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
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?"
The benefits of using public transit are many — environmentally friendly, less stressful than driving and no time wasted sitting in traffic, to name a few. For commuters in cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Montreal, there are even more advantages for using transit — discounts at local businesses for using bus/train/trolley passes.
Ask commuters who drive between Houston and Dallas almost every day and see what they have to say. They are known as “super commuters” – the nearly 50, 000 people traveling back and forth between the two cities at least once a week. That number will increase as the growth in Texas continues to climb. Super commuters and other drivers want another solution to Texas’ traffic-clogged highways. Enter the Texas Central high-speed rail project...
For many college engineering and architecture students, it’s probably a good bet that they have not given much consideration to careers in public transportation. Members of the SEPTA's Engineering, Maintenance and Construction Division have worked closely with Philadelphia-area university students to introduce them to job opportunities in the realm of mass transit.
When it comes to communicating that people have transportation options besides their own drive-alone cars, the transit industry is getting its lunch handed to it, and has been for decades. It must face that it’s a fringe player that wants to become mainstream. And it’s not getting any easier. While we hear so many great stories about options presented by bikeshare systems and technology and Uber, the fact remains that people are buying cars more than ever.
Winter Storm Jonas socked Philadelphia with 22.4 inches of snow in January. In some areas of the five-county SEPTA service region, snowfall totals were well over two feet. As a result of forecasted high winds, zero visibility and significant snow, SEPTA suspended service on all modes — with the exception of the Market-Frankford and Broad Street subway-elevated lines, its two busiest routes — beginning at 4 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23.