Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

San Francisco May Crack Down on Corporate Shuttle Buses (Update)

San Francisco wants tech employee shuttle buses — which have become a loathed symbol of elitism for many residents — to be a little more considerate.

But the city’s proposed demands are pretty mild. It just wants companies who ferry their employees around in private buses to limit and pay for their use of city bus stops.

Googlebus

A Google bus

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency corporate board this week discussed a plan for an 18-month trial of a policy that would bring the much-blamed and essentially unregulated private bus systems into line. If it’s approved, it could come into effect early next year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The quickly proliferating corporate shuttles carry as many as 35,000 workers per day (Update: The MTA clarified that shuttles conduct 35,000 rides per day, and individual people can complete more than one trip per day, so the number of total riders is lower), mainly from 250 200 established public Muni stops near their homes in the city to their offices located in more boring towns 40 or so miles south. Participating companies include Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, Intuit and eBay.

The often enormous and unmarked big white buses have many haters in a gentrifying city where the median one-bedroom apartment now costs $2,795 per month, up 27 percent in just two years. The symbolism has gotten to the point where piñatas in the shape of Google shuttle buses were smashed at a recent public protest.

And the trend is only growing. Companies like Google, which started busing employees as a perk and a sustainability effort to keep cars off the road, continue to bulk up their staffs while adding more buses and stops, and startups like Box now offer their own shuttles too. Apartment postings for sale and rent in San Francisco regularly tout proximity to corporate shuttle stops.

Excerpt from a Stamen Design map of employee bus routes

Excerpt from a Stamen Design map of employee bus routes

What’s crazy is the buses are basically unregulated. They poach existing bus stops, and the SFMTA has received complaints about shuttles ”forcing Muni buses to disgorge passengers in the middle of streets, blocking crosswalks, backing up traffic, traveling on restricted streets and interfering with bicycles using bike lanes.”

The SFMTA plan would limit corporate shuttles to 100 of the 250 stops they currently use, and charge a yet-to-be-determined fee for maintaining the stops.

It would also do some pretty sensible things like establish priority at the stops for public Muni buses, require identifying placards and require operators to disclose their routes and number of passengers.

Reactions to the SFMTA’s plan were mixed. San Francisco Supervisor Scott Weiner called the proposal “common-sense regulations” in a Facebook post. He noted employee shuttles “provide a critical transportation service to many of our neighbors and get cars off the road.”

Local blog SFist, on the other hand, headlined its post on the matter, “Muni Caves to Corporate Shuttle Bus Pressure.”


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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik