Last week, I reported that the Tri-Valley’s GDP, with 361,000 people, was equivalent to the Tech Triangle in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina at $42 billion, despite being more than five times smaller.
The report, put together by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, updated its 2014 report. It provided several comparisons of the Tri-Valley with Austin, Boston, Nashville, Portland, Raleigh-Durham and Silicon Valley.
Looking at productivity or GDP per worker, the Tri-Valley at $224k trailed only the Silicon Valley at $269k. Other areas: Austin $$141k, Boston $162k, Nashville ($138k, Portland $145k and Raleigh-Durham $91k. It’s worth considering that Austin (University of Texas) Boston, and Raleigh-Durham have several major universities in their regions, while the valley has community colleges.
The educational level also is telling with 60 percent of Tri-Valley residents holding bachelor’s or higher degrees. Austin (43 percent), Boston (47 percent), Nashville (34 percent), Portland (39 percent), Raleigh-Durham (44 percent) and Silicon Valley (50 percent). For the Tri-Valley, these numbers have changed dramatically, nearly doubling since the late 1990s when the Golden Valley report was compiled by the Tri-Valley Business Council.
When it comes to employment growth, the Tri-Valley is the leader with 35 percent growth from 2006-2016. Austin is next at 33 percent, while Nashville is third at 20 percent. The valley’s recovery from the recession was slower than only Austin and Nashville.
When commercial office space rents are factored in, the Tri-Valley is the third most-expensive, surprisingly behind Austin and Boston.
Then, we get to housing and the major advantages across the country collapse. Based on Zillow’s home value index, the Tri-Valley is home value is about $950k. The next highest is Boston at about $420k, while Nashville and Austin are both in the mid-$200k range, while Portland and Raleigh-Durham are in the mid-$300s.
If you are here and own a home, you’d love the news that, according David Stark of the Bay East Board of Realtors, the median home price in the Tri-Valley for every city except Livermore now is more than $1 million.
The cost of housing, whether for-sale or rentals, is a major issue for the valley as well as the Bay Area. Those prices shove families over the Altamont Pass to San Joaquin County where traffic on I-580 has soared. More than 32,000 San Joaquin County residents commute into the Bay Area and the number going to Santa Clara County has increased by half, while it’s grown by about one-third in Alameda County.
That’s put increasing pressure on four daily trips of the ACE train as well on I-580.
Looking out another 20 years, the valley’s population is predicted to increase by 100,000 and the number of commuters coming cross the Altamont Pass will increase 75 percent.
The silver lining in the BART board’s decision to renege on its commitment to extend tracks to Livermore is it may result in a more flexible and better system to connect San Joaquin County and the Livermore Valley. The regional rail authority is working on a plan, due next year, to run trains like what BART used in Eastern Contra Costa County to connect Lathrop with the Dublin/Pleasanton BART stations with connections to ACE in Tracy and at Greenville Road in Livermore.
Early plans, which will use the abandoned Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way that is owned by Alameda County through the Altamont Pass, indicate that it may be about the same cost as the 5-mile BART extension to Isabel Avenue and it could be delivered years sooner.
The sooner the better because studies by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission show that Bay Area residents who live and work within a half-mile of rail and ferry stops use transit for 42 percent of their work trips, while people living outside this radius use transit only 4 percent of the time. Thus, the push for transit-oriented housing.
A key recommendation in the report is for Innovation Tri-Valley to put together business leaders and other stakeholders to create a 2040 plan. The goal is to maintain the vibrant economies while tackling the key issues that threaten the long-term viability of the area.