Tri-Valley Rising

Its Vital Role in the Bay Area Economy

The Tri-Valley is an integral component of the Bay Area economy. Situated on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area and located within the I-580 gateway corridor, the Tri-Valley is a reference to its location that includes the Amador Valley, Livermore Valley, and San Ramon Valley. The Tri-Valley region encompasses the cities of Dublin, Livermore, and Pleasanton in Alameda County and the Town of Danville and the City of San Ramon in Contra Costa County. With its robust research and development infrastructure and its growing entrepreneurial environment, the Tri-Valley region is no longer just a nice place to live—it has become a vital node in the Bay Area innovation system.

The Tri-Valley’s highly educated residents work throughout the Bay Area. The area’s growing number of businesses and its two national laboratories collaborate with partners across the wider region. But physical constraints impeding the movement of people and goods pose a threat to the Tri-Valley’s ability to maximize its economic contribution to the larger region.

The more connected the Bay Area population is with the multiple job centers in the region, the more flexible the region’s economy can be in connecting skilled workers with appropriate jobs. Investing in the efficient movement of people is especially critical as the region’s housing costs grow and as residents are pushed out of job centers in search of more affordable housing options. Longer commute distances place new burdens on the region’s public transit systems and highways. And the highways linking the Central Valley with the Port of Oakland are becoming more congested as goods movement grows and agricultural exports increase.


This report was prepared by the Bay Area Council Economic Institute for Alameda County Transportation Commission. Sean Randolph (President and CEO) oversaw the development of the study. Tracy Grose (Vice President) designed the study and directed the analysis. The research team included Jeff Bellisario (Senior Reseach Associate), Saori Hamidi (Research Associate), and Alex Foard (Research Associate).

Tri-Valley Transportation
of the Tri-Valley’s working residents drive alone to work.
percent of the riders who moved through the two Tri-Valley BART stations in December 2013 were traveling to or from San Francisco.
Share on Twitter
Tri-Valley Job Growth
job growth was observed from 2000 to 2012 in San Fransisco.
job growth was observed in the Tri-Valley over the same period.
Share on Twitter
Tri-Valley Education
rate of graduation for high school students in the Tri-Valley
of graduates are prepared for college
Share on Twitter
Tri-Valley Transportation Projects
million is slated for Tri-Valley transportation projects.
million of this will be an extension of Bart to Livermore.
Share on Twitter

The Tri-Valley’s innovation assets are driving its economy.

With its highly skilled population, its strong growth in commercial activities connected to the two national labs, and its proximity to the rest of the Bay Area, the Tri-Valley is cultivating start-ups locally and attracting companies from other regions.

The Tri-Valley is growing at a faster rate than the Bay Area as a whole. Over the last two decades, the Tri-Valley has experienced an influx of people and jobs—population and employment are both growing faster in the Tri-Valley than in the broader region.

Between 2000 and 2012, the Tri-Valley’s total population expanded by 20 percent, more than double the rate for the broader Bay Area.

Over that same period, the Tri-Valley added approximately 40,000 jobs – increasing employment by 21 percent – while job growth in the Bay Area has been 3 percent.

The Tri-Valley’s business mix is diverse, and technology represents a growing area of activity. Technology-related industries have made significant employment gains in the last decade. Additionally, the information technology sector has proved resilient; its employment numbers since the recession have remained strong even as other industries have contracted. The national laboratories are spinning out start-ups based on lab research, and they are attracting other companies to the area as research partners.

The Tri-Valley has built an attractive business climate. By successfully leveraging the area’s assets, the Tri-Valley has drawn in new businesses and corporate offices. Most notably, the concentration of small, standalone firms in the Tri-Valley has climbed. These independent firms account for 58 percent of the area’s total employment.

Key Bay Area transportation routes travel through the Tri-Valley.

Commuters move to, from, and through the Tri-Valley as it grows as a population and job center, and agricultural products move from the Central Valley to the Bay Area’s primary port in Oakland and to inland distribution centers via the Tri-Valley.

The I-580 freeway serves as a significant regional and interregional commuter route, and it is also a major gateway for goods movement to and from the Bay Area’s seaports. The I-580 corridor is one of the most heavily congested highway routes in the Bay Area. From 2011 to 2013, average daily vehicle hours of delay on I-580 through the Tri-Valley grew by nearly 26 percent. A portion of these delays is associated with truck traffic, as the I-580 corridor experiences the second-highest volume of truck traffic in the Bay Area. Trucks make up between 5 and 12 percent of all vehicle volume on I-580 in the Tri-Valley.

More than three-quarters of Tri-Valley residents who work commute to either Alameda or Contra Costa Counties to their place of business. With much of the Tri-Valley’s working population remaining within the East Bay, 75 percent of working residents drive alone to work – higher than the Bay Area average of 67 percent. The opening of the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station in 2011 has improved BART ridership within the Tri-Valley in recent years and has given another commute option to workers traveling between San Francisco and the Tri-Valley. Approximately 66 percent of the riders who moved through the two Tri-Valley BART stations in December 2013 were traveling to or from San Francisco.

As the Central Valley grows as a jobs and distribution center, pressure on I-580 and other transportation systems will increase. There is a significant flow of workers commuting into or through the Tri-Valley from the east. The population of neighboring San Joaquin County has increased by 24 percent since 2000, exceeding 700,000 in 2012. Over 42,000 of those residents commuted into the nine-county Bay Area in 2012, with many taking I-580 as their route through the Tri-Valley. Numerous companies are also locating new distribution facilities in San Joaquin County to take advantage of relatively low land costs and its proximity to highway links, railroads, and multimodal facilities.

