Can a Caltrain conductor drive the train

Silicon Valley : Digital progress is stuck in a traffic jam

There is hardly any other place in the USA where it would take so many people one and a half hours to get to work at the same time - in one direction. In the evening they line up again. With the tech economy booming, the highways and public transportation between Silicon Valley and San Francisco are completely overloaded.

Brandon, 38, has worked in the Valley for a long time and has lived there ever since, in Google's hometown of Mountain View. But the software developer recently got a job at a startup in San Francisco, 60 kilometers away.

A hopeless case of infrastructure

Moving is out of the question, says Brandon, living in San Francisco is even more expensive than living in the Valley. So he's been commuting for half a year. “I've already tried everything: With my own car - you have to leave at 5 a.m. if you want to avoid the traffic jam. The train is full, takes forever and has no wifi. In addition, there is no connection to the office from the San Francisco train station. Now I'll try Uber. "

The driver service agent is currently testing a new service: in the morning between 6:00 and 10:00 a.m. for only 18 dollars (a good 16 euros) from Silicon Valley to San Francisco. POOL TO SF collects several passengers, most of them weary from years of traffic jams.

The San Francisco Bay Area: a powerhouse of ideas, but a hopeless case of public infrastructure. Comparably large metropolitan regions such as Zurich or Munich have managed to build a good network of trains, buses and cycle paths - as an alternative to the car.

Then an app is invented

Anyone coming to Silicon Valley for the first time could expect fully automated electric trains without drivers or conductors that glide silently at high speed. Instead, the Caltrain puffs and touts through the valley. With mostly antiquated diesel locomotives whose piercing sirens can be heard from far and wide day and night and which take over an hour from the valley to downtown San Francisco.

Public buses connecting this huge high-tech industrial park around Cupertino (Apple) and Menlo Park (Facebook)? Nothing. There are bike paths, but they are hardly used. “We don't believe in bicycles” is a sentence that you hear often here. Instead, the techies in Silicon Valley are inventing Uber and developing self-driving robotic cars like Google. At least at the moment the streets are congested and parking spaces are difficult to find.

Then a new app is invented. The Luxe service in San Francisco offers valet parking for everyone. It works like this: Shortly before arriving at your destination, you call a parker via the app, who comes up on a folding scooter, parks the car in a safe place and brings it back whenever you need it. For $ 5 an hour or $ 15 a day.

A startup born out of frustration, says Curtis Lee, founder of Luxe: “I drove around the block for at least twenty minutes each time. If you then consider that there are always free parking spaces, especially on the outskirts of the city, it becomes clear that you can easily turn it into a business. ”At least until cars can find a parking space completely by themselves.

Problem solved in their own way

This region prides itself on its disruptive technologies. But all this talent is not also put into the huge challenge of transport. Every second resident of the Bay Area depends on the expressways built in the 1960s.

The big corporations have solved the problem in their own way. Google now operates the largest private bus company in America. But also LinkedIn, Ebay, Yahoo, they all shuttle their employees, who like to live in chic San Francisco but work in the quiet Valley, back and forth daily for free.

The countless company buses have become a symbol of the gentrification of San Francisco. They are also stuck in traffic, but at least there is WiFi on board so that the programmers, data analysts or social media experts can work while driving.

The traffic problem will, however, worsen. Apple already has 25,000 employees. A new campus for 13,000 employees is currently being built and should be ready by the end of 2016. Google and Facebook are also building new company headquarters and continuing to grow. That could mean tens of thousands more cars on the roads in the future.

On the social news platform Reddit, someone recently made a surprising bill: You could live in significantly cheaper Las Vegas, fly to work every day in San Francisco and save $ 1,124 a month in the process. A flight takes about 90 minutes. As long as most people around San Francisco take to get to work in the morning. (dpa)

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