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Monday, July 17, 2017

Mountain View: Work-Live-Commute

Mountain View
Mountain View City Hall and Center for Performing Arts
A look at the number of employed in Mountain View and how many commute in and out.

Mountain View: Population: 77,846 (2013 est.)
Land Area: 12 Sq. Mi.
Density: 6,487/sq. mi.

Part of a series looking at Silicon Valley work-commute issues including:

Examining census data from their ongoing surveys compilation of records from other agencies, over the period 2002 to 2014, we find during those 12 years:
  1. Mountain View has increased jobs 70% but housing only 17%,
  2. The number of long distance commuters (over 25 miles) nearly doubled (11,000 to 21,000),
  3. 91% of the jobs in Mountain View are held by those who commute in,
  4. To house all their workers, Mountain View would need to double their population.
  5. Sunnyvale added housing resulting in fewer Sunnyvale residents working in Sunnyvale, and more commuting to Mountain View.
  6. Biking to work isn't going to "move the needle" on anything.

Number of Jobs / Number of Resident Workers:
2002:  50,174 / 31,467 = 1.59 =   59% more jobs than resident workers
2014:  85,006 / 36,935 = 2.30 = 130% more jobs than resident workers

(The Census Bureau tool used is here with an explanation of data sources here:  Instructions on use of the census tool are here: ).

Implications for Sunnyvale:

A similar analysis of Sunnyvale "worker-commuters" showed that despite all the housing and jobs added in Sunnyvale, fewer Sunnyvale residents worked in Sunnyvale, and more commuted to Sunnyvale from further out (like Morgan Hill and Livermore).  (This is detailed in: ).

For Sunnyvale, this implies that adding housing in Sunnyvale simply enables more people to live near their work in Mountain View.  If Sunnyvale decided it is not it's destiny to be a bedroom suburb of Mountain View (MV) and stopped adding housing, then MV employees would have to commute further.  This would exert greater pressure on companies in MV to relocate to a more central location with better transit - as Google is finally planning to do at Diridon Station in San Jose.

2002 In-Out Commutes

In 2002 Mountain View had:
50,174 jobs,
31,467 workers residing in the city.  Of those...
  4,609 worked in Mountain View. 
             I.e., only 9% of all workers in Mountain View lived there.
26,858 workers commuted out of the city = 85% of resident workers commuted out.
46,565 workers commuted into Mountain View = 90% of those working in Mountain View came from outside.

I.e., 90% of the workers commute in - 85% of the resident population commutes out. Maybe it changed 12 years later in 2014? (click image below to enlarge)

46,000 Commute IN, 27,000 Commute OUT, 4,600 live-and-work in Mountain View
It changed in that many more commuted in, as seen below:

2014 In-Out Commutes

In 2014 Mountain View had:
85,006 jobs in the city - an increase of 35,168 = 69% growth in jobs over 12 years.
36,935 workers residing in the city - an increase of 5,468 = 17% increase in resident workers
  7,335 workers working in the city = 20% of residents worked in Mtn Vu (up from 15%)
            = only 8.6% of all workers in Mountain View live in town (down a fraction).
29,600 workers commuted out of the city (up almost 3,000) = 80% of resident workers commuted out (down 5%).
77,671 (up over 32,000) = 91% of workers commuted into Mountain View from other cities. (up a bit)

I.e., In 2014, 91% of the workers commute in - same as in 2002  - while 80% of the resident population commute out.  (click image below to enlarge)

77,700 Commute IN, 29,600 Commute OUT, 7,300 live-and-work in Mountain View

Most residents (80%) of Mountain View Don't Work There.

Over the 12 years 2002 to 2014, there was new housing for 5,500 more workers in Mountain View.  Of those 5,500 just over 2,700 worked in Mountain View.  I.e., about half of all new residents worked in Mountain View, half commuted out.

Almost 35,000 more jobs were added.  Despite all those new jobs the percentage of residents who commuted out actually increased in 12 years.  Twelve years is plenty of time for residents to find a job in their home city of Mountain View if they want to.  Building more housing doesn't do anything to lessen commuting in or out.

