Housing | Transportation | Your Requests or Comments
Local issues are less the job of Congress than they are of local government and Congress shouldn't be involved if they can be solved at the local level. I don't believe that Congess, in general, should be taxing people for the purpose of sending money to cities and states with strings attached. However, because that is the current model, my views on local issues have some relevance.
We need to take a common sense approach to the housing problem. As long as more people want to live in the valley than there are houses and apartments to put them, there will be high prices. Subsidy programs make the problem worse, not better, because they increase the ability of a small portion of the population to pay the high prices, but these programs donít increase the available units and, therefore, simply end up increasing the prices for everyone else.
A complicating factor is that the housing shortage affects all economic segments. The trend to push the working poor farther and farther out does little more than increase traffic congestion and make it more difficult for the retail and service industries to find workers.
There isnít any "magic bullet."
Spreading the "Bay Area" farther out only eats up valuable cropland, increases traffic congestion, and increases commute times. High speed transit to suburbs down the coast or in the Central Valley can help with congestion and commute times, but donít reduce sprawl. Communities that are on the edge of the commute are vulnerable to economic cycles, because they are overbuilt during boom times and left out when the economy contracts.
Housing policy needs to focus on the efficient use of land available within the valley given the realities of how poorly we have allowed it to be built to date. This doesnít mean building thousands of "executive homes" on tiny lots in fire trap sub-divisions.
Too much of the discussion of transportation issues in the Santa Clara Valley has centered on downtown San Jose revitalization. We need to worry more about helping people move to where they need to be than in social engineering projects to make them want to be somewhere else.
Many of the transportation problems in the valley can be attributed to simplistic urban planning a generation ago where the planners chose to put housing on one side of the valley and business on the other. However, reversing those decisions won't be easy.
We need to look at requiring business to have a telecommuting policy. Even if the policy is, "No Telecommuting," it requires the company to think about it and puts telecommuting on the table when people are thinking about joining the company. A major social barrier to increased adoption of telecommuting is that many people are afraid to ask about telecommuting at their job interviews because they don't want to risk not getting a job that they want.
Working with the labor unions, we need to find a way that works within their need to protect overtime, but also allows the freedom of choice to workers who may want to work out alternative work schedules, such as workweeks of four days of ten hours each day. Instead of ten commutes to the office, a four day/week worker only has 8 commutes, a 20% reduction in peak hour trips.
We need to look at the impact of regional shopping centers on overall traffic. Large stores are more efficient and can offer customers better selection at lower prices; however, they are inefficient from a transportation perspective because they require people to do more driving to get to them than to a neighborhood store. This isnít a call to do away with regional stores, but to work with them to develop solutions.
Copyright: 2000, Dale C. Mead for Congress Committee