Honestly, the only way for the protesters to get the Google bus out of the Mission is for them to stage a pedestrian getting run over by one

Yesterday’s corporate shuttle hearing at SF City Hall brought out supporters from all sides of the transportation controversy to have their opinions heard regarding the recent proposal to allow the shuttles to share public stops with Muni buses for a mere $1 (instead of hefty $300+ fine leveraged on normal citizens who get caught using the stops).  Community members came to describe how the presence of these shuttles has affected their daily lives, while tech workers attended armed with scripted talking points provided by Google itself.

I’m not going to cover the entire proceedings, as SFist’s Andrew Dalton has diligently provided a full account already, but the main arguments of each side were as follows:

  • Tech:  If these shuttles didn’t exist, we would all just drive to Silicon Valley instead, and traffic would be terrible, pollution would run rampant, and the entire world would soon end.
  • Community: Private corporate shuttles shouldn’t utilize public infrastructure in the first place, but the fact that they also cause Muni delays and contribute to excessive rent increases for housing is unacceptable unless the companies involved provide a meaningful contribution to the communities they are disrupting

In the end, the Board sided with Tech and will charge private shuttles a pitifully insignificant $1 per bus, per stop used.  Which is ridiculous.  The fact is that these shuttles are used as a recruiting tool, making it convenient to transport tech workers (who might otherwise choose to work in the city) down to the South Bay without them having to interact with undesirables.  God forbid they use the public transit already in place.  God forbid their companies invest in said public transit to help bolster its ability to ferry workers of all stripes around.

And no, these people wouldn’t simply drive to work if the buses didn’t exist.  Most would either move closer to their work or find jobs here in the city.  Basically, it’s how a company like Menlo-based Facebook can compete for young talent against SF-based Twitter.

Look, I get it.  Muni, BART, and CalTrain aren’t perfect.  But they’re not bad, and with a little help and some extra funds, they could be a lot better.  However, based on the Board’s decision, this help isn’t coming anytime soon.

[Photo by Steve Rhodes]


91 Responses to “Honestly, the only way for the protesters to get the Google bus out of the Mission is for them to stage a pedestrian getting run over by one”

  1. outtahere says:

    More likely, the jobs will just move up to the city. If you think things are insane now, …

    • Laurel says:

      Even if the offices did move to the city, there is transit infrastructure in place to get to downtown from all over the Bay Area. People wouldn’t have to live in the few neighborhoods served by corporate shuttles.

      • timbo says:

        Not to mention all the potential payroll tax (assuming the City wouldn’t incentivize it away.

        • Jesse says:

          Payroll tax is out, gross receipts tax is in. You voted for it.

          • timbo says:

            They’re not exactly out just yet, due to the phased implementation. But you’re right in that I should have referred to both.

            In any case, how do you know how I voted? Was that you peeking over my voting booth in 2012?

      • John Murphy says:

        Hint: BART, GG Ferry, Caltrain are all running at flat out capacity right now.

  2. Adrian Covert says:

    The $1 figure is totally misleading. It doesn’t sound like much, but the typical tech company will pay over $100,000 a year under this program.

    • anadromy says:

      And the costs of administering it will be … about the same. The pols and Muni administrators claim they can’t charge any more than that. This fee is absolutely pathetic. These companies just started using Muni stops in blatant violation of the law. There is no getting around that. It’s a fact. You aren’t allowed to park in Muni zones, let alone park hundreds of massive shuttles all morning and evening every single day of the year. It’s indefensible and infuriating. Fuck all the phony “benefits” of it. It’s ILLEGAL. And yet, instead of enforcing the law, our meretricious leaders came up with this half-ass “solution” that absolves any responsibility.

      • lsheesh says:

        There are plenty of tourist shuttles which use the stops illegally. Where’s the outrage there?

        • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

          They should have to pay to use the stops, also.

          • Poops says:

            I agree, but where’s the OUTRAGE!?!?

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Dunno, I don’t even understand the outrage about the tech buses.