It appears that for the vast majority of people, living and working in the same town isn't as important as finding a job that suits them, even if it means commuting.  They may live in Mountain View because they like the schools, or it is equidistant from jobs for both husband and wife, or any of a number of other reasons.  Commuting is not enough of a factor for them to move either home or job.

Commutes to Mountain View Get Longer

What we find in the next pair of data visualizations for 2002 and 2013 (2014 data was missing) as seen below is that most people are commuting to Mountain View from further away in 2013 than in 2002.  (Yellow high-lighted numbers below.)  In 2002, only 21% (10,725) commuted more than 25 miles.  By 2013 long distance commuting (over 25 miles) into Mountain View had nearly doubled - growing from 10,725 to 21,146.  Nor can that be fully explained by private buses to San Francisco.  Further below we see figures showing the largest group commuted from San Jose - only 6,500 (little over half) of that increase came from San Francisco.

(Note: comparing the number of Mountain View employees in 2013 and 2014, note employment increased from 75,000 to 85,000.  I.e., about 10,000 jobs were added in one year.)

Summarizing census data shown in below visualizations:

 2002 Commute Distance:

Total Primary Jobs = 50,174 

Less than 10 miles: 21,405 = 43%
10 to 24 miles:        18,044 = 36%
Long Distance Commutes:
25 to 50 miles:          6,173 = 12%  (12% + 9% = 21%)
More than 50 miles: 4,552  =  9% of workers

2013 Commute Distance:

Total Primary Jobs = 75,831

Less than 10 miles: 29,792 = 39%
10 to 24 miles:        24,893 = 12%
Long Distance Commutes:
25 to 50 miles:        13,759 = 18%   (18% + 10% = 28%)
More than 50 miles:  7,387 10% of workers

The above data is from the two charts below.  The "radar" graph shows most people are commuting in from South East (Sunnyvale, and San Jose).

The blue "heat map" below shows where the jobs are most densely concentrated.  The "Radar Map"in the upper right corner shows where and how far people commute from.  The table in the lower right shows what percent commute from how far. (click image below to enlarge)

With more jobs, hiring companies went further and further out to find candidates.   They depleted the number of workers available in the narrow area between the protected open space to the West, and SF Bay to the East.  All that was left was to go even further South and North.

The 'radar' map and data below show that more commute from further away than 11 years earlier in the previous visualization.  The blue "heat map" below shows where the jobs are most densely concentrated.  The "Radar Map" in the upper right shows where and how far people commute from.  The table in the lower right has the numbers for the "radar map" visualization. (click image below to enlarge)

Bike or Walk to Work:
Philadelphia Mayor Bikes to Work - 2013
Biking is great exercise and people who bike to work actually enjoy their commute.  You should try it, if possible.  Is it a part of a solution to commuting woes in the majority of cases?  We can easily calculate this and the maximum difference this could make for GHG emissions and congestion.

The typical biking speed is about 10 miles per hour (  That limits the number of those who can reasonably bike to work to 39% in 2013 in Mountain View (less than 10 mile commute = 1 hour max each way - data from lower right corner of chart above).  If getting 10% of people to bike to work is the goal, in Mountain view in 2013 that would be 7,500 commuters.  That 7,500 is 25% of the 30,000 who live within bike-able 10 miles of work.

A simple and easy calculation of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) from the census data above for 2013 gives:
  1. 10 miles or less = (avg 5 mile) X 30,000 commuters = 150,000 VMT =   9.7%
  2. 10 to 24 miles = (avg 17 mile) X 25,000 commuters = 425,000 VMT =  27.5%
  3. 25 to 50 miles = (avg 37 mile) X 14,000 commuters = 518,000 VMT =  33.6%
  4. Over 50 miles = (use 60 miles) X 7,500 commuters = 450,000 VMT  =  29.2%
  5.                               Total 77,500 commuters;   Total = 1,543,000 VMT  =  100%
If 25% of those within a 10 mile range actually biked to work, it would be 25% of the 150,000 VMT from that "10 miles or less" group.  25% of 150,000 = 38,000 VMT.  This is only 2.5% of the total 1.5 Million VMT.

