Transportation manifesto for Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley rail plan. We have a lot of work to do. (Google Maps)

Silicon Valley rail plan. We have a lot of work to do. (Google Maps)


Since we’re in the mood for blowing away the entrenched establishment, it’s time we remapped the valley’s transportation network — more light rail and fewer cars.

I’ve been seeing what’s coming down the pike — the urban village — which is another word for Europeanization. I’m all for it. It’s happening in your back yard, along Winchester Boulevard, Stevens Creek Boulevard, Mountain View’s San Antonio area, Tasman Drive in Santa Clara, north First Street in San Jose.

Denser housing is a way to maintain regional growth, but when it comes to finding ways for these new residents to get around, we bury our heads in the sand and rely on cars. This lack of transportation planning can’t continue on its present trajectory.

All we have to do is adopt the model of cities like Zurich, which rely on light rail for short trips and regional trains between cities. There are still cars, just not so many. Bicycles play a bigger role, especially in the Netherlands where 31 percent of the populace count cycling as their main mode of transportation.

I included a map of Silicon Valley where light rail could run, shown in red. We can start with major corridors like: Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Tomas Expressway, El Camino Real, Central Expressway, Lawrence Expressway, Sunnyvale-Saratoga Road, Homestead Road, Winchester Boulevard, etc. Many of these historical routes had light rail, back in the late 1800s.

There’s plenty of room for a lane of car traffic (more one-way roads), maybe even two lanes, and bike lanes. We can keep the freeways as is.

You might think that the autonomous car will solve all our traffic problems. Not so. Some experts predict there will be even more traffic. Robot cars will greatly reduce accidents, but they’re not the answer. Light rail is the ultimate solution. Autonomous vehicles will be useful for those with special needs and, of course, the uber wealthy.

From attending recent community outreach programs with Caltrans and Valley Transportation Authority, I get the impression these government entities are stuck in the past. They need a wake-up call.

Zurich transportation map. Rail line everywhere.

Zurich transportation map. Rail line everywhere.

5 Responses to “Transportation manifesto for Silicon Valley”

  1. Grego Says:

    The New York City subway system is also very impressive.

  2. Brian Ward Says:

    Also check out SEPTA’s rail map (http://www.septa.org/maps/system/) to see how one unified transit agency’s system looks in the US. Much of the regional rail system is using infrastructure first built more than a century ago, with the remarkable exception of the Center City Commuter Connection.

    Light rail fanatics would do well to check out Vienna’s system (http://www.wienerlinien.at/media/files/2016/gesamtnetzplan_wien_176236.pdf). Every thin red line there is a streetcar. In addition, one of the amazing things about this particular system is that the buses actually don’t suck.

  3. tfunk408 Says:

    I agree that rail is the way to go but we should also consider why there is such a need in the first place: all the jobs are along the Peninsula whereas all the housing is in the South Bay and East Bay. If we cannot put affordable, denser housing where the jobs are, perhaps we can figure out how to bring jobs to where people live.

  4. RMRN Says:

    Sure, light rail, but how about just running buses on that grid. Last night I watched the auto traffic volume on Lawrence Expy. It is enormous, same on San Tomas, and, except for 2 infrequent express buses, there is no mass transit alternative that does not have a 300% time penalty vs. driving a car.

    • Ray Hosler Says:

      I don’t know the economics, but I suspect that it’s cheaper in the long run to use rail. However, the equation would change with autonomous vehicles since you eliminate drivers. This website delves into the issues: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2011/05/25/the-silly-argument-over-brt-and-rail/ . My concern about autonomous vehicles is that they will actually result in decreased bike riding, even though it will be immensely safer. My logic is that all the reasons for NOT driving will be removed — fewer traffic jams, no need to own a car, etc. We’ll see…

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