With Rishi Kumar. Click here!


Rishi's Mega Silicon Valley Vision

A commute time of 21 minutes or less to 21 counties creating affordable housing options and a vibrant megalopolis economy

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Silicon Valley is the 19th largest economy of the world, but is currently impacted with a severe housing crunch, high cost of living and congested traffic. This is causing people and companies to relocate to cities which are more affordable. A high-speed transportation system based on Hyperloop technology would bring every job in the region to within a reasonable distance of any home. Eco-friendly and noise-free, tunnel based cutting-edge transportation system operates at a top speed of 760 mph, reducing commute times between any two counties of the megaregion to under 21 minutes. This would make a broad range of affordable housing options available to residents, and expand Silicon Valley’s innovation success and economic growth throughout the region.

Figure 1
Bay Area Regions
Figure 2
1: The “Northern California Megaregion” comprises the 21 counties of the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento Area, Northern San Joaquin Valley, and Monterey Bay Area. See list of cities below4
2: The number of daily commuters from far flung cities to Silicon Valley - almost 168,000.

A Mass Exodus from Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley's stunning vistas and idyllic weather make it one of the most beautiful and desirable places in the world to live. But with a median rent of $2,860 and median home price of $1.3 million, the stark unaffordability of Silicon Valley housing is leaving many people out of the market. Nearly 55 percent of local millennials are expecting to leave the Bay Area because the cost of living is simply too high.1 We are losing a diversity of talent as teachers, firefighters, musicians and artists can no longer find affordable housing. Rates of homelessness are among the highest in the nation, and continue to rise. Longtime residents are losing hope that their children and grandchildren will be able to remain here, even though they’ve called the Bay Area home for generations. This is a colossal failure on our part.

Between 2010 and 2015, Silicon Valley gained only one housing unit for every six jobs added.2 This has the effect of pushing workers’ commutes further and further out. Indeed, commute times in the Bay Area are taking longer every year. Some estimates show the average Silicon Valley commuter losing 67 hours in traffic every year.3 That’s over eight working (or vacation) days!

Our elected leaders have been unable to prescribe a plan to solve the housing crisis and our traffic woes. While the obvious solution is to “build, build, build,” there is much concern from voters against high-density housing and multi-story apartments. Bills such as SB35 and SB50 seek to preempt local control over housing and force housing upon residents of these cities. We need to protect and preserve our natural, open spaces. Communities prefer to maintain a “small town feel.” More housing means more cars, more traffic and more pollution. It means more crowded classrooms for our children, and more strain on our infrastructure. What is the solution?

The Manhattan Borough Case Study

The Manhattan borough of New York City serves as an excellent example for us. During the day, Manhattan roughly doubles in population as workers arrive every morning from Queens, Brooklyn, and The Bronx. Roughly 80% of these Manhattan-bound commuters arrive by public transit. The median house price in Manhattan today is $1,549,000, whereas the median prices in the burroughs are about one-third to one-half of that. By making use of available public transit, commuters are able to work within a reasonable distance of affordable homes.

However, the city of New York measures only 35 miles across at its widest, while the distance across the Northern California Megaregion north to south is well over 300 miles. Furthermore, the current state of public transit in California is clearly inadequate for our needs.

London's Transportation System in comparison to that of San Francisco

A Failed Transportation System

This picture, comparing the public transportation systems of San Francisco and London, says it all. According to the Bay Area Council, in 2017 more than 86,445 workers traveled from 60 to 120+ miles daily from the northern end of the Central Valley to jobs in the Bay Area. There is a lack of cohesive, affordable, fast transit options into and within Silicon Valley. Our public transportation network is one of the most inefficient in the country. The VTA has the highest cost per passenger, and one of the highest hourly operating costs in the country. The VTA rail system is used by fewer than 5% of Bay Area commuters, and those who drive are stuck in traffic for hours each day.

Meanwhile, the Bullet Train is going nowhere. The initial estimated cost of $40 billion in 2008 has ballooned to between $77 and $97 billion. We need a better solution: a transportation system that will be able to bridge the distances across the Northern California Megaregion, reliably, efficiently and economically connecting workers to both affordable communities and high-paying jobs.