          • one says:

            I guess you haven’t had your commute “disrupted.”

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Sorry, I meant I don’t understand why people are outraged by the existence of the tech buses. I think the whole surround-and-stop-a-bus thing is kind of silly.

          • sheesh says:

            “For one, according to a 2012 MTA study, of 38,000 daily shuttle stops in the city, 80 percent were for trips within the city limits. (Hello, Academy of Art shuttles.) The despised tech buses, which pick up workers in San Francisco and shuttle them to the Peninsula, accounted for only 6,500 stops.”

            Funny how these asshats never complained until it was a tech-shuttle.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Yup, and they should have to pay, as well. So should any private bus line using public bus stops, be it commuter buses, jitney buses, casino buses, tourist buses, or WHATEVER.

        • NotJustGoogle says:

          It’s called critical mass (not to be confused with Critical Mass) or “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. I’ve been pissed for years about the Academy of Art “University” shuttles blocking City bus stops, not to mention UCSF shuttles (which may or may not have a deal in place already, IDK). I certainly hope that “they” have to pay as well. They already have some of the sweetest deals with the City in terms of property taxes. The least they can do is pony up for the bus stops.

  3. Adrian Covert says:

    If you recall, these businesses helped find the funds necessary to electrify Caltrain in the first place.

  4. J-Lub says:

    The Board didn’t “side with tech” as you suggest. Tech wasn’t paying anything before. Hasn’t Apple been running buses forever?

    Tech is an easy scapegoat for decades of mismanaged city planning, but I am sure a prospering regional economy is a “problem” many other cities would like to have. People better watch what they wish for.

    • Tuffy says:

      Is it prospering?

      I’ve lost so many friends to Austin, Seattle, LA and more over the last year because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore. Working two or three jobs as bartender or wait staff is no longer enough to be able to afford a room in a 3-4 bedroom place.

      Some people are prospering but it is not trickling down.

      • J-Lub says:

        I am not saying rents and real estate prices are where they should be (they are certainly too high). I just think some of the anger and frustration is misdirected at symptoms as opposed to causes.

        This is a housing and development problem, not a tech bus problem. When housing supply does not keep up with housing demand, prices go up. How people commute to work and speculating as to how they would get to work without a tech bus is a distraction.

      • AJ says:

        Good. There are way too many people who want to live in San Francisco.

        • Tuffy says:

          So people who were born and raised here should be forced out simply because they work in the service industry?

          • lops says:

            I don’t think anyone is arguing that, dude.

            How much SHOULD Google, etc. pay the city to use the stops? $10 per day per stop instead of $1? How much would make you happy? How should that money be used?

            Even at $10, it’s a drop in the bucket and will not do anything real to solve SF’s housing crisis.

            The problem is LACK OF HOUSING supply, not tech busses and certainly not those evil EVIL tech employees. 75,000 new people in the last 10 years. I highly doubt that a large percentage of those people are riding on tech shuttles.

            We need to be petitioning the city for building/planning reform. For whatever reasons, the population of SF is growing and our leadership and laws are not keeping up with it and THAT is what is fucking over your and my service sector friends.

          • JohnnyL says:

            “So people who were born and raised here should be forced out simply because they work in the service industry?”

            That gives you ZERO rights and has ZERO to do with fucking buses.


          • John Murphy says:

            Should a person who was born and raised somewhere else be disallowed from moving to SF because they work in the service industry?

          • Brink says:

            Are you contrasting against the way that tech workers in other cities are “forced out” because they work in the tech industry, of which other cities may not have enough employment available? Or “forced out” because they are gay/female/non-white and work in the tech industry, superficial qualities of which other cities are not so tolerant?

            We should all just stay in the place we started, our “rightful” places, regardless of our path and direction in life? As if that’s the goal? Regardless of what we have to contribute to society?

