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Strong Job Growth Continues and Supports the Case for CalTrain Expansion

Uploaded: Jul 28, 2019

There are many reasons to support the CalTrain expansion plans from the environment to saving time and cost for commuters and the CalTrain contribution to grade separation costs. Expanding auto free commuting to planned job growth, much of which is near existing stations or served by shuttles, is another important reason. Residents who really do not like the recent and planned job growth need to face the reality of it. That means making the transportation and housing plans (including CalTrain expansion) that will deal with the increased commuting.

With the large job growth planned adjacent to the Diridon station in San Jose there will be residents here and in adjacent cities whose commute will be immensely improved with Caltrain expansion to walkable jobs at the other end.

More about the CalTrain expansion below but first let’s look at recent and planned job growth.

Over the past five years the Bay Area has averaged more than 100,000 added jobs each year. While the pace of growth has slowed a bit and will slow more, the region continues to outpace the state and nation in job gains. The growth has been concentrated on the peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose though all counties have added jobs. Most cities on the peninsula have more job growth planned with a strong surge expected in San Jose.

The recent job growth has not been fueled by large population growth. In fact the region added fewer than 32,000 residents in 2018 and just over 40% of residents do not work. The three peninsula counties added fewer than 12,000 residents.

So what fueled the job growth? Over the past five years there have been five major contributing factors. One, more people in the workforce found jobs lowering unemployment. Two, more existing residents came back into the workforce as jobs expanded and companies broadened their search for workers. These are both positive events and created jobs for existing residents.

Three, some workers added a second or third job.

Four, probably (current data is lacking) is an increase in in-commuting from adjacent counties. And five, part of the job growth was fueled by the population growth that did occur.

It is very likely that job growth will continue and equally likely that it will slow. Retirements are growing even as workers work longer. Birth rates are falling. Immigration continues but has stopped increasing. And remember that not all the projects you read about will be built and some of them will just replace older buildings.

Back to the CalTrain expansion.

Right now ridership has peaked and even slowed a bit and, as anyone who rides in the peak hours has experienced—many trains are over capacity with riders standing. But job growth around stations continues up and down the peninsula.

The win-win solution as I see it is to expand capacity to serve the new jobs that are close to existing CalTrain stations, Increase the number of trains at peak hour, expand mid–day and evening service and address grade separation challenges.

That means approving some version of a permanent CalTrain funding plan. Riders will continue to pay most of the operating costs but large funding is needed to make the infrastructure investments and allow CalTrain to fund part of the grade separation investments.

I will be writing a letter in support of the CalTrain planning vision and voicing my support for fully funding the plan so it actually happens,
Local Journalism.
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Posted by Population, a resident of Evergreen Park,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 12:32 pm

Population is a registered user.

"has not been fueled by large population growth"

While the total population has not greatly increased, there has been a certain amount of turnover with residents forced to move out of the bay area because they can't compete for housing with new residents who have better paying jobs. Quite a few of my neighbors who rent have had to move further away, no doubt replacing others, or out of the area altogether. It would be interesting to know what the population "turnover" has been in the last five years.

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 28, 2019 at 12:41 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Yes some of the job growth is from workers who previously lived in the region but moved to adjacent counties to find more affordable housing.

While not directly related to the CalTrain expansion, it is one of the reasons for creating the conditions for more housing in the region that is more affordable.

As I said in the blog, both transportation and housing policies in the region are appropriate to handle the recent and future growth.

Posted by J, a resident of Monta Loma,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 10:26 am

In the end, it comes down to the long-term growth. We have to think 10-20 years ahead because of how long it takes to approve and build infrastructure. Even if the economy tanks next year we should still plan ahead, and a recession is actually the best time to build (provide jobs, less traffic disruption).

Unless we think that we're going to become another Detroit and jobs will permanently leave the area (which would be an awfully pessimistic, self-fulfilling point of view), we should start planning for the next decade so it'll be ready when we need it, and not when the roads are over-capacity (which they probably already are).

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 10:52 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

On Thursday the Caltrain board will discuss and hear comments on their 2040 vision and plan. For those wanting to go it is at the Caltrain office near the San Carlos train station and starts at 9.

For those wishing to communicate by letter send to

Below is my letter

To the Caltrain board,

I write in support of aiming for high ridership and more frequent service and also in favor of aggressively seeking sufficient funding to support the infrastructure investments and contribute some funds to help cities handle grade separation challenges.

I write as a regional economist concerned with serving the transportation and related housing needs of residents and businesses while simultaneously promoting environmental stewardship.