Subtracting out that 38,000 VMT miles "biked" from the 1,543,000 VMT leaves 1,505,000 VMT.  This can be seen in the graph below (click to enlarge):
Compare the bottom bar of the graph with the one just above it
If 10% of of commuters biked to work, it would be barely noticeable.
Even if you got everyone in the 10 mile range to bike or walk to work (40% of all commuters), their 150,000 VMT would only represent about 10% of total VMT.

The reason biking has negligible impact on Vehicle Miles Traveled is that the 10% of commuters who live more than 50 miles out contribute 3 times the VMT as the 40% who live nearby.  Even assuming electric vehicles, that is a huge impact on roads, and traffic.

How realistic is getting 10% to bike to work?  The highest percentage of bike-to-workers of any (non-college) metro area is Portland, OR.  The city of Portland proper (about 700,000) is at around 8% biking to work, but the entire metro area of 2 million people is at 2.2%.  The avg. for the SF Bay area is currently about 1.5% (down from 2.2% several decades ago).  Getting 10% to bike to work will be a challenge.  I cover that in more detail here:

Which Cities Workers Come From:
Looking now at which cities people commute from, we find that in both 2002 and 2014, San Jose dominates, with Mountain View, San Francisco, Sunnyvale, and Santa Clara occupying the next slots.  Commuters from Sunnyvale increased from 4,670 to 7,040 - a 50% increase.  Contrast this to what we found in our earlier study of Sunnyvale, which saw an actual decline in the number of Sunnyvale residents who live and work in Sunnyvale.  That suggests Sunnyvale is becoming a dormitory for Mountain View, providing housing for those who can't find housing in Mountain View.  This has had a "knock-on" effect in Sunnyvale in that 93% of the increase in commuters to Sunnyvale came from Morgan Hill, Livermore, Pleasanton, and Fremont.  The number of commuters from San Jose to Mountain View also increased by 50%.

The "heat maps" below show where commuters are from in 2002 and 2014.  San Jose is darkest indicating they provide more commuters to Mountain View.  Note that in 2002 there were more people commuting to Mountain View from San Jose and Sunnyvale than "commuted" to Mountain View from Mountain View (click image below to enlarge)


In 2014, it got "worse" in the sense that the numbers of people commuting from San Jose increased 50%.  That increase (5,000) was about double (in numbers) the increase in MV-to-MV commuters (2,600).

Resident Stability

According to census data, (see table below) over 70% of renters in the US have been in their unit for 3 years or less.  (22.9% + 26% + 14.1% + 8.2% = 71.2%).  Over 60% have been there 2 years or less. (click image below to enlarge)

Assuming this is also true for Mountain View the effects are that many residents are likely to have less attachment to the community of Mountain View.  Since all available space for detached single-family housing in Mountain View is taken, anyone seeking a single family home is forced to commute from further and further away.  Which is what we saw in the above commute data.

(Renter duration with median of 2.1 years is also expressed as 50% avg. turnover for apt. dwellers - i.e., half of all apt. residents leave every year.  C.f., ).

Conclusion:  Mountain View has more than 2 times the workers they can house.  Adding more housing simply does not solve the problem because you can't make people work where they live.  Roads are clogged, commutes are getting worse.  Public transit cannot handle all this traffic.  As Mountain View high-paying employers keep on expanding in Mountain View they find it harder to get employees to come through the traffic.   And if employees do come, they are not likely to stay very long unless they can afford $2M for a modest house in town.  If they can afford that, they squeeze out all those that can't afford $2M.  The commutes will get longer and more crowded either way.  For every highly paid engineer with stock options and hiring bonus there are 5-10 more moderately paid people in book-keeping, building maintenance, food service, etc., etc.  So for every engineer hired who CAN afford to live in MV, there are 5-10 people hired who CANNOT afford to live in MV and must commute from outside.

What if all 10,000 employees at Google headquarters in Mountain View were provided on site housing?  Alfred Twu envisioned it as seen below.  Average apt. size = 800 sq. ft. (click image to enlarge).

Google Ville
Employers who cannot compete with the highest paying companies will lose employees who cannot afford to live nearby and will ultimately be forced to relocate.  Auto repair shops, mom-and-pop services like dry cleaners, and small restaurants will close and move.  As housing costs are forced up further by the increasing average incomes, small retail that cannot keep up with the increase in rents will leave.  (Discussed in more detail here: )

There are 78,000 residents in Mountain View of which 38,000 are employed - roughly half of residents are workers.  To house the 85,000 workers in Mountain View, assuming the same ratio of workers to residents, there would need to be housing for 170,000 residents - over 2 times the current population (2.18 times to be precise).  To illustrate what that means, every house would become a duplex, every 2-story apt. building a four-story, and every four-story an eight-story apt. building.