            If your primary contribution to your community is your excellent work as a barista, so be it… but can you please not shame the people who’ve busted their ass for a better future for themselves, their families, their communities, and often — for everyone — by taking on higher-level skills that address social issues at scale, all the while leveraging such to be paid enough money to contribute it back to the local communities they live in, whether by direct spending, or by funding or participating in arts, policy, and community culture?

            Entitlement for its own sake is a rather disgusting form of conservative oppression.

      • lops says:

        It’s not prospering for many because rents are being jacked sky high due to increased population and limited housing. Captain Obvious over here, I know.

        Getting an extra 1.5mil from this project will do nothing. Hell, make the fee 10X and it will still amount to nothing real for the city.

        What these people need to be protesting against is all the red tape that is wrapped around housing development. If SF had learned anything during the last boom, it would’ve been that WE DONT HAVE ENOUGH HOUSING to accommodate any new people without rents going sky-high.

        Blaming people for moving here for good jobs and companies for hiring people will not do anything except for fuel unwarranted and misdirected hate.


      • Brink says:

        > Some people are prospering but it is not trickling down.

        Talk to the manager of your bar and ask them to raise the prices and raise your wage. Blaming the patrons for your shitty pay isn’t going to get you anywhere.

    • disgo says:

      Excellent J-Lub. Just to add to this… protesters should be at city hall protesting laws that make it easy for landlords to displace tenants instead of the shuttles

  5. Adrian Covert says:

    Also, isn’t it a bit condescending to define, as this article does, community members who work in tech as not part of the community?

  6. bb says:

    re. public transit: best case muni + bart + caltrain connect the mission and google in 2.5 hours. Not perfect, or practical. Cycling is faster.

    • Sam says:

      Well thats certainly not true. If you live near Potrero Ave in the mission you can bike or take the 48 to the 22nd st Caltrain. Take caltrain to the closest stop and Google has buses from caltrain to the campus.

      • Dan Partridge says:

        This is true. I suppose people who pick up the Google bus at 24th and Valencia might know that, but THEY’RE BLOCKING THE STOP FOR THE 48.

        About a 15 minute ride to the 22nd Street Station, btw.

        • Joe Shlabotnik says:

          BTW sorry to hear about the death of Rueben Kincaid. I know you were really close to him.

        • John Murphy says:

          Having taken the 48 to Caltrain let me say that the 48 sucks ass if you are trying to get to Caltrain. And it mostly sucks ass because of people who are driving to work

          1) Double parked in front of Starbucks, 24th/Noe
          2) Parked in the street waiting to get a parking spot at Whole Foods, in both directions, 24th bt Noe/Sanchez
          3) Double parked in front of Martha Bros
          4) Parked in the bus stop, 24th/Mission, dropping someone off for BART
          5) Delivery vehicles double parked – 24th between Castro and Potrero
          6) Double parked on 23rd by SFGH
          7) The crapass route over Potrero Hill. Even after it was shortened, it sucks rocks.

          I’d try to count the number of times I missed Caltrain by a minute but it’s quicker to count the times I actually made my train.

  7. Eon says:

    SF is legally prohibited from charging anything meaningful for the use of Muni stops. For a city to find a new stream of revenue it needs to go to the ballot and be voted on. As much as SF may like to charge millions of dollars, it is against the law to make a profit. The Boards hands are tied on this one.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Yup, that’s exactly so.

    • Old Mission Neighbor says:


    • anadromy says:

      That’s what Lee and his appointees at Muni say but it’s not that clear cut. Also, they could put the issue on the ballot. I think it would be a popular initiative, and you can be sure these fuckers would wind up paying a hell of lot more than a buck a stop.

      • one says:

        The 1$ charge is a slap on the wrist. We need to make Google pay for the infrastructure they abuse.

        • two says:

          OK, I look forward to seeing your proposal for doing away with Proposition 218.

        • Brian says:

          You do realize that the “abuse” means less wear and tear on the roads in the city, less pollution, fewer accidents, and actually is a net gain for the city financially, right?

          No, you wouldn’t want to actually think something through on your own, now, would you?

