Transportation has remained a thorn in the side of many Bay Area residents as the average commuter to San Jose spends 30 minutes in traffic one way, and it is only getting worse. Initiatives like Measure B, which requires a half percent sales tax over a 30-year period could improve an increasingly dire situation. With revenue remaining in local coffers, this measure has the capability to improve our highways, roads, and alternative forms of transportation.
According to the ‘father’ of transportation service in Silicon Valley and former longtime Executive Director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, Rod Diridon Sr, we could be facing terminal gridlock in as little as 10 to 20 years. While sitting in your car for three to four hours because of traffic is a terrifying prospect, the impact this will have on our workforce and by extension employee retention in Silicon Valley is worse. An average of 67 hours are lost per year for commuters in San Jose, a 60 percent increase from the national average, and it is taking its toll (no pun intended).
An increasing body of research done by U.S. and U.K researchers demonstrate people with long commute times suffer decreased social connections, life satisfaction, and well-being. All of this culminating in employee dissatisfaction, a high turnover to retention rate for business and an overall negative impact to the bottom line. Companies like Google and Facebook recognize the impact traffic has on its workforce’s quality of life and have been known to stipend thousands of dollars for their employees to live close to headquarters. The result is a happy, productive workforce that translates into better retention rates. These measures that individual businesses take, however, are not a long-term solution.
Traffic is only going to get worse. San Jose’s unemployment rate of 4.5 percent translates into more people driving on our roads and highways. While adding jobs is always a positive, the impact that this growth has—particularly on our infrastructure—is real. Meanwhile, housing has not kept up, forcing many to move out of the area and commute in. More people commuting equals more congestion, a low employee retention rate, and less growth.
If San Jose is going to address this issue and retain a vibrant, healthy, and satisfied workforce, things need to change. Voting for Measure B is not only the right decision to improve the economy but also a smart business decision.