High-value connections between the Tri-Valley and the broader region are growing, supporting innovation and economic vitality in the Bay Area.

The Tri-Valley is cultivating new economic opportunities through its deep connections with the rest of the Bay Area, including labor flows, collaboration with regional partners, and investment flows.

Tri-Valley inventors are collaborating with inventors located across the Bay Area in advancing technology. In 2012, 886 patents were registered to primary inventors located in the Tri-Valley, representing significant growth over the last 20 years.

The Tri-Valley accounts for 5 percent of all Bay Area patents, a percentage that has remained relatively stable.

Increasingly, these patents have been registered with co-inventors located in other parts of the Bay Area. In 2012, 66 percent of all patents with a Tri-Valley inventor named were products of regional collaboration.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s commercial licensing activity leads all other federal labs. Of the lab’s more than 900 licensing agreements signed since 2001, 76 have been with Bay Area–based companies.

Sandia National Laboratory projects have been associated with 95 new companies since 1994, some as spin-offs and incubator creations.

The Tri-Valley is attracting increasing venture capital investment from around the Bay Area. In 2012, the East Bay’s 925 area code (which comprises all of the Tri-Valley and surrounding parts of Contra Costa County) ranked 19th in venture capital investment in the United States. The Tri-Valley outpaces better-known innovation areas such as North Carolina’s Research Triangle on this metric.

Growing interdependence with the rest of the Bay Area is demonstrated in increasing commute flows and rising travel distances. The total number of Tri-Valley commuters has grown by 3 percent from 2007 to 2012, and more residents are commuting longer distances to work. The number of Tri-Valley commuters traveling to Santa Clara, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties increased 20 percent over this period.

High quality of life is a large part of Tri-Valley’s competitive advantage.

The Tri-Valley attracts high-value businesses—including corporate headquarters—through the high quality of life it offers residents.

Companies in the Tri-Valley are able to tap into a highly educated population within the area as well as across the Bay Area. Tri-Valley firms and the national labs hire highly skilled graduates from universities across the Bay Area, and they contribute to educational programs in the region. The area also attracts increasing numbers of foreign-born science and engineering professionals.

The percentage of adults in the Tri-Valley with at least a master’s degree increased from 16 to 21 percent between 2000 and 2012, exceeding the rate of growth for the region overall.

By multiple measures, the Tri-Valley is outperforming the rest of the region in preparing its youth for success. The Tri-Valley has maintained high school graduation rates of 95 percent, and 60 percent of graduates are prepared for college.

Easily accessible protected space is abundant. With 99,000 acres (155 square miles) across the area set aside as open and mixed public access parkland, the Tri-Valley accounts for 10 percent of the 1 million acres of protected land in the Bay Area. The Tri-Valley also boasts one of the longest trails in the Bay Area, the Iron Horse Regional Trail, which runs 32 miles from Concord south through the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to eastern Pleasanton.

Improving transportation systems between tri-valley and the broader region will support growing economic activity and strengthen the bay area’s competitiveness.

Economic growth in the Tri-Valley is in part dependent on its capacity to support the increasing number of high-value connections with Silicon Valley and the broader Bay Area.

The Tri-Valley’s growing population and the increase in the number of jobs over the last decade have driven the need for new infrastructure projects. Although housing and corporate campuses have been built, the transportation infrastructure that is necessary to fully support them has lagged behind. Numerous Tri-Valley cities are carrying out plans to develop denser housing and better linkages with public transportation in order to better utilize land near transit centers.

The Tri-Valley has implemented numerous policies that will support the growing movement of people and goods in the Bay Area. The five local Tri-Valley governments and Alameda and Contra Costa Counties have come together to form the unique Tri-Valley Transportation Council to provide initial funding for regional transportation projects, including:

I-680 auxiliary lanes, allowing drivers to more easily enter and exit the highway, between Danville and San Ramon;

State Route 84 expansion, connecting I-580 at west Livermore to I-680 south of Pleasanton; and

I-580 and I-680 express lanes, allowing for dynamic pricing and better traffic flow.

Plans to extend BART to Livermore would offer a more seamless connection between the Tri-Valley and the broader Bay Area. The extension has the potential to strengthen a key transportation link, especially in light of the heavy traffic on I-580, the growing flow of workers out of the Central Valley, and the importance of the corridor to agriculture and shipping. Drivers on I-580 will benefit from a new station in Livermore, as it will likely lead to a decrease in the number of vehicles traveling to the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. An extension of BART will also benefit the trucking industry, as reduced congestion on I-580 will lead to faster goods movement.

Projects impacting the Tri-Valley have strong representation in Alameda County’s 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan. Tri-Valley transportation projects are slated to receive over $840 million in funding, including $400 million for the extension of BART to Livermore. These expenditures will create new jobs, the earnings from which will be recycled back into the regional economy. The total projected economic impact of the $840 million investment in Tri-Valley transportation programs and projects associated with the 2014 Transportation Expenditure Plan exceeds $1.5 billion. Additionally, over 8,350 new full-time equivalent jobs will be produced from spending related to construction, maintenance, and operation of these programs.

Read the Full PDF Report on Tri-Valley Rising »