  8. Matt says:

    I was talking to a guy who is a tech contractor, not a direct employee, and they have to pay $2 for a ride down to one of these “tech campuses”. Seems like a pretty nifty way of covering google bus expenses if you ask me.

  9. lops says:

    ” God forbid they use the public transit already in place. God forbid their companies invest in said public transit to help bolster its ability to ferry workers of all stripes around.

    And no, these people wouldn’t simply drive to work if the buses didn’t exist. They would either move closer to their work or find jobs here in the city. ”

    “These people”. Go fuck yourself, seriously. You are no better a person than someone who happens to have a job in the south bay and prefers to live here.

    Speaking as a long-time resident and tech employee who would never ever ever live in the south bay, public transit to the SB SUCKS. For me to get to my house to my office in Santa Clara, it was over 2 hours door to door. Versus an 1 to 1:30 drive?

    I drove that shit every day for so long, praying that my company would get a shuttle or that the public transit infrastructure would improve. Years and years later, neither had happened. Finally, I got a job in the city.

    I’m guessing everyone would shut the fuck up if Google and Apple just relocated en masse to San Frnacisco? Right? Right? Guys? No, you will still hate on tech employees and scapegoat them for creating this crisis. Stop pretending it’s about the busses. It’s about you not liking “those people”.

    Here’s what is actually about:

    It’s about too many people being here with not enough housing.

    The simple fact is that over the last 10 years, SF’s population has increased by 75,000 while only 15,000 new units have been built. If SF doesn’t figure out a way to build build build and build fast, then we’re all fucked.

    SF learned nothing from the last dotcom boom. Maybe we will learn from this one.

    • Craig says:

      Well said. And let’s not forget rent-control, which sounds like a great idea until it turns out that building owners can’t afford to even maintain the building using the income from rentals which in turn causes them to evict en-masse in order to not bankrupt themselves.

      Build sufficient housing and you don’t need these artificial measures to keep both rents and housing prices at more reasonable levels.

      • lops says:

        No need to get rid of rent control as it doesn’t apply to new developments anyway. Anything post 1979 in SF is not subject to rent control ordinances.

      • Daniel says:

        This is what I want to say to the dudes at 16th St. Bart trying to get signatures for a proposal to require voter approval for waterfront development over height restrictions.The conflation of progressivism and NIMBYism is depressing as hell.

        Even in SF, housing demand is not unlimited. Increase supply and rents will be more reasonable.

        I’m more ambivalent about rent control. Seems like subsidizing rent for those who need it is a better economic alternative to the weird distortions of rent control, though probably politically infeasible.

    • Greg says:

      Yep. You are all fucked.

    • SAH says:

      Yes, this. For those of us who have lived here for more than 5 years, we all remember when there were few or no tech buses, and guess what? People still lived in SF and drove to the south bay. Even back before the “baby bullet” when there was no express train, people lived in SF and drove to the South Bay. Just as there have always been people who lived in the South Bay and drove to SF (despite Caltrain). After years of that commute, my SO stopped doing that drive 3-4x/week when his tech company started *running a shuttle*. Sure people might move to the peninsula eventually (kids, schools), but others will just move here and repeat. And traffic on the Peninsula, where you can’t get easily between the towns and the tech co’s is terrible too. These definitely take cars off the road. But the City should regulate them, and not let so many run on the same routes.

  10. Docrock says:

    Question for the gallery: Does the removal of tech company employees from the ‘going south’ public transport stream (i.e., Caltrain, etc) remove those constituents best placed to elicit change/improve the ‘going south’ public transport system? These employees and their employers have more means & numbers to enact change than random commuters. This seems like a problem, no?

  11. Ben says:

    Geary BRT (bus rapid transit) completed its feasibility study in 2007, but isn’t expected to start operation until 2020. And it’s faced death by a thousand NIMBY cuts at every turn. Real similar story with Van Ness BRT.

    I don’t think anyone who seriously follows transit issues in this town can fault tech companies for setting up a private transportation network as they’ve done.

