SPUR Lunchtime Forum: Job sprawl and the polycentric megaregion

"Is the Google bus the solution or part of the problem? Is job sprawl and employment decentralization a trend that can be reversed? What tools and examples exist to remake how people get to and from work in an increasingly polycentric region? Join SPUR regional planning director Egon Terplan, transit futurist Steve Raney for a discussion on the future of job sprawl and suburbia and its impact on the core cities of the Bay Area and Northern California."

  • More on the event:

    SPUR is beginning an effort to reduce driving in the suburbs. SPUR’s upcoming Job sprawl overview article (scheduled for September release) concludes: “As this article argues, solving job sprawl does not involve one single approach. We live and work in a polycentric region with a wide range of employment locations, each with a slightly different opportunity to capture future job growth. We also cannot be naïve and assume that the traditional central business districts will regain a majority share of regional jobs, even if this would be the most likely strategy to reduce overall driving. But we can certainly push to make sure that employment throughout the region shifts to more appropriate places. This strategy is the only viable approach to solve the worsening challenge of job sprawl, which in turn is one of the major causes of residential sprawl. Over the next year, SPUR will be exploring this issue further, refining its approach and developing policy solutions. If we are serious about stopping sprawl, we need to be just as focused on jobs as we are on housing.”

    Smart growth TOD doesn’t work well enough in Palo Alto, etc. South Bay Area Caltrain TOD dramatically underperforms compared to East Bay BART TOD (suburban VTA LRT TOD is “TOD without the T” – Peter Calthorpe). Mixed use South Bay TOD housing is so desirable that high driving commuters “crowd out” green commuters in the battle to reside next to Caltrain. Per Travel Characteristics of TOD in California (Caltrans funded research authored by Lund, Cervero, and Willson), residential TOD by East Bay BART stations produces 40% transit commute mode share (and 50% auto share). Residential TOD by South Bay Caltrain commuter rail stations produces only 17% transit mode share (and 80% auto share). Thus, South Bay TOD, while outperforming adjacent non-TOD (5% or less transit mode share), is still very auto-centered. Hence we need to improve upon smart growth for suburbs (via new innovations).

    Cities21 has identified 17 Bay Area suburban major employment centers, 13 in Silicon Valley, with a total of 594,000 jobs. We have excluded major employment centers in the urban downtowns of San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, and San Jose. In these suburban centers, SOV commute mode share varies from 85% to 65%. The Stanford University job center stands out with 16.8% of commuters biking or walking to work. The other 16 job centers clump between 4.9% and 0.6% bike/ped commute mode share. Stanford’s programs to put housing by jobs is shown as a singular success in the high-driving world of suburban job centers.



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