Transportation

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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Traffic Woes: Solutions that Unite Us

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December 11  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought … While there’s some value in columns that divide us, it’s much more satisfying to work on solutions that can unite us.

San Jose Mercury News’ recent column from Michelle Quinn about “The Commute That Divides Us” is a great example. The region’s traffic woes and lack of transit options have led many proactive employers to personally fund shuttle buses for employees. Those shuttle buses daily remove thousands of cars off our roads and tens of thousands of Greenhouse Gases from our atmosphere. Instead of applauding those efforts, they’re often attacked.

Let’s all acknowledge the more holistic solution is for true transportation solutions in our region. That’s why the Silicon Valley Leadership Group has personally led four successful transportation funding measures in the past three decades, providing $10 billion in locally funded improvements that we all pay for and all benefit from. It’s also why we’ve indicated our willingness to help lead a new measure in 2016, to benefit all residents. Traffic relief, cleaner air, construction jobs, stronger economy. It adds up to transportation solutions that unite us. Now that’s worth writing about.

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“Market Share” for Caltrain Service

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October 30  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought: Market share for Caltrain

“Market Share” is a typical Silicon Valley term, but not always applied to our transportation choices.

Our new Caltrain Commuter Coalition – a partnership between the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Bay Area Council, SPUR and SAMCEDA, along with cutting-edge companies such as LinkedIn, Google and HP – believe that Caltrain Commuter Rail Service should gain “market share” in the Highway 101 corridor.

Ridership numbers on the 150-year-old system are already impressive: 61,000 weekday passenger trips. Yet the Leadership Group believes we can double those numbers – from 61,000 daily trips to more than 120,000 daily trips – in the next decade.

Then, Caltrain would gain true “market share” in the Highway 101 corridor. This would benefit commuters who currently are stuck in their cars and provide more room for thousands of commuters who would prefer riding in the comfort of Caltrain’s cars.

Our Caltrain Commuter Coalition will be advocating for the funds needed to fully electrify the line, lengthen the stations to accommodate more cars per train, heighten the platforms for quicker boarding, repair bridges to enhance safety and provide cost-effective grade separations for safer and quicker service.

More riders, cleaner air, stronger economy, better quality of life. Earning “market share” for Caltrain during the next decade is an idea whose time has come. Join us. Get on board.

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Timing is Everything

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June 11  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Timing is everything; especially in elections.

Let’s face it; Silicon Valley traffic is terrible, and the conditions of our roads in most of our cities are even worse.

We need to fix our road and transit networks, and we need to do it now.

Yet we live in a democracy, and a democracy that requires a two-thirds vote for local tax increases.

As private citizens, the members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group have led four successful transportation sales tax campaigns in the past 30 years, generating more than $12 billion dollars in vital transportation improvements.

We are willing to help lead such an effort again – but this is where timing comes in. Based on the dismal voter turnout in the June 3 primary election, bringing out a record low number of voters, we now expect a very low turnout this November. Low turnouts do not bode well for transportation funding measures, so the Leadership Group Board has made the painful decision to wait – made more painful by the fact that our employees and families are waiting in traffic jams that need to be addressed. Our original goal was a potential measure in November of 2016, the next presidential election. That is once again our goal.

If you are as frustrated with traffic as we are – join us. Contact me at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Together, we have led measures that built Highway 85, improved Highways 237 and 101, are building the BART extension and funded key improvements for Caltrain Commuter Rail. We have a record of collective success, but much more work to do. Together, in 2016, we can do it.

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Traffic Relief

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April 25  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . If you don’t ask, you don’t know.

Annually, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group commissions a professional survey of 600 likely Silicon Valley voters. As a policy organization consisting of nearly 400 CEOs and senior officers, it is important for us to understand if the concerns expressed in board rooms are similar to the concerns conveyed in our employee’s living rooms.

Our most recent survey was completed on April 13. We asked voters for their views on housing and homelessness, traffic and transportation, education and the economy, taxes and fees. The responses underscored, in this visionary Valley, that voters still want to invest in making our communities better. This was clearly conveyed in the questions about transportation.

  • When voters were asked if they would once again tax themselves for specific transportation improvements:
  • More than 2/3 said YES for Phase II of the BART extension, from Berryessa to downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.
  • More than 2/3 said YES for Caltrain commuter rail improvements from Gilroy to Palo Alto.
  • More than 2/3 said YES for street maintenance and pothole repairs in all 15 cities and towns.
  • More than 2/3 said YES to improve all eight county expressways: Almaden, Capitol, Central, Foothill, Lawrence, Montague, Oregon, San Tomas.
  • More than 2/3 said YES to bike and pedestrian improvements, especially near schools.
  • And more than 2/3 said YES to transit services for seniors and the disabled.

Our question – which will have to be thoughtfully considered by all stakeholders – is simple: Is the timing right to invest again?

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Supervisors Chiu and Wiener Show Courage and Conviction

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April 17  |  Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Effective leaders combine courage and conviction with the pragmatic need to build coalitions and common ground.