    • one says:

      I don’t get that. Geary and Van Ness are already shit-shows. Seems to me improvements to moving people around might take off some pressure. However, Van Ness is 101 North, so I doubt it. Geary needs all the help it can get.

      • Ben says:

        Right, my point is that it’s generally quite difficult to accomplish relatively modest tasks with regards to our transit network, and that’s *just* one agency in San Francisco. It’s just frustrating to see suddenly see so many “supporters” of public transit when you know they’re really only interested in taking a couple of whacks at tech, you know they’ll just move on to the next hot-button issue that arises.

        Of all the supposed injustices dealt to MUNI by tech buses, an overwhelming majority of them are committed every day and to a greater extent by private automobile traffic, but no significant action will ever be taken against them. We can’t even remove a handful of parking spaces on Polk to get actual bike lanes installed.

        They don’t know anything about planned major projects in our city, they don’t know anything about planned projects in other cities, there’s no knowledge or interest in solving the problems that make it extraordinarily difficult to get things done. And yet they assume that three different municipalities can just snap their fingers and suddenly regional transit infrastructure appears.

        I’m saying if you need a solution *in the next 5 years* for getting your people from SF to the south bay, I don’t think you want to choose a partner that takes over a decade to modestly improve service on its most-traveled routes. Don’t take this for some “government is always inefficient!11″ screed, it’s a goddamned perfect storm of factors contributing to our local mess.

  12. Beth W. says:

    People here have made a number of good points, including the fact that the city can’t charge more for the buses to use MTA bus stops and the fact that a BART/Caltrain commute (which doesn’t get you door to door for many South Bay tech companies) is horrendously long, and that’s when it’s functioning properly. But another factor is the fact that when Peninsula tech companies wanted to expand 5-10 years ago, residents along 101 BEGGED them to start shuttle programs so that tech workers wouldn’t drive (this happened specifically with Genentech, but others followed suit). Gridlock on the 101 follows the same pattern as the tech economy — when it’s booming, traffic is horrible and affects the lives of locals trying to get from place to place, for whom the public transit sucks just as bad. It’s unfortunate that something meant to make lives easier for people in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties is frustrating people in San Francisco, but the rent and housing issue in SF is a problem of people really wanting to live here and there not being enough housing stock because San Francisco fell woefully short of its housing-development needs.

    • 94103er says:

      Yep. Word to that. Also, apparently Facebook is just about out of parking. So they need to be running even more shuttles until Menlo Park’s city council gets their heads out of their asses and fast-tracks approval for housing developments nearby and advocates to SMCTA for transit-only lanes and safer bike infrastructure! This is such a joke, blaming the car-free in SF and the tech companies themselves.

  13. Valenchia says:

    I think it is great that the companies provide their own buses and pay for them rather than having their employees rely on government subsidized public transportation. The buses are a flexible and efficient way of providing mass transport. Why people are fixated on forcing their neighbors to use a government subsidized transport system that would be less convenient is beyond me. Only jealousy and resentment can explain such a lose-lose proposition.

    Sure the buses should be regulated so that they don’t interfere with MUNI but I think that is really an over-hyped, over blown issue.

    • one says:

      You understand that “Government” means our tax dollars, right? We decided we wanted to put those dollars into public transit, right? We could use more taxation on Google and other miscreants who avoid paying taxes and invest in infrastructure for everyone. Not just a few who make transit inconvenient for the rest of us.

      • John Murphy says:

        You could also look at it this way. Google, and it’s employees, pay tax dollars towards the public transit system which they are not using, and in fact are supplementing by providing an additional transit network which reduces the strain on the public system.

        For every time I have had a MUNI bus blocked by a Google bus, it’s been blocked 20 times or more by a private car. And since we know all the techies are in shuttles, those private cars are clearly being driven by the oppressed proletariat, right?

  14. doineedthis says:

    Where one wants to live and where one can live shouldn’t be decided based on money alone. A lot of commenters have been pointing out their versions of “what the real problem is” but in fact have missed the point of what the real problem is – It is the habit of placing money at the forefront of importance in everything, everywhere, at every time. Such a habit is shallow, one-dimensional and doomed to failure.

