Monday, July 17, 2017

Mountain View: Work-Live-Commute

Mountain View
Jobs and Commuting
Mountain View City Hall and Center for Performing Arts

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

A look at the number of employed in Mountain View and how many commute in and out.

Examining census data from their ongoing surveys compilation of records from other agencies, over the period 2002 to 2014, we find:
  1. Mountain View has increased jobs 70% but housing only 17%,
  2. The number of long distance commuters (over 25 miles) is about double (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.
(The Census Bureau tool used is here with an explanation of data sources here:  A similar analysis of Sunnyvale is here:  Instructions on use of the census tool are here: ).

Implications for Sunnyvale:

For Sunnyvale, this implies that adding housing in Sunnyvale simply enables more people to live near their work in Mountain View.  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 longer distances (like Morgan Hill).  (see: .  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)

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 = 80% of resident workers commuted out (down 5%).
77,671 = 91% of workers commuted into Mountain View from other cities.

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)

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%

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%

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

The blue "heat map" below shows where the jobs are most densely concentrated.

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 previously.  The blue "heat map" below shows where the jobs are most densely concentrated.

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.  (c.f., The number of commuters from San Jose to Mountain View also increased by 50%.

The "heat maps" below show where commuters are from.  San Jose is darkest indicating they provide more commuters.


Resident Stability
According to census data at 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.

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 that is forced to commute from further and further away.  Which is what we saw in the above commute data.

(This is also expressed as 50% avg. turnover for apt. dwellers here: ).

Conclusion:  Mountain View has 2 times the workers they can house.  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 they 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.

Employers who cannot compete with the highest paying companies will lose employees and ultimately be forced to relocate.  So auto repair shops, mom-and-pop local 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 have to leave.

There are 78,000 residents in Mountain View of which 38,000 are employed - roughly half of residents are workers.  Keeping the same ratio of workers to residents, to house the 85,000 workers in Mountain View 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.  Even then, 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.  (click image below to enlarge) 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).  

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.  They are running out of potential employees near by.  The lengthening commutes discourage potential hires from further out.  Even if you get a free luxury commuter bus, arriving home at 7 PM or 8 PM is a lot different than arriving home at 6 PM, especially if you have kids.

See your kids awake on weekends?

Expanding to San Jose transfers the problem from Mountain View and its neighbors to San Jose, but at 15 times the population and land area of Mountain View, San Jose can absorb the increase in jobs more easily.

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.  They have done just that in Austin, TX and Raleigh-Durham, NC, and lately Seattle and Portland, OR.  Companies need to consider other areas as well.

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