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . With our CEO Airport Task Force, San José International is Taking Off.

Five years ago, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group launched our CEO Airport Task Force, committed to the success of San José International Airport. With the active engagement of nearly 200 CEOs and senior officers, five key international flights were targeted for attraction:

  • Tokyo
  • London
  • Beijing
  • Frankfurt
  • Seoul

With great city leadership first from San José Mayor Chuck Reed and now from Mayor Sam Liccardo, one airline after another has added routes to SJC. First was the ANA flight between San José and Tokyo, initially launched on January 11, 2013. Next was the Hainan Airlines flight between San Jose and Beijing, launched this year on June 15. Then, in partnership with British Airways, a direct San José to London flight will launch on May 4, 2016. And now, after a four-year courtship, Lufthansa will initiate a direct daily flight between San José and Frankfurt this spring.

In baseball, “four out of five” would get you in the Hall of Fame, but not in Silicon Valley. Our CEO Airport Task Force has one more key international destination – Seoul, South Korea.

Our commitment to each airline is simple – provide the planes and we will help provide the passengers. Through the on-going leadership of nearly 390 member companies, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group is committed to keeping our part of that bargain. Join us. Fly with us. Together, working with Mayor Liccardo, our airport and the city council, we can be sure that San José truly is taking off.

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It’s Time to Fix Our Roads

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September 9  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Where does California experience more gridlock – On our state highways, or in our state Capitol?

By Friday, the state Legislature will decide whether to adopt a sensible mix of reforms and revenue to fund improvements to repair our streets and repave our potholes. Reforms are essential to squeeze out the most value of every dollar we already invest to fix our state highways and our local streets and roads. Yet with a funding gap of $59 billion in deferred maintenance just on our state highway system, new revenue is also needed.

After eight months of Legislative discussions, Governor Brown stepped forward last week and proposed a balanced plan that helps ensure we invest in improvements that will save commuters both time and money. With one of every four state highway miles in poor condition, and nearly three of 10 miles of our local streets in equally bad shape, it’s time the state Legislature moved forward.

Put simply, if the Legislature cannot move forward to pass a transportation plan which balances needed reforms and necessary revenue, then California commuters can’t move forward either. Call your state Legislator today. Let’s not let the Legislature kick-the-can down the crumbling road. It’s time to act.

British Airways: Well Worth the Wait

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August 26  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Like most “overnight successes,” this one was four years in the making.

Four years ago, our Silicon Valley Leadership Group hosted a dinner with 20 member company executives and the leadership of British Airways, working to win a direct flight between London and San Jose.

Four years later, we announced Wednesday with British Airways North America Senior Vice President Simon Brooks and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo that direct service between London and San Jose will launch on May 4 of next year.

In a Valley known for taking big risks with the potential for big rewards, we recognize that placing a 787 Dreamliner for new international service is a significant decision. Each flight is an investment of a quarter of a million dollars, on a plane valued at roughly $200 million.

Yet we are confident the flights will be full. With 481 Silicon Valley companies with business operations in London and the UK, and 118 British companies with locations in Silicon Valley, this is a marriage made in heaven on both sides of the Atlantic.

It’s also a sign that San Jose is on the rise – or, in the words of our Mayor Sam Liccardo, that “San Jose is taking off.”

Through our partnership with the Mayor and the airport, the Leadership Group has now helped secure direct international flights to Tokyo in 2013, to Beijing last June, and now London come next May.

One more victory for the citizens of Silicon Valley – well worth the wait.

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Reform and Revenue for California Roads

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August 19  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino
Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino speaks at a news conference about transportation with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on August 19, 2015. Photo Courtesy: (Assembly Democratic Caucus)

Leadership Group CEO Carl Guardino speaks at a news conference about transportation with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on August 19, 2015. (Photo: Assembly Democratic Caucus)

Here’s food for thought … It’s hard to drive Silicon Valley’s economy with your employees stalled in Silicon Valley traffic.

I had the pleasure to share the podium with California Governor Jerry Brown and state Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins on Wednesday to underscore the urgency for new transportation funding for California.

With 23 days (and counting) left in this legislative session we need a bi-partisan solution to fix the cracks and potholes that have become emblematic of California’s crumbling highways and our local streets and roads.

We need a combination of reform and revenue. Reform to ensure every current transportation dollar is spent wisely and effectively. Revenue because we know the 10-year gap in transportation priorities and available funding is nearly $300 billion.

For Republican legislators looking for necessary reform, casting a vote for new revenue can be difficult. For Democrats looking for revenue, some of the necessary reforms can be a tough vote. Yet, this is our “Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid” moment. “I will jump if you jump.”

And here is the good news: Butch and Sundance survived the jump. And if legislators jump together, they will not only survive, but the road improvements will help California thrive.

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Past Time to Fix our Roads

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July 8  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Depressed. Distressed. Determined.

When it comes to fixing California’s crumbling state highways and local streets and roads, it is easy to feel discouraged.

Care to be depressed? Consider the numbers:

  • California has a $59 billion hole just in deferred maintenance on our state highway system alone.

Want to be distressed?

  • The gas tax, California’s traditional funding source since 1923, now has the lowest purchasing power, when adjusted for inflation, in history.
  • Ironically, with more Californian’s driving fuel-efficient cars – a good thing – there are even fewer gas tax funds to fix our roads.