Every single family house becomes a duplex

Every two-story apt. becomes a four story

Every four story apt. becomes an eight story apartment:

Of course, schools would also double in size, as would traffic.  Since school mitigation fees for commercial buildings are grossly inadequate for school expansion (limited by state law), expansion of schools will require some sort of parcel tax or increased class sizes or both.

And of course, we can't ignore the implications of global warming.  Glaciers are rapidly melting, seas will rise, and much of Mountain View will go under water as seen below (click image to enlarge):

Mountain View - 2060 - Already "Baked In"
Sunnyvale - 2060

I cover that in more detail here:
and here:

Even if you forget about sea level rise (it won't forget about you, though) most of the new residents are likely to commute out, based on past experience seen above.  The residents of Mountain View would need to decide if doubling their residential density is desirable.

With increased density comes increased housing prices as the limited available land is bid up in price. This is standard "bid-rent" theory as exemplified most clearly in Lower Manhattan and San Francisco.  It is such a widely accepted demographic principle it is taught in high school in AP Geography.  (C.f., AP Teacher's guide, page 75, week 31 here: ) (click image below to enlarge)

(C.f., or )

Mountain View housing will become more expensive if jobs and population increase.  For more discussion of that principal of Urban Economics consider the following:

"First an increase in the population size has fairly straightforward effects. Indeed, a rising population makes competition for land fiercer, which in turn leads to an increase in land rent everywhere [emphasis added] and pushes the urban fringe outward.  This corresponds to a well documented fact stressed by economic historians.  Examples include the growth of cities in Europe in the 12th and 19th centuries as well as in North America and Japan in the 20th century or since the 1960s in Third World countries."  (From page 83 section 3.3.2: Economics of Agglomeration:... by Fujita, Thisse).  

We see this in the growth of Chicago as charted below.  The population reached the city limits and kept on expanding outward to less and less dense (and therefore less expensive) areas.
This is discussed in detail in

Google is (finally) setting up a job center near transit in San Jose, where the single greatest number of their employees come from.  They are doing it because they must.  Google is running out of potential employees near by.  The lengthening commutes discourage potential hires from further out.

Even if you get a free commuter bus with Wi-Fi, arriving home at 7 PM (or 8 PM if there's especially heavy traffic) is a lot different than arriving home at 6 PM, especially if you have kids.

See your kids awake only on weekends?
When Google and other tech cos. expand to San Jose it transfers the problem from Mountain View and its neighbors to San Jose, but San Jose has 15 times the population (1M vs 78,000) and 15 times the land area of Mountain View  (180 sq. mi. vs 12 sq. mi.).  Housing is a lot cheaper and transit option are better.  San Jose can absorb the increase in jobs and residents much more easily.

Hyper-Growth => "Displacement"

The term gentrification has given way to "displacement" as a term for saying people are getting priced out of neighborhoods because of the constant increase in higher income tech employees.

Protesters block a Google-employee commuter bus in San Francisco bound for Mountain View
From the article in Fortune Magazine:  "The buses are certainly one of the most visible indicators of the thriving tech industry, which is held largely responsible for escalating city rents and a rise in evictions for residents who can't afford to keep up."

"Two newly homeless people and a witness secured entry for a meeting with Housing Officers"
As a problem for the SF Bay Area, the only real solution is for companies located here to expand to other less crowded and less expensive areas.  Tech cos. have done just that in expanding to Austin, TX; Phoenix, AZ; Raleigh-Durham, NC; and lately Seattle, WA and Portland, OR.  Companies need to consider other areas as well.  The US is a big country, with a lot of beautiful areas and lots of smart people. (click image below to enlarge).

(Note: California is also a town in MD.  C.f.,,_Maryland )
STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) Concentrations in US

I have covered housing more thoroughly here:
Search for "Raleigh" to find where in the above post (ctrl-F Raleigh)

For now, this is...