Recently, in the City and County of San Francisco, such skills were readily apparent in the strong leadership of Board of Supervisors’ President David Chiu and Supervisor Scott Weiner.

Their leadership is especially appreciated as it was around the politically contentious issue of shuttle buses.

Those opposing shuttle buses, with tactics ranging from blocking buses and making speeches, to destructive and divisive tactics like throwing rocks and shouting insults, would make many politicians cower or conform. Not so with Supervisors Chiu and Weiner. Why? Because the facts about the benefits of shuttles still far outweigh the drawbacks – and companies who care enough about their employees and our communities to provide these services should be lauded, not lambasted.

Consider the facts:

  • Shuttle buses remove 20 million vehicle miles traveled annually.
  • 28 percent of shuttle bus riders forgo even owning a car.
  • Shuttles take 9,000 tons of greenhouse gases annually out of our atmosphere.
  • These shuttles eliminate 327,000 annual single passenger trips.

Courage. Conviction. Words we do not always hear associated with elected officials. Kudos to Chiu and Wiener for reminding us that leaders still exist, and are still effective.

An Attack is an Opportunity to Correct

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March 12  |  Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . Attacks are often opportunities to correct, rather than cower.

A wonderful opportunity recently occurred from a somewhat surprising source: A column in the well-respected San Francisco Chronicle that referenced our 11th Annual CEO Survey. The columnist opined: “… that Silicon Valley somehow operates in a self-contained world of greatness, where it takes no responsibility for the very problems it complains about.”

What a head-scratcher.

Here’s what our nearly 400 member companies have done to address broad community issues.

On housing, the Leadership Group:

  • Created the nation’s most innovative Housing Trust Fund, which has raised nearly $70 million in voluntary contributions, leveraging $2 billion in private development, already assisting more than 10,000 families.
  • Was one of two Co-Chairs of the 2002 $2.1 billion statewide Housing Bond and the 2006 $2.85 billion statewide Housing Bond, which provided housing opportunities for more than 200,000 low income Californians.
  • Is currently convening major Silicon Valley stakeholders to determine what meaningful and measurable role we can play to help eradicate homelessness in Silicon Valley. Homelessness is not a “bottom-line business issue,” per se, but a moral imperative to help the most vulnerable in our Valley.

On traffic, the Leadership Group:

  • Has led, not just supported, four successive sales tax measures collectively contributing $10 billion for regional transportation improvements, including:
    • A 1984 measure to fund Highways 85, 101 and 237.
    • A 1996 measure to fund 19 key road and transit improvements, all delivered on-time and on-budget.
    • Measures in 2000 and 2008 to fund the Silicon Valley BART extension and major Caltrain improvements.
  • Currently, we are convening stakeholder meetings for a new traffic relief measure slated for the 2016 ballot.

When one considers that businesses in Silicon Valley pay more than 40 cents of every dollar in sales taxes collected, this investment in our communities are costs we cannot pass on as we compete globally.

On taxes, the Leadership Group has:

  • Supported more tax increase proposals than it has ever opposed, including measures we have championed for education parcel taxes and school bonds, housing, homelessness, transportation, open space, parks, flood protection, clean water and even general fund revenue for local governments.

Yes, attacks can be opportunities. My goal is not to attack back, but to dialogue rather than to give in to divisiveness. The Chronicle columnist would have known better had he picked up the phone before picking up his pen.

CEO Survey: Seeking Solutions

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March 5  |  Education, Federal Issues, Housing, Tax Policy, Transportation  |   Carl Guardino

Here’s food for thought . . . If we want to increase employment, then let’s learn from employers.

Annually, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group conducts a “CEO Business Climate Survey,” seeking direct input from the innovators and entrepreneurs who drive our region’s economy.

This year, 222 executives responded. The results are enlightening:

  • Last year, 2013, 62 percent added jobs in Silicon Valley, with only 9 percent subtracting jobs.
  • This year, 2014, 59 percent expect to add jobs here in Silicon Valley, with only 4 percent anticipating job losses.

Indeed, Silicon Valley continues to lead California and our country when it comes to job growth and economic recovery.

So what do employers, and our employees, need from policy makers to stay successful in innovation and job creation?

  • Locally, CEOs call for improvements on our local streets, roads and transit systems so that employees and their families can get around. We need quality schools for our children, and homes that working families can afford.
  • At the state level, we need meaningful investments in infrastructure to repair aging roads and ease traffic congestion. We need sensible solutions to the high cost of housing and investments in K-12 and higher education.
  • From Congress, we need immigration reform that ensures the best and the brightest can compete for our companies rather than against us, and tax reform that is fair to workers and keep our companies competitive.

This year’s CEO Business Climate Survey underscores that executives are willing to speak out, to search for solutions, to invest in answers. Silicon Valley’s innovation does not end within the walls of our companies, it extends through the neighborhoods in our communities.

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