An 'hourglass economy' seriously affects transportation. The tech boom has seen a boost in top salaries and a proliferation of low-wage jobs with less growth in the middle. As housing targets the high end, low-wage earners commute long distances. Or they live in overcrowded, frequently dangerous conditions. In short, we need to serve both ends of a highly bifurcated travel market?to make the commute bearable, and the air breathable, for everyone. That means different trips at different hours-and on different budgets.
And, long term, it explains why mid-range jobs and affordable housing reduce the need for travel.
There's a reason why rush-hour Caltrain expresses empty out south of Mountain View. As Santa Clara Valley widens, communities sprawl, and stations seem more remote. Better feeder buses or better bus service period could make a difference.
Express buses and busways are part of the 'Grand Boulevard' vision for El Camino Real. But so are bikeways, protected lanes that make bike travel safer and more attractive. Increasing bike use can be a boon to local businesses. In fact, encouraging neighborhood businesses, along with wider sidewalks and attractive landscaping, could render much of El Camino 'strollable,' more of a place to hang out, shop and enjoy.
Our existing transit network is disjointed and full of unnecessary barriers. On Saturday, one presenter illustrated the commute path through San Francisco's Embarcadero station. The switch from BART to Muni (buses or trams) involves a ludicrous trip through several turnstiles. By contrast, in Germany a one-click transit pass takes you through multiple transit systems?and car rental companies. There are no turnstiles or barriers, as in Caltrain, with nothing but spot checks (proof of payment).
Would it make sense to bring the Bay Area's 24 transit companies under one administrative umbrella? Depends on how it's done. More than 40 transit companies serve Zürich, for example and they are mandated to work together, which they do. Voters in the Seattle area recently voted for tighter integration among local transit systems.