Transportation

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 svlg.org/regional-economic-forum-2015.

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CEO Survey: When the Economy is Hot, the Quality of Life is Not

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May 13  |  Housing, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Often, when our economy is hot, our quality of life is not.

This is certainly the case in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, where our regional unemployment rate is near an historic low of 4.2 percent.

In the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s just released “CEO Biz Climate Survey” of nearly 220 CEOs, nearly 2 of every 3 plan to add jobs – in the region – this year.

Amazingly, only 2 percent of the CEOs surveyed – or just five companies – anticipate making lay-offs here in the region in 2015.

That is a hot economy.

But with growth come growing pains, which we see every day on our highways and local streets and roads. Traffic congestion is the second highest concern of CEOs in the boardroom and of working families in their living rooms.

And speaking of living rooms, the high cost of housing is the highest concern – both of CEOs and our workers and their families.

So let’s celebrate the success of Silicon Valley’s innovation economy, but not for a moment must we stop working on the challenges that come with our success.

To learn more about this year’s CEO Survey, visit the Leadership Group at svlg.org/press/library.

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Food for Thought . . . Hope or Hustle?

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February 17  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino
Bena Chang, Vice President of Transportation, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Bena Chang, Vice President of Transportation, Silicon Valley Leadership Group

Here’s food for thought . . . “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle.”

Abraham Lincoln’s words are as true today as they were when he wrote them a century-and-a-half ago.

Lincoln’s logic also applies to the hard work and creativity of our Silicon Valley Leadership Group “CEO Airport Task Force,” created five years ago in partnership with then San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed and new Mayor Sam Liccardo. The goal, then and now: To add more direct international and domestic flights into and out of San Jose International Airport.

Today, we celebrate Hainan Airlines’ announcement of a direct flight between San Jose and Beijing. Service will begin on June 15, with five direct weekly flights on the 787 Dreamliner, the most comfortable commercial plane in the skies.

Two years ago – January 11, 2013 – we successfully landed direct air service between San Jose and Tokyo, on All Nippon Airlines, which now has service seven days a week, also on a 787 Dreamliner.

Our next international target – direct service between San Jose and Seoul – is a vital link for the semiconductor and telecommunications industries.

Yet, as Lincoln intoned, these successes didn’t happen because we simply waited and hoped they would. They happened because our Airport Task Force and two successive Mayors worked to secure the flights, and continue to work to ensure the planes are filled.

Hope or hustle? It is the difference between dreaming and doing. And that hard work has landed another direct flight out of San Jose International.

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I Hate Taxes. But I Hate Traffic More.

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January 28  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . I hate taxes. But I hate traffic more.

The gas tax, the primary source of state and federal transportation funds for the past century, may not long survive this century. More fuel-efficient cars, all-electric cars and fully autonomous cars are here or on the horizon, and they are gaining market share.

Because of this, the California Transportation Commission, which I Chair, recently appointed a Road Charge Task Force, consisting of 17 Californians with the task to recommend a pilot program to ultimately replace the gas tax. The Task Force will look for a more stable, long-term source of funds as an alternative to the gas tax.

In 1994, when the gas tax was increased to 18 cents a gallon, no one would have known that just two decades later the buying power on that tax would have been cut in half. That’s why Governor Brown wisely called for solutions to fill the $59 billion hole in our deteriorating system of roads, highways and bridges.

This task also will need all Californians to engage in this conversation, so we can collectively determine our path forward. It may sound like a rocky road – but it cannot be any rockier than the pothole-infested roads on which we currently drive.

Join us. Go to the CTC website and provide your questions and potential solutions to re-build our roads in a not-too-distant future when we will need to wean ourselves away from the gas tax.

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BART: Time to Make the Dream Reality

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January 14  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . It’s time to bring BART to Downtown San Jose.

In his inaugural speech, new San José Mayor Sam Liccardo struck a chord when he said that it is time to finish the BART extension to Downtown San Jose.

It was, in fact, the biggest applause line of the night, before a crowd of 2,300 people.

I bet you feel the same way. So how do we take this vital vision from rhetoric to reality?

First, the extension from Fremont to Berryessa is on-track. The 10-mile segment is a full year ahead of schedule and $70 million under budget. Service should begin in the summer of 2017.

Second, there is more than $1 billion set aside from voter-approved funding measures in 2000, and the on-going operations costs from a 2008 voter-approved measure.

Third, the firm commitment of a new Mayor, who co-led both the 2000 and 2008 campaigns, working with his predecessors Ron Gonzales and Chuck Reed.

Next, we need additional funding from local, state and federal sources to finish the job.

The final 6-mile extension – with all four stations (Alum Rock, Downtown, Diridon and Santa Clara) – produce ridership numbers for all 16-miles above 90,000 daily passenger trips.

That’s why, with Mayor Liccardo, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group heads to D.C. on March 17-19 to make the case to our federal partners. It’s why we often meet with state leaders, and why we will continue to champion local funds.

Big dreams don’t happen when we’re asleep. No, dreams come true when we are awake – and working to fulfill them – like BART all the way to Downtown San Jose.

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