Being the pivot point of the tech industry brings with it many benefits as the city of Mountain View can attest with its 3.3% unemployment rate and impressive tax revenues from Google, its largest taxpayer. But with the windfall comes the downside of skyrocketing home prices and ever-increasing gridlock on freeways and surface streets. Many of the biggest tech giants have plans for impressive expansion but traffic congestion is threatening to stall tech growth, especially in Mountain View’s North Bayshore district.
Tech companies account for 27% of jobs in the Silicon Valley compared to 7% in California and 5% nationwide. Google alone employs 20,000 people and many of those commute to and from its Mountain View headquarters, pushing the city’s transportation grid to its limits. The city’s land-use plan entails ‘priority transportation improvements’ that include key projects and improvements to existing streets.
The 500-acre North Bayshore district is home for LinkedIn, Google, Intuit and Microsoft, four key tech players in the Valley. All have ambitious growth plans and they will need to collaborate to adhere to the new rules that both regulate traffic and create new infrastructure.
There are two key deliverables for companies wanting to build in North Bayshore.
- Reducing drive-alone trips by 10% for ALL district holdings to 45% or less between 7 and 10am.
- A reduction in traffic counts on Shoreline Boulevard, Rengstorff Avenue, and San Antonio Road to meet strict new limits
In addition, these four corporations must work together to implement and fund infrastructure improvements including pedestrian bridges, improved sidewalks and bicycle crossings to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. These projects must be completed prior to all office space construction breaking ground or the city could deny building permits and possibly impose fees on drivers entering the area. One enhancement involves extending a frontage road to connect Shoreline and Rengstorff but it would also entail Google giving up some of its current office space, something the company is not willing to do at this time.
“Our problem is that we have too many good jobs,” states Leonard M. Siegel, an environmental activist who was recently elected to the Mountain View City Council. “Everyone else wishes they were in our situation, but it’s a crisis for the people here.”
Accommodating tech expansion while also minimizing traffic is a growing trend in many regions. Mountain View’s North Bayshore traffic plan is in the experimental stage but if it comes to fruition, it could serve as a model for other areas within the Silicon Valley.