Planning for high ridership is justified by the many plans to locate jobs and housing near existing stations. While the largest growth is in San Francisco and the newly emerging plans for substantial job and housing growth near Diridon station, other cities are planning for growth near stations.

In my city of Palo Alto, Stanford (a major contributor already to Caltrain ridership) is planning for both hospital and campus growth that will be attractive to many more riders, particularly in conjunction with Stanford's well run shuttle system.

Other cities like Sunnyvale, South San Francisco and Mountain View to name a few are planning growth near stations and expanding shuttle availability.

So demand will surely rise.

But Caltrain expansion will reinforce a virtuous cycle. By expanding service including more mid-day and evening service, Caltrain will support the move to locate more jobs and housing near transit.

Finally, please indicate your willingness to raise funds for making a contribution to the grade separation costs facing cites. This should make the funding plan more attractive to a broader group of residents.

Stephen Levy

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 10:55 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

I agree that CalTrain should be dramatically upgraded but it should be done as a long term area wide investment not on a piecemeal basis.

There is no more reason for each city to pay for grade crossings than there is for them to pay for 101 or 280 interchanges.

Put the entire San Jose- San Francisco route in a tunnel and pay for it as an area wide long term investment via a bond issue.

Posted by Anne, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 4:06 pm

I'm pretty sure Levy wants us to support a tax increase to support Caltrain to justify even more jobs coming to this region. No thank you. Adding more capacity will just increase density here and degrade quality of life further. Vote no on new transit taxes.

Posted by Anne , a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 4:11 pm

Stephen Levy's clients include Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a pro business lobbying group, so he is not an independent observer. Joint Venture Silicon Valley's goal is to grow Silicon Valley no matter the social and environmental costs. His op-ed's need to come with a disclaimer.

Web Link

Posted by Anne, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 4:31 pm

If you read Stephen Levy's self provided bio above, he leaves out his association with Joint Venture Silicon Valley. Also Mr. Levy says nothing about the housing crisis, he is an unabashed supporter of jobs, jobs, jobs, growth, growth, growth.

Quoting Mr. Levy:

"Residents who really do not like the recent and planned job growth need to face the reality of it."

Yes, we ARE facing the reality of it. That is why Palo Alto residents voted to cap the construction of office space. We voters have plenty of power at the ballot box.

The powers that be keep asking us to approve new taxes to fund transit but traffic never gets better. Why should we keep approving new transit taxes?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 29, 2019 at 4:43 pm

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi Anne,

Cities like San Jose, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Mountain View are all anticipating and planning for continued job growth.

If you read the blog you would see that job growth in the peninsula is surging. It does not matter what I think, that is what is happening.

Some of those workers will live north of these cities, for example, in Palo Alto.

The realistic choices are do not expand Caltrain and let them drive or expand Caltrain more than is already planned and allow some commuters to save time and money and help the environment. If you think stopping Caltrain from adding riders will stop growth, how is that working for you now. Ridership has peaked and job gains in Santa Clara County are surging.

Yes funding infrastructure will probably need a tax increase or bond funding as Peter Carpenter suggested (paid for by increased property taxes).

As for Joint Venture they are not a client. All of my work with them is as a volunteer. As for housing I have written several blogs in support of more housing. Take a look. Do you support more housing for low and moderate income residents as I do?

Posted by stephen levy, a resident of University South,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 11:37 am

stephen levy is a registered user.

Hi all,

Let's stop the personal attacks. I will leave Anne's up.

The post is about the Caltrain expansion plan and vision to be discussed on Thursday.

I have shared my opinion. The expansion will serve residents working in those many cities along the rote that are actively planning for job growth. It will also be an environmentally positive step as otherwise they will mostly drive,

Please share yours.

Posted by Martin Engel, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 11:55 am

While I often disagree with Peter Carpenter, his comments here are well taken (see above). I'm among the few that agree with his recommendation for tunneling the entire length of the Peninsula.

Yes, tunneling is certainly much more costly than any other mode of rail corridor development. However, since whatever expansion Caltrain proposes, it needs to be thought through for the next 50 to 100 years. Therefore, tunneling will actually amortize over time and will, in the long run, be the most cost-effective way to offer public mass transit on the Peninsula which is surely going to be massively urbanized; i.e., 'densified' with high-density, high-rise, commercial as well as residential development. It will become one continuous, 50+ mile long city between SF and SJ.

If the Peninsula does become the mega-metropolis that everyone forecasts, a genuine subway system (not the surface "heavy rail" system now proposed) will be most appropriate. Note that most major US cities, as well as many around the world, already have highly effective subway systems.

