Op-Ed: 21 Minutes or Less Between 21 Counties

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].

11 Comments

  1. The smart answer would be to move some of the high tech industry out too the affordable San Joaquin and Sacramento Valley. Hyper looping more people into town will just hyper jam the rest of the bay area. Beside first time there is a hyper crash and hyper dust body parts, few people would want to ride the damn thing any way.

  2. I admire your spirit Mr Kumar. If the bay area were SimCity, you would be right on, but its not. Once this runs up against the NIMBY, environmentalists, and the predatory lawyers, the cost of it will be in the Trillions. Figure out how to have electronic buses get priority point to point, perhaps, but new dedicated infrastructure around the bay to compete with the borg that is BART, good luck.

  3. Absolutely the wrong answer. Housing and (clean, quiet) jobs need to be in the same place. Transportation priorities should be focused on moving people around within their local region before splurging on extreme commute exurban development subsidies. The last thing we need is to pave over the last open space and agricultural areas. Northern California has already become sick with the same ills which killed the quality of life in Southern California. We need to grow up not sprawl out. I am stunned by Mr. Kumar’s lack of sophistication with his op-ed. I had been glad to see Anna Eshoo receive some competition but am now very disappointed with the lack of choice yet again.

    • Housing , clean, quiet, jobs in the same place. You must be George Jetson. I’ve escaped Silicon Valley’s urban sprawl, it’s clean, quiet, and housing is wonderful, jobs are ten miles away. Stack and pack housing is for old retired widows, and no place to raise children. Children OMG who does that any more? Well the same people that will commute 2 hours each way to work 6 days a week. Yes we shouldn’t rip up the best farming region in the world to build stack and pack housing and toxic factories, but Detroit, Baltimore, Oakland or Stockton should do fine.

    • I agree with davepoeschel’s comment: Transportation priorities should be focused on moving people around within their local region. That is why I and others are working on a Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) project for the area around the Milpitas BART station. If we can get a significant percentage of cars off the road locally, then long-distance commuters (who are helping balance the jobs/housing imbalance created by 30% more jobs over the past 10 years) won’t have such a long/congested commute. To achieve that congestion reduction will require an area-wide PRT system like the one suggested here: http://sunnyhillsneighborhood.org/area.html It would be a far more cost-effective use of transit funds than the BART Burrow.

  4. “Mr. Madison, what you just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response, were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

  5. Hyperloop is a backbone transportation solution. It’s not clear it it is feasible or affordable. However, it’s clear that it doesn’t address the last-mile challenge. Without a last-mile transportation answer, no mass transit in the South Bay will work.

  6. > Bring federal funds for Mega Silicon Valley’s infrastructure needs.

    You have it exactly backwards, Mr. Kumar.

    The socialists in the rest of America are looking to suck tax funds from “wealthy” Silicon Valley to provide federal funds to pay for the infrastructure needs of Peoria, Flynt, and Chappaqua.

    Any plan that assumes a big chunk of cash is going to fall out of federal heaven and land on our doorstep and allow everyone to have a pet unicorn is not a “plan”, it is a fairy tale.

  7. This is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard. He is running for Congress, which has zero ability to convert our laws governing ABAG and MTC, those were voted in by the state legislature. He is talking about doing a job that won’t be his. If anyone votes for this person they drank his koolaid. He has been poisonous for Saratoga, saying what he thinks people want to hear and very rarely being prepared for a meeting. I’ve watched him walk into an appointed commission meeting late then ask a few question, all of which were explained in his packet/staff report. He’s unethical, unaware and the type of politician that make the general public sick and distrust politicians.

    DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS MAN! He knows not what he wants and votes which way the wind blows.

    • > This is one of the worst ideas I’ve heard.

      Kumar sounds like a strong finalist in the competition for dumbest bay area politician.

      It’s a stiff competition and people don’t get this far on just raw talent. It requires commitment and work.

      Think of all the people he has had to beat to get this far!

  8. All of this hinges on the untested technology of hyperloop? If we Americans and Californians can’t even come together anymore to build a high speed rail system from southern to northern California, I’m not sure how we’re supposed to do the same for a pneumatic human transport system.

    I agree with others comments here, where the last mile is always a challenge that needs to be address, at the same time as the regional solutions, and that getting cars off the roads should still be a priority.

    I don’t want to come off as a Luddite or naysayer when it comes to new technologies and ideas. Indeed, experimenting with air powered transportation does indeed sound enticing, but let’s do it in a bit more of a controlled way. For instance, how about connecting Fresno to Stockton and then Sacramento. Less physical obstacles, it’s a straight-line shot, rights of way are established, and if successful, it can be built out from there to the bay area as well as to SoCal.

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