Friday, March 12, 2010

SJC Hypothetical Question

I'm going to play devil's advocate a little bit and throw out a hypothetical question posed by one of our readers, Anthony Dominguez. What would happen if we were to shut down SJC and relocate operations to SFO and OAK? Before you light your torches, hear me out (and bear in mind I'm a big fan of SJC). With high speed rail, the trip from Diridon Station to SFO is going to be a ridiculously low 13 minutes. That's less time than it takes to park in SJC on a busy day. So what would we gain in exchange for losing one of the city's prime assets?
  • No building height restrictions in Downtown San Jose or other urban areas around the airport.
  • Faster approval process for high-rise development.
  • 1,000 acres of prime, develop-able land in the center of Silicon Valley with immediate access to 3 freeways.
  • Substantially less noise for over 100,000 people that live in close proximity to the airport.
  • None of the liabilities that come along with managing an airport, especially one with declining passenger volume.
I'm not saying that this is something I support, again just playing devil's advocate ;). Below are some mock-ups that Anthony put together of what a consolidated airport at SFO could look like. If you have an opinion on this topic, as always please post in the comments!


  1. Anything for high rise development. They could even move the airport to Gilroy.

  2. Could not have said it better myself Joshua; thanks! And for the record, credit for this idea does not go to me (someone over at SJInside can take that), just the concept.

  3. I agree with the anti-airport crowd in theory. The price San Jose pays to have an airport where it does is far too high. If you take a step back and ask yourself if an airport belongs in the center of a major city, the answer is clear: of course not. The building up of SJC was a short-sighted attempt to enhance San Jose's prestige, and based on the business numbers it was doubling down on a bad bet.

    However, I'm very much a realist on how this will play out. Supporters of moving the airport seem to underestimate the huge amount of effort it's going to take to make this happen. First of all, politicians are extremely slow to take any drastic action. Closing or moving SJC is a very big deal, and it could even cost money in the short term if developers want infrastructure built before they'll consider buying the land.

    Second of all, high speed rail (which I agree when completed will be the death of SJC) is projected to take ten years to build. This effort not only hasn't started, but it isn't even clear where most of the funds will come from (10B from the bond measure plus 2.25B in federal dollars does not equal 42B). Throw in the government's track record with big projects and I think a realistic estimate of when we'll have trains running is 15 to 20 years.

    So here's my humble prediction: SJC will limp along for another 20 years. Please forgive me if I don't get excited about the prospect of it's closure.