Silicon Valley braces for nightmare traffic in 2019
Silicon Valley commuters clog the highway as people travel between work and home in this file photo.

    Traffic congestion continues to be a major concern among employers in the Bay Area, and some fear the commute problems could end Silicon Valley’s worldwide appeal.

    Companies, meanwhile, are coming up with new strategies to get their employees to work in 2019.

    The Bay Area Council says that the commute problems affect the business climate, and there is no sign of relief.

    “Traffic gridlock is no friend to business or our economy. It lowers productivity. It increases costs. It reduces our quality of life. And it certainly is one factor for businesses and workers deciding to come here, stay here or grow here”, says Rufus Jeffris, spokesman for the Bay Area Council, which represents Apple, Google, Facebook, Oracle and a host of other firms.

    Is the situation getting worse?

    “It’s hard to imagine that Bay Area traffic can get any worse,” he said. “The region’s traffic consistently ranks among the worst in the country. Average commute times, miles travelled in congestion and time spent in traffic are all at record highs.”

    A study from global staffing firm Robert Half published last year showed one in every three employees working in San Francisco quit a job during their lifetime because of long commutes across the Bay Area.

    Jeffris is, however, still optimistic about finding solutions.

    “Fortunately, Bay Area businesses and voters are determined to fix the problem,” he said. “We’ve approved over $13 billion in new regional and local funding over the past five years to invest in improving and expanding public transit and fixing some of our worst traffic chokepoints. There are no quick fixes, but these investments can and will have an impact over time.”

    One trending solution is managed corporate carpools, which allow coworkers to share cars, save costs and even get paid by their employers.

    “Carpooling is the cheapest and easiest solution that will produce the greatest capacity increase on our roads and highways – it doesn’t involve building expensive new highways or mass transit systems,” Jeffris said.

    Scoop Technologies, which helps companies set up managed corporate carpools, has a growing list of customers in the Bay Area.

    “Many companies are concerned about the commute´s impact on their workforce,” said Annie Dreshfield, head of communications at Scoop. “We partner with them to empower them to offer an impactful carpool solution to their employees, ultimately helping them be happier, less stressed and more productive.”

    Scoop’s list of customers in the Bay Area includes LinkedIn with a headquarters in Sunnyvale, Mountain view-based Symantec, Cisco in San Jose and Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto.

    Jamie Jarvis, director of Sustainable Transportation Programs at Stanford Research Park, said thousands of her colleagues have downloaded and use the Scoop app.

    The Bay Area Council is working on two initiatives that leaders say can be game changers.

    “One involves an innovative, but nascent carpooling technology that we think holds great promise. We’ll have more on this in the coming months,” Jeffris said. “We’re also working on a massive regional transportation solution, but it’s still a few months off before we have any official announcement.”

    Another commute solution, that’s been around for years, is corporate shuttles.

    In San Francisco, about 400 corporate shuttles operate everyday, driving office workers to and from work. But the shuttles are a common sight also around San Jose — and the numbers and routes are increasing.

    Big Bay Area tech companies with shuttles for employees includes Apple, Google, Electronic Arts, Yahoo and Ebay. Some offer door-to-door service, while others use nodal points for pickup.

    But not all the big tech companies have shuttles to and from San Francisco — which is a sticking point for some.

    “We have an office in San Francisco where some employees chose to work, if we didn’t it would probably be more difficult to recruit while we don’t have any shuttles”, says Amanda Svensson Marvel, Group Account Director at Agency Inside, Intel.

    Intel also offers pre-tax dollars on transportation costs such as transit passes, premier parking spaces for carpools, and bike rider/walker amenities.

    Ericsson, also based in Santa Clara, has subsidized transfers with Lyft from the nearest Caltrain station, but that plan will end this month.

    “Both Caltrain and ACE offer free shuttle service to major office parks, including where Ericsson is located”, said Jimmy Duvall, public relations director at Ericsson. Jeffris of the Bay Area Council said companies are also heavily engaged with regional and local transportation agencies and planners to promote and support various mass transit solutions, like re-opening the Dumbarton Bridge rail corridor, electrifying and modernizing Caltrain and locating new offices near new and existing mass transit hubs like the Diridon Station in San Jose.

    Contact Magaretha Levander at [email protected] or follow her @MargLevander on Twitter.

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