  15. PJ says:

    Can we stop for a moment to realize what a horrible headline this is? Pedestrian deaths in the city shouldn’t be taken lightly..a six year old died only a few weeks ago- and her death did not receive the appropriate acknowledgement from city officials. Shame for suggesting a “fake” would…

    Especially since that has nothing to do with the rest of your opinion/rant.

    And before you suggest everyone should hop on public transit-have YOU taken Caltrain to the South Bay? Because I do every day, and it takes me nearly 2 hours each way. I wish I was in a situation where I had a tech shuttle. So not a solution.

  16. Bob Dole says:

    Good God, I hope Dolores Park, $4 toast, and Tartine Bakery is worth putting up with all this nonsense.

    • one says:

      When you make 100k, it’s totes a bargain. Who gives a fuck about anyone else? This what’s offensive. Not living wherever you want.

      But. Why can’t people move to neighborhoods that are just for just this sort of attitude. Pac Heights comes to mind. Why this obsessive frenzy?

  17. Greg says:

    You totes need to change your diaper.

  18. Tech worker says:

    Let me get this straight:

    Harassing neighbors because of their race or creed = racism

    Harassing neighbors because of sexual orientation = homophobia

    Harassing employed tax paying residents who have EVERY RIGHT to do whatever they fucking please = preserving the character of the neighborhood?

    Forgive me if this is the first time anyone has pointed out that many San Franciscans have their heads squarely up their own asses.

    • SF Born says:

      I wouldn’t say “many”. It’s really just a small, obnoxious fringe (and usually transplants). Luckily many of the worst ones are migrating to (gentrifying) other cities.

      • Tech worker says:

        Voice of reason – except that I also think transplant-phobia is BS.

        • SF Born says:

          It is BS. Sorry.

          I’m just saying that many of the anti-gentrification, “keepers of the flame” types are from other places themselves.

  19. Tech worker says:

    -Rant continues-

    I’m so sorry for providing the technology to empowering folks workdwide that had ZERO access to communications, energy, medicine, etc., and that I had the audacity to profit from it

    I’m embarrassed that our Multi-billion dollar contributions to charity are so meager.

    Ok done with rant

    • Troll says:

      If you want to know why ALL people aren’t too thrilled with your industry it’s the general defensiveness, and condescending manners represented in posts like yourselves.

      I know we have to evangelize our products and missions to motivate our work sometimes, but your “rant” only furthers perceptions of a holier than thou attitude pervasive in most retorts to this “discourse.”

      • Brian says:

        Except there’s really nowhere else for them to come from. All this bashing on people, who are doing the community a SERVICE by taking something other than their car, is going to lead to these types of responses.

        Taking a swipe at the response and calling them holier than thou illustrates this perfectly. I suppose no good deed goes unrewarded…

        Be careful what you all wish for, and Google, Yahoo, Genentech, Apple, et al discontinue their shuttles, and all of those people start DRIVING their cars to work. You think your commute on the 48 sucks balls now? Just wait.

        • troll says:

          Exhibit B right heeeyah. Thanks for warning me! I’ll be ok, I don’t commute to the Pen everyday, nor do I ever take MUNI. I appreciate your concern though!

    • m says:

      This is clearly Max Bell Alper…

  20. Tech worker says:

    And I’m sorry for typos

  21. I can't wait says:

    I find the whole discussion juvenile. The protesters and the attendant commentators have arrested development. It got me thinking, isn’t this really a problem with San Francisco that predates the recent round of idiocy? I finished Gary Kamiya’s book and am about to start Season of the Witch. Maybe it illuminate San Francisco’s inability to grow up.

    Anyway I can’t wait until the whole master plan comes to fruition. When the highly compensated have pushed the hoopleheads out of San Francisco once and for all. I’ll rejoice at our annual Bohemian Grove meeting that we’ve done ourselves a great service.