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Bay Area Employers Increasingly Consider Transportation As Part Of Site Selection

Rapid job growth in the Bay Area has meant worsening commutes. Traffic and transportation have fast become an important topic of discussion among employers, and locations with access to transit are becoming top priorities.

CityLift CEO Scott Gable, Uber Head of Global Workspace Adony Beniares, Bradac Co. founder and CEO Amy Bradac and MBH Architects founding principal John McNulty

“Transportation for employees is at or near the top of what we worry about,” Uber Head of Global Workspace Adony Beniares said.

The company pays close attention to where employees live. About half of its employees live in the North Bay and North Peninsula while a quarter live in the East Bay and another quarter live in the South Bay.

The San Francisco Bay Area has the third-worst traffic in the country and commuters drive a collective 146 million miles per year, MBH Architects founding principal John McNulty said during Bisnow’s San Francisco State of the Market event Wednesday.

Those miles equate to 80 hours per driver at the cost of $1,700 each, he said. About 18% of commuters use public transit while 5% walk to work. 

Location, Location, Location

Yelp Head of Facilities John Lieu

Bradac Co. founder and CEO Amy Bradac, who has helped Uber with office site selection, said location is becoming an important office amenity and was a big part of Uber’s office search along Market Street.

Uber picks locations that are transit-friendly, such as its under-construction Mission Bay campus that has access to Muni, BART and Caltrain, Beniares said. To improve commutes, Uber will offer staggered in and out hours, shared pools, work-from-home policies and allow workers to work at the office closest to the employee, Beniares said.

Yelp also prefers to put offices where employees can use mass transit, according to Yelp Head of Facilities John Lieu. Yelp prefers locations with great local amenities where employees can get food, drinks or go to gyms and support small businesses.

How New Transit Options Could Improve Commutes

MBH Architects founding principal John McNulty, Caltrain CEO Jim Hartnett, Unitronics CEO Yair Goldberg and Uber Head of Global Workspace Adony Beniares

Improved public transportation and new technologies from driverless cars and shuttles to more ferry services are in the works, but there will be no immediate fixes, speakers said. Electrification of Caltrain will make the commuter line even more accessible as Caltrain will be able to add more stops and offer quicker service, Caltrain CEO Jim Hartnett said. The agency secured federal funding for electrification in 2017 for the line running from San Francisco to San Jose.

While Transbay Terminal’s first phase nears completion, the second phase, which would bring Caltrain much farther into the city, remains up in the air following Mayor Ed Lee’s sudden death. Hartnett said this project was a high priority for Lee, and it could be some time before project funding and the route to Transbay Terminal from Fourth and King is finalized.

Caltrain also has been working on ways to use its land to build housing projects. It is looking into a project in San Carlos and is considering sites along the Peninsula. It will play a part in Google’s massive San Jose campus near Diridon Station. Other transit ideas under consideration include the creation of toll lanes along the 101 in San Mateo County that could be used to control congestion, he said.

Public-private partnerships could be instrumental in improving transit. Caltrain has been in ongoing discussions with Facebook about ways to use a derelict Dumbarton rail bridge, which once served as a freight line, into a commuter rail bridge. Hartnett said repurposing that bridge could cost $1B.

Unitronics CEO Yair Goldberg

Uber itself has been instrumental in helping commuters and residents fill the gap between mass transit and a commuter's destination. Beniares said there are likely tens of thousands of Uber drivers in the Bay Area and many drive less than 15 hours a week. With more part-time drivers, this means there is typically a ride available when passengers need one.

The future could even hold a world where there are no drivers, Beniares said.

Automated vehicles hold a great deal of potential, especially since they could drive people to work and park themselves. These cars could remote park, recharge, clean themselves and pay for parking before they pick up commuters, Unitronics CEO Yair Goldberg said.

How people drive cars in the future also will impact how and in what way developers consider parking. Goldberg said his company has been designing ways that parking structures can be repurposed as less parking is needed.