As public mass transit goes, especially in areas with very high population density, subways provide the greatest cost/benefit; that is, "the greatest good for the largest number at the lowest cost" for all commuters.

Posted by lines home, a resident of another community,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 3:24 pm

Tunnel it?

Then bury the F***** geedee utility lines too!!!

Posted by lines home, a resident of another community,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 3:26 pm

Oh, and Hi-Line parks above the tunnel on the right of way. Leave some room for breathing.

Posted by Kevin, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 4:08 pm

Kevin is a registered user.

You sound just like anti-government Republicans - “Starve the beast". But everything we have learned from those clowns, is that the starving part doesn't work... Growth happens, and all we end up with is bigger deficits, in your case foolishness-imposed transit deficits...

Posted by Anne, a resident of Midtown,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Hi Stephen:

Thanks for your response. Yes, of course, I do support low and moderate income housing. The question is where to build it and who is going to pay for it. For Palo Alto specifically, I support building affordable housing only for essential city employees such as fire, police and especially teachers as we have a retention crisis. Land is too expensive here to build affordable housing for everyone who wants it. Let the housing and especially jobs go to San Jose. Palo Alto only has Caltrain; San Jose has Caltrain, Amtrak, light rail, BART soon.

(SL: portion deleted--Anne wants someone besides residents to pay for any new Caltrain and related costs.)

I am not an anti-tax Republican. I am a lifelong Democrat and have voted yes on many tax increases and bond issues, but even Democrats have their limits.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 30, 2019 at 10:02 pm


could you be more specific about what you are questioning?

the blog did not say what your post implied.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 31, 2019 at 1:14 pm

I'm in favor of greatly increasing Caltrain capacity, but, I think Caltrain needs to find a way to fund some of the other requirements for the right-of-way upgrade, rather than rely on the cities along the path. Business is driving the job growth, and, business should pay for some of what is required. Sales taxes are a grossly unfair and regressive way to support transit projects. What is needed is a way to support Caltrain through business revenue and profits.

I favor electrification and complete grade separation end-to-end, but, we need to be careful how it is done. San Carlos is an example of how not to do it, because, the current configuration creates an insecure urban barrier to pedestrians and bicyclists-- surely not the intention of a public transit system. Grade separation should be done in a way to encourage local commerce, pedestrian and bicycle safety and security, and low crime.

Caltrain should not be an internal barrier in the cities through which it passes, but rather, a magnet for people and local community commerce.

Posted by Peter Carpenter, a resident of Atherton,
on Aug 1, 2019 at 3:25 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"Oh, and Hi-Line parks above the tunnel on the right of way. Leave some room for breathing."

Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 25, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Peter Carpenter is a registered user.
If this is done one crossing at a time it will be very expensive, take a long time and result in a dis-integrated design.

Please at least think about a more comprehensive and integrated approach.

Why not see this as an opportunity rather than a problem?

One thought is the put the trains underground, use the surface rights above it for housing in the stretches between stations and use the surface above the stations for transit connections and parking. The surface area of the current right of way is very valuable land - particularly in Atherton - and could generate a lot of the needed capital.

Why not take this as an opportunity to design a multi-dimensional, multi-purpose system that uses the existing right-of-way that includes CalTrain, HSR, utility conduits for telephone and internet cables, surface housing with high density housing around each station. And add pedestrian path and a separate bicycle path on the surface along the entire right of way. And include 3 or 4 12" conduits for the technology of the future.

We should think of this right of way as an integrated multi-modal communications spine for the peninsula.

A piecemeal approach will be very expensive.

Do it once and do it right.

Posted by Supply & Demand, a resident of Green Acres,
on Aug 1, 2019 at 8:20 am

Great Move!!!

How about having small mono train along El Camino like Okinawa Urban Monorail will be another GREAT MOVE!!!

This will release congestions along the way and super convenient for short distance commute with bus riders and pedestrians!!!

Posted by Karl Urban, a resident of Gemello,
on Aug 2, 2019 at 2:16 am

Yes funding infrastructure will probably need a tax increase or bond funding as Peter Carpenter suggested (paid for by increased property taxes).

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 2, 2019 at 10:09 am

Posted by Karl Urban, a resident of Gemello,

>> Yes funding infrastructure will probably need a tax increase or bond funding as Peter Carpenter suggested (paid for by increased property taxes).

Or, business taxes instead of property and sales taxes. Businesses that are driving excessive growth and relentless gentrification.

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