A cutting edge transportation system is the answer

Large, high-density metro areas all over the world have been looking to the Hyperloop technology to ease their housing and traffic issues. Eco-friendly and noise-free, this cutting-edge tunnel transport system operates at an average speed of 600 mph, with a top speed of 760 mph. As per Elon Musk, the cost of building the system is estimated to be as little as one tenth the projected cost of the bullet train.

Why should children miss their parents, while they are stuck in traffic?

What would a high speed transportation system mean to the average worker here in Silicon Valley? Let’s say you work in San Jose. The median price for a home there is over $1million. In nearby Mountain View it’s $1.6 million. A median-priced home in Yuba City is only about $300,000 but Yuba is 150 miles from San Jose. Even without traffic, that’s over a 2½ hour drive one-way. However, the Hyperloop could cross that distance in less than 15 minutes. You could walk your child to school in the morning, hop on the hyperloop, put in a full day’s work and be back in time to help with homework before dinner. It means you could afford to buy a home within an easy commute of work, and have time to spend with your family in the evenings.

The Mega Silicon Valley Vision Plan

  • Create and upgrade the use of public transit technology and bring our infrastructure into the 21st Century with high speed, eco-friendly, energy efficient, noise free and pollution-free transportation - not the bullet train.
  • Encourage tech corporations to invest in Silicon Valley infrastructure through P3 (public-private partnership) agreements. P3 agreements can allow faster and more efficient development of needed infrastructure projects at lower cost and less risk to the taxpayer.
  • Establish a regional housing enterprise that spreads housing out to cities in the nine-county bay area (phase 1) and eventually to 21 counties around Silicon Valley (phase 2)
  • Bring federal funds to help pay for California’s needed infrastructure improvements. California drives the American economy. We deserve America’s investment.

Outcome of this Mega Silicon Valley region

  • Increased affordable housing options for workers all across the megaregion
  • Reduced traffic, commute times, pollution and enhanced quality of life
  • Effective expansion of Silicon Valley, seeding our innovation and expanding jobs throughout the region.
  • A reduction of the loss of talent from people and companies leaving the Bay Area
  • An increase in opportunity for new start-ups as well as expansion of existing companies, positioning our economy for sustained success.

When will we see a live hyperloop project

The first Hyperloop will go live in 2022. Yes, projects are happening as I type. Mumbai, New York, Abu Dhabi and Mexico City are working on projects.

"Virgin's Hyperloop One company has signed a deal with the government of Saudi Arabia to build a test track. Hyperloop One has started or performed feasibility studies in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Moscow, Los Angeles, the UK, as well as Finland and Sweden, where the company found that a 300-mile hyperloop between Helsinki and Stockholm would cost about $21 billion. Earlier this summer, the company performed a full-scale test in the Nevada desert in which the hyperloop pod reached almost 200 miles per hour. The team that designed the Chicago / Columbus / Pittsburgh proposal, for example, was supported by the Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Ohio Department of Transportation, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Columbus Airport Authority, and more."

"When Elon Musk first proposed the hyperloop in 2013, he envisioned a route from San Francisco to Los Angeles costing about $6 billion, or $11.5 million per mile. But leaked financial documents from Hyperloop One (obtained by Forbes) put that cost closer to $13 billion, or $121 million per mile. That’s still less than the projected cost of California’s high-speed rail line, which is expected to reach $68 billion."

"Hyperloop Transportation Technologies’ first commercial lines are expected to open to the public by 2022, the firm’s CEO said Tuesday.. HTT is one company in the space that has gained considerable traction, signing deals with multiple countries to test its technology. Rivals include Musk’s Boring Co., Virgin Hyperloop One and Canadian firm TransPod.

"Virgin Hyperloop One is likely to start construction of the ₹60,500-crore Mumbai-Pune hyperloop project in 2020. The ultramodern, superfast transport project aims to reduce the travel time between the two cities, located around 200 km apart, from four hours to about 25 minutes." $8.6 billion for 100 miles.

  1. Mercury News
  2. Study by the Silicon Valley Leadership group and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  3. https://www.svlg.org/svcip-2016/
  4. List of cities https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_California_Megaregion
List of Metropolitan statistical areas