One of the major threats facing Silicon Valley today has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the recent government crackdown on technology privacy or encryption – we’re looking at you CISPA – but instead everything to do with the fact that public transportation in this region is so spotty. In an interesting turn of events, the overwhelming majority of innovators and startup founders that create big technology companies that eventually moved to the Valley almost always do so in major metropolitan areas and highly populated urban cities – New York, LA, Boston, Chicago, and so many international destinations – each of which are loaded with public transportation options.
However, when they get out to Silicon Valley, they find that things aren’t quite as effortless to maneuver as it was in say Cambridge (the original home of Facebook, for example). This has caused quite a bit of concern for the leaders of these major companies – especially companies like Google, Facebook, and Apple – and they have tried to put the pressure on local governments to build up the Caltrain and BART systems, though so far they haven’t had the kind of success that they were hoping for. In turn, these companies (especially the three we’ve mentioned above) have opted to go in the opposite direction. Rather than encourage their employees to move into San Francisco and then hope to carpool or take unreliable public and mass transit into work and then back out again, they’ve begun to build “walled gardens” for each and every one of their employees.
This isn’t at all that different from the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Henry Ford was considered a major innovator of his time to build up living spaces (row houses) for all of his employee’s right next to the factories and facilities where they worked – though he “stole” the idea from big industries like the mill industries that had been doing the same thing for some time. It’s interesting to see just how circular history can be sometimes, and a lot of it is happening in the Valley because of how unreliable mass transit can be. But if you’re getting ready to work for one of these companies, or just want to better understand how to visit them when you’re in the San Francisco area, here are a couple of options that you will have available to you.
Caltrain options are available
Unlike Northern Virginia (which built up a considerable amount of apartment buildings and office space all along their Metro transit lines to make things more convenient for businesses in DC, Baltimore, and the surrounding area), Silicon Valley has yet to embrace that kind of transformation – which is why Caltrain systems can be so spotty throughout the area. Sure, the “downtown” areas of San Francisco have significant Caltrain spots for employees and visitors to take advantage of, but once you get out into the outer reaches of Silicon Valley you’re going to have a much more challenging time getting yourself to or from work. This is especially true if the company you work for doesn’t provide shuttle buses (though many of them do).
It’s also important to remember that the Caltrain and BART systems do not extend out to Marin County. This is a major issue for those who reside in Marin County, since most work in San Francisco, and commute home. Many believe that has an effect of increasing the amount of individuals that drive intoxicated from San Francisco to Marin. The Caltrain tracks also aren’t electrified, the San Francisco terminal is about a mile short of major business districts, and rush hour is incredibly congested.
The BART system is almost as bad, and it doesn’t have the same kind of reach or penetration that the Caltrain system does.
The future of travel in Silicon Valley that the Caltrain
There is hope though. Most everyone has heard about Elon Musk’s dream of the “HyperLoop”, and while that is likely still some time away from becoming a reality the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s brand-new light rail system – or the plans for this brand-new system – has the opportunity to transform transportation throughout Silicon Valley once and for all.
This would finally connect the entire system from San Francisco to San Jose and everything in between, giving individuals the opportunity to take advantage of a lightning fast and reliable commuter system that can get them to and from work without any headache or hassle any longer. Hopefully America’s home for innovation can come up with something that works!