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April 7, 2014

Apple Transportation Program Stuck in Past

by Paul Mackie - Also by this author

Hector Garcia photo via Flickr -Creative Commons

(This article was written by Mobility Lab Director Tom Fairchild.)

As an avid iPhone user, I have bought into the sense that Apple could literally peer into the future and deliver me technology I never realized I would so desperately need.  

For years, Steve Jobs and company seem to have been our reliable guides to a better tomorrow. For new technology, Apple’s vision towards the future seems nearly flawless. But for corporate responsibility? Well, that’s a different story.

Apple’s decision to build a mammoth new headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. — miles from public transportation and adequate housing — amounts to a corporate denunciation of sustainability and a giant corporate shrug to Mother Earth.   

Rendering via City of Cupertino

Rendering via City of Cupertino
Leadership for the tech giant maintains that the new campus will offer "a serene environment reflecting Apple's values of innovation, ease of use and beauty." However, the simple facts show that many of Apple’s 13,000 employees will now be commuting to an isolated location 45 miles south of San Francisco.
This reality seems a world apart from Apple’s corporate communications, which state:

“Our commute programs reduce traffic, smog, and GHG emissions by providing incentives for biking, using public transportation and reducing the use of single-occupancy vehicles.”  

How exactly is this possible when the new headquarters is being built on a location without any existing public transportation options?
It does sound nice that Apple is funding a $35 million transportation demand management (TDM) program encouraging employees to use corporate shuttles and carpools. However, even with these efforts in place, Apple predicts at least 9,000 employees will drive alone to the new headquarters — resulting in a huge increase in emissions and clogged roadways.

RELATED: (Video) Life at the Googleplex

Although TDM can mitigate the worst outcomes, even the best program cannot make up for a disastrous location. It’s commendable that Apple has a TDM program at all and fits their vision since TDM is designed to be  forward thinking. But having a TDM at this facility is like Exxon having a program to wipe down baby seals after a spill.
Apple would have done well to have followed the White House directive that establishes:

“an integrated strategy toward sustainability in the federal government, including efforts to operate high performance sustainable buildings in sustainable locations and to strengthen the vitality and livability of the communities for federal agencies.”

That Executive Order further directs agencies to:

“advance regional and local integrated planning by ... participating in regional transportation planning and recognizing existing community transportation infrastructure; ensuring that planning for new federal facilities or new leases includes consideration of sites that are pedestrian friendly, near existing employment centers, and accessible to public transit, and; emphasizes existing central cities and (rural) town centers."
Soon the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will select a site for its new headquarters in the Washington, D.C. region. The selection is narrowing to two locations that are both adjacent to Metrorail stations. Whether the FBI will beat Apple’s drive-alone rate to its new campus is yet to be seen. Nonetheless, by locating adjacent to existing transportation infrastructure, the FBI will make a statement about its desire to create a sustainable work environment.
Successful TDM programs around the world make great contributions by encouraging better use of sustainable transportation options, such as walking, biking, public transportation, carpooling and vanpooling.  Regrettably, even with a best-case TDM program for shifting employee commuting patterns, Apple’s isolated location will result in a commuting nightmare for its employees with consequences for the entire San Francisco Bay Area.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "What If We Sold Transit Fares Like Cell Phone Minutes?"

Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

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  • dan sturges[ April 8th, 2014 @ 11:01pm ]

    Yeah, I wrote about similar issues. I was told Steve saw my piece before he passed:

  • FinanceBuzz[ April 9th, 2014 @ 9:57am ]

    Some folks don't want to live in or have to commute into the extreme congestion of an urban core every day. I have no issue working such a locale but I have zero interest in living in that congestion. Hence, if located downtown, I will be a commuter. Or I will find a location in a less congested area. I am far more concerned about quality of life where I live and commute time than I am "greenhouse gas emissions." In fact, I am not in the least bit concerned about the supposedly bad GHG emissions. But I am concerned with not being in congestion every waking minute of my life and being able to get home with less than an hour and a half to two hour commute. Finally, I don't think Apple can achieve its campus vision in a dense congested area. That alone renders all the considerations of alternate locations moot.

  • Matthew Lesh[ April 9th, 2014 @ 10:21am ]

    Good work, Paul!

  • Jack Daley[ April 9th, 2014 @ 2:11pm ]

    I don't totally agree with Apple not considering a better location and the need for public transit access. However,the Cupertino, CA Hqs site is located where Apple belongs- in the crux of Silicon Valley's corporate pulse. Though it's scarce available land, which forced Apple to acquire a HP plant site for many millions and tear it down. While bus transportation, and nearby freeways need to be better, Apple is leaving it totally up to the local taxpayer to furnish the current non-existant planning and funding ! It would stand to reason that with over 150 Billion in "spare fund" resources available, Apple should be able to contribute a few billion to improving the impact it will have on the area. Perhaps existing light rail from the new headquarters to a Caltrans/BART connection in Santa Clara; or even to Caltrain/BART downtown San Jose. Regardless, Apple needs to step up and become a force in the Silicon Valley community. They are missing their chance.

  • Nicholas[ April 9th, 2014 @ 3:14pm ]

    Why don't these campuses have to pay for feeder buses that connect to rail? Also, Apple only has a few electric car plugs, where there should be far more spread across a solar parking lot. The cars could then be shared during the day. A bike commuting contest would make good sense too.

  • T_K_Nagano[ April 10th, 2014 @ 10:54am ]

    Workers at the new Apple Campus will have all the amenities, food, fully equipt exercise rooms, showers and will be expected to sleep at their desks due to long hours and short deadlines. - TK

  • Abby[ April 10th, 2014 @ 11:14am ]

    Apple execs can go drive up 101 to Novato and gaze upon their future: the 1960's empty Birkenstock facility where transportation costs were deemed too high. When the world moves on from Apple, Cupertino will have a dried up shell of a building to try to fill: If I were Apple I'd want to leave a lively, lasting presence behind instead of a grave marker.

  • Brian Finley[ April 10th, 2014 @ 11:51am ]

    While I understand the present concern about being away from convenient public transportation and also not enough affordable housing for some, I think we need to remember the building while probably be around for a long time and things will change. Automated vehicles will dramatically increase capacity and vehicles that create far less pollution and use less energy are close at hand. What if in 10-15 years the foolish ones are those that advocated for old technology like light rail. I think Steve Jobs and others see these possibilities as well as more workers telecommuting. Thank you.


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Author Bio

Heather Redfern

Public Information Manager, SEPTA

Marcia Ferranto

President/CEO, WTS International

Marcia Ferranto is President/CEO of WTS International.

Scott Belcher

President and CEO, Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America)

Joe Zavisca

Joe Zavisca is an independent consultant specializing in paratransit service.

Paul Mackie

Communications Director, Mobility Lab

Paul Mackie is communications director at Mobility Lab, a leading U.S. voice of “transportation demand management.”

Rob Taylo

Founder/CEO SinglePoint Communications

Rob Taylo is founder/CEO of SinglePoint Communications, an exclusive U.S. distributor of WiFi in Motion.

Joel Volinski

Director, National Center for Transit Research at CUTR/USF

Zack Shubkagel

Partner/Creative Director of Willoughby Design

Zack Shubkagel is partner and creative director for the San Francisco office of Willoughby Design, a strategic branding and design firm.

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