Taxation and Transportation

Taxation and Transportation


Dear Readers,

This newsletter addresses the Peninsula’s structural tension between taxes and transportation. These two topics are inseparable like “Horse and Buggy” or “Gasoline and Engine.” However, in reality they are seldom aligned. Government at all levels including dozens of agencies struggle behind the scenes. Direct accountability to voters is rare.
Public policy for each issue carries three dead weights:

1. Overlapping decision-makers
2. Fragmented sources of cash
3. No crisis to challenge weak organizations

Today we see the short-term future as rather dreary but we predict self-interest of Tech Titans, Transportation and Taxation will eventually find common ground. There’s synergy with these three Ts.

Showdown: Sleepless in Seattle
Behind Seattle’s Amazon Tax there are “Seething Tensions, Livid Neighbors, and Rising Rents.”

The showdown demonstrates how politics and economics have shifted in Seattle, where the pressure to address the city’s growing pains has surpassed the conventional wisdom that attracting new jobs is the top civic priority.

As a tech boom drives up home prices, lawmakers ask: “Can cities grow too fast?”
Bloomberg News

Ed. Comment:  Early in May we overlooked Bloomberg news. We just learned that May 2 offers a lesson for the Peninsula. It was, as the local public radio station said, the day “Seattle Nice” died.


Price of Success = 3T
Mountain View may enact a business head tax in November, and a successful vote might spawn multiple Silicon Valley imitators. “If we and Cupertino enact these taxes, I can expect that Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Palo Alto and Menlo Park will be considering them in the next round two years hence,” Mountain View Mayor Lenny Siegel said.
SV Business Journal

A Mt. View City Councilperson reasoned that paying $200 tax per employee is affordable considering
six-figure incomes. But leaders of the leading Silicon Valley business consortium feel $200 will discourage job growth.
SJ Mercury News

In a bid to raise between $5 million and $10 million for transportation, housing and homeless services, the city of Mountain View is considering a vast increase in the business license tax that it levies to large businesses, including Google, Microsoft and LinkedIn.
Palo Alto Daily Post

Ed. Comment: No good deed goes unpunished. Seattle passed business tax raising $50+ million/yr for affordable housing and homeless services. Business community responded by halting some construction and started a repeal campaign. 3T, our newest lexicography, is Taxing Tech Titans. It is easier to say than enact. For the record, we have seen relatively small taxes proposed for our local business community. They doth protest too much?


Awaking Up to Smell the Lattes?
Cupertino is pondering new business license fees on employers based on the number of employees. This could jolt Apple and others. This proposal bears likeness to fees under consideration by Mt. View City Council.
San Jose Mercury News

Ed. Comments: A few weeks ago we coined “J2H” as shorthand for jobs to housing ratio. Now we suggest “3T” as a timely acronym for Tech Titan Taxation. Other city Councils need cash caffeine for lagging infrastructure. Could this be on various city ballots as early as November 2018?


Latest Reality Show
Some of the biggest employers in the Bay Area, including Facebook and Google, are throwing their weight behind Regional Measure 3, which would raise bridge tolls to as high as $9 to pay for transportation projects.

While Supervisor Simitian, Mayor Seigel and others oppose it, there is no campaign committee campaigning against the tax.
Palo Alto Daily Post
Ed. Comments: Click on the link above to learn how much major employers are paying to promote the tolls on commuting workers

Cuckoo Planning

Freeways are seas of red brake lights as 83,000 commuters jam from San Joaquin County to the Bay Area. BART and other transportation agencies have conflicting options, oversupply of advisors and not enough funding.
“It’s a 14 hour day for eight hour of pay,” said Modesto construction worker. A non-profit planning expert feels, “You can’t add a room to your house if foundation is cracked and that is what BART is trying to do….. we need bus rapid transit….”Two Assemblymembers have proposed authorization of new transportation agency, Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Regional Rail Authority. “All projects compete for funding,” said a BART official, “looking for money from same sources.”
San Jose Mercury News

Ed. Comment: Our fragmented mass transit agencies would drive a crazy person insane. However, this article is valuable only if fragmented voters take time to reflect. Is it time to fly over our cuckoo nest?


It is About Time
New SamTrans bus lines aim to boost travel time on El Camino Real and access to SFO. Route SFO entails three distinctly labeled buses with luggage racks timed to meet northbound Caltrain trains at the Millbrae station. Pilot program starts June 24. Click for schedule info.
San Mateo Daily Journal

Ed. Comment: Public transportation to SFO is tribute to fragmented funding of mass transit agencies. When lost productivity is truly painful, new services will accelerate. We ask why this 20th century solution is slowly rolling out in 2018. One answer is Quentin Kopp’s “BART-TO-SFO” Opinion from June 2014. Click below for historical perspective.
Kopp Opinion 2014 San Mateo Daily Journal


Best Bike Coverage
What do cities need to know about bikeshare? Public or private? Docked or dockless? E-bike or e-scooter? It’s complicated. But bikesharing is now big business, and cities are learning how these emerging systems operate—and who operates them.
City Lab

Ed. Comment: We are often perplexed by public investment in biking relative to most commuters’ needs.  For the record we are not sold on viability of bikeshare. Nevertheless, we are sold on this article’s great coverage of bikeshare questions and answers.

Success of SFPRA newsletter success depends upon its readers. Please feel free to forward the newsletter to your friends and neighbors. Ask them to subscribe at no cost by clicking the subscribe button above or by emailing

Editors, Neilson Buchanan and John Guislin, are unpaid, private citizens on the SF Peninsula and have no ties to developers or government organizations.

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