Silicon Valley is the 19th largest economy of the world. With its stunning vistas and idyllic weather, the region is also one of the most beautiful and desirable places in the world to live. But the area, which spans the most populous counties in the Bay Area, has been impacted with a severe lack of affordable housing and painful traffic logjams. This has led to a slow exodus of high tech companies and talent from Silicon Valley.
Skyrocketing housing costs are pushing people farther away from their jobs, or out of the valley altogether. The homeless population in California is 47 percent of all homeless in the United States. This is a colossal failure on our part. We are losing the diversity of talent as teachers, firefighters, and artists can no longer find affordable housing.
The Silicon Valley region remains a hotbed of innovation, but has created only one housing unit for every six new jobs between 2010 and 2015.2 We need more housing and housing that is affordable.
Workers now commute across punishing distances, stuck in traffic and losing time with their loved ones. Almost 169,073 commuters drive into Silicon Valley every day. Our public transportation is woefully inadequate; while the ill-conceived, archaic Bullet Train is dying a slow death somewhere in California after splurging billions of dollars.
Our elected leaders have been unable to offer Silicon Valley a plan to solve the housing crisis and our traffic woes. California bills such as SB 35 and SB 50 seek to preempt local control over housing, tying the hands of local elected leaders and forcing high-density housing upon our neighbors. With this push to “build, build, build,” there is much concern from residents about how this would change the “small town” character, leading to increased traffic and affecting the quality of our lives. Yet the fact remains that more housing is needed.
Transportation is the answer.
A cutting-edge, tunnel-enclosed high-speed transportation system based on Hyperloop technology will bring 12.2 million people living in the 21 counties of the Northern California mega-region within a short commute of Silicon Valley jobs; and affordable homes within 21 minutes of Silicon Valley workers. Operating at average speeds of 600 mph (top speed 760 mph) the eco-friendly and noise-free Hyperloop could cross the 150 miles between Yuba City and San Jose in under 15 minutes.
What does this mean for the average Silicon Valley worker?
The median price for a home in the San Jose region is an unaffordable $1.3 million, whereas a median-price in Yuba City is only about $300,000. With a high speed transit system, people could afford a decent home within an easy commute of work. They could walk their child to school in the morning, hop on the Hyperloop, put in a full day’s work and be back in time to help with homework before dinner.
The entire Northern California mega-region would become part of a Mega Silicon Valley innovation economy, experiencing increased opportunity, retaining talent and providing affordable housing options for all.
Silicon Valley powers the economy of California and of the United States. Investing in its infrastructure will pay tremendous dividends to all.
The Mega Silicon Valley Vision
- Create an efficient public transportation system with cutting-edge high-speed, eco-friendly, tunnel-enclosed transportation.
- Fund this initiative through P3 (public-private partnership) agreements. P3 agreements can allow faster and more efficient development of needed infrastructure projects at lower cost and less risk to the taxpayer.
- Establish a regional housing enterprise that spreads housing out to cities in the nine-county bay area (phase 1) and to 21 counties around Silicon Valley (phase 2).
- Bring federal funds for Mega Silicon Valley’s infrastructure needs.
Outcomes of a Mega Silicon Valley
- Increased affordable housing options for workers all across this mega-region, reduced homelessness.
- Reduced traffic congestion, commute times, pollution with an enhanced quality of life.
- Economic expansion of Silicon Valley, seeding our innovation and expanding jobs throughout the region.
- A renewed influx of the best talent to Silicon Valley to help with Silicon Valley’s technology domination
- An increase in opportunity for new start-ups as well as local expansion of existing companies, positioning our economy for sustained success.
Rishi Kumar, a self-described progressive capitalist, is running for against Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) in the 18th Congressional District. Kumar is currently a high-tech executive, Saratoga councilman and executive board member of the California Democratic Party (AD 28). Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].