So how can we be determined? Opportunities to move forward now abound. Thanks to Governor Brown, a special session of the Legislature has been called to fund the gap to fix potholes throughout the state.

  • Solutions include restoring the truck-weight fee – nearly $1 billion annually – to its intended use in fixing our highways.
  • Extending the ability of Caltrans to enter into public-private partnerships, saving time and treasure on transportation improvements.
  • Ensuring that new revenues for transportation fund both our state highways and local roads over the next decade.

Weigh in today. Contact the Leadership Group for more details, including how you can contact your own state legislator to fix our roads and fill those potholes. Let’s get California moving again.

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Unlock the Gridlock

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July 1  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . taxpayers are ready for traffic relief.

In our recent Silicon Valley Leadership Group annual poll, our fellow voters and taxpayers made one point clear: We are tired of traffic gridlock, and are willing to take steps to fix it.

When we asked voters if they would once again invest local dollars for local transportation improvements with local accountability, the results were resounding. A specific list of improvements, which could be funded by a half-cent sales tax increase, garnered support from 68 percent, with only 27 percent against and 5 percent undecided.

The specific improvements polled are as follows:

  • Finish the BART extension to Downtown San Jose and Santa Clara – 86 percent support
  • Repair streets, fix potholes in all 15 cities and towns – 88 percent support
  • Electrify, modernize Caltrain Commuter Rail Service from Gilroy to Palo Alto – 73 percent support
  • Relieve traffic on all eight county expressways – 80 percent support
  • Bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, especially near schools – 84 percent support
  • Improve transit service for seniors, the poor and disabled – 85 percent support

Befitting the visionary spirit of Silicon Valley, our voters and taxpayers are once again willing to place their money where their mouths are – for specific transportation improvements that will strengthen our economy, keep and create jobs and improve our quality of life.

When it comes to traffic, we may have the keys to unlock the gridlock.

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Ridesharing: Facts Over Fear

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June 24  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Facts over fear.

The innovation economy took a tumble before the San Jose City Council on June 23, because an unworkable “pilot program” was set up for rideshare companies that want to be able to pick up passengers at the Mineta San Jose International Airport. The problem? Innovative economy companies such as Lyft, Uber and Sidecar made it clear that the rules are unworkable and respectfully signaled in advance that if adopted, they wouldn’t be able to participate. Those pleas were ignored.

Nine months of negotiations between the airport and Transportation Network Companies (TNC) produced an agreement to ensure ridesharing drivers picking up passengers at the airport would be in full compliance with California law and that TNC would pay their fair share in fees to the airport. California law requires that all TNC drivers receive professionally administered background checks. The agreement was a win for consumers and our cash strapped airport.

That agreement was undone and renegotiated by the City Council less than 48 hours before the vote was held. Simply put, the City Council changed the rules at the last minute.

A “pilot program” in which no one participates is not a pilot program.

Who loses? You and I. People who want ride choices will not have them because San Jose demanded more regulations than any other airport in the country, all in the guise of public safety. A key demand that background checks be conducted in a narrowly specific way – by fingerprints, valued bureaucracy over innovation. Everyone agrees that background checks are a necessity and that is settled law. But many experts and policy makers disagree that a background check can only be conducted in one specific way, as now required by the city.

Let’s consider facts over fear:

  • Fingerprinting has been evaluated and rejected by the Greenlining Institute and other respected civil rights organizations.
  • It has been evaluated and rejected as the only appropriate method for background checks after numerous public hearings at the state Public Utilities Commission.
  • It has been evaluated and rejected after numerous public hearings in the state Legislature as the only appropriate method for background checks.
  • Across the country, dozens of states and cities have evaluated and rejected fingerprint background checks as the only appropriate method for background checks.

There are other ways to ensure background checks that are accurate, efficient and effective. Yet even the consideration of such options was ignored in San Jose.

Hundreds of thousands of rides have been lawfully and safely provided by San Jose neighbors who drive for Lyft, Sidecar and Uber for other San Jose neighbors. Tens of millions of safe rides have been provided around the country.

But when you fly into San Jose International Airport, don’t expect a ride home by a rideshare company. The City Council just left you at the curb.

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Whine or Win; It’s our Choice

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May 21  |  Education, Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Whine or win; it’s our choice.

Are we here to whine about our problems, or work together for solutions?

On Friday, May 29, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and 24 incredibly diverse community partners will co-host our 4th Annual Regional Economic Forum, bringing together leaders from throughout the region.

The purpose of the forum will be to truly tackle what we call THEE issues.

The “T” is for Transportation & Traffic.

The “H” is for Housing & Homelessness.

The “E” is for Education & Workforce.

The second “E” is for Equity & Economic Opportunity.

Yes, we all know those issues are among the top challenges we face in Silicon Valley. But here’s the catch: No one at our Regional Economic Forum is allowed to whine about the problem, or re-state the challenge. Panelists and participants will only be allowed to discuss solutions – and preferably solutions that they will either personally lead or support.

When it comes to real solutions for transportation, housing, education and economic opportunity, it is past time we stopped whining, and focused on winning solutions to these seemingly intractable problems. We can continue to wring our hands together in discouragement, or join our hands together with encouragement.

If you agree, then come join us. Find out more at

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