Life as a Google Bus driver

SF Gate reports:

For Brandon Barlow, life as a Google bus driver was one endless cycle of traffic and exhaust.

He left home before dawn and arrived home late, after long hours spent shuttling Google employees back and forth on Highway 101. And Barlow wasn’t paid for the hours he had to wait around near Google headquarters in Mountain View before making the return run to San Francisco. That was the worst part of the job.

“They make everything convenient for Googlers, but they don’t make anything convenient for drivers,” Barlow said recently, exasperated. “There are so many fatigued tech shuttle drivers out there.”

If Silicon Valley shuttle buses are the physical symbols of San Francisco’s tech boom-fueled friction, then drivers like Barlow find themselves in an odd place: Bus drivers have benefited from the boom, but many feel exploited by those who have profited the most from it.

Such workers are tenuously employed with few job protections. Drivers like Barlow don’t even work for Google — they are employees of third-party contractors who typically receive low wages and often paltry benefits. Some drivers have also questioned the legality of practices employed by those contractors, such as requiring drivers to work split shifts in which they spend unpaid hours waiting for the afternoon leg of the commute.

Read on for lots more.

[via SFist]

15 Responses to “Life as a Google Bus driver”

  1. Sam says:

    Yes, it’s becoming morally questionable to be an employee that rides one of those buses. If I worked for Google, Id probably still live here (yep), but I would take Caltrain.

    • R says:

      Are you high?

    • YuckFuppies says:

      You would pay hundreds extra a month vs $0 and add stress to maintain your seat upon that high horse? Kudos dude, we should all be like you.

      • google could easily foot (and probably does, i don’t know, i don’t work at google) those transportation costs with a tasty fast pass plus muni pass combo. that would take care of the “hundred extra a month”

        but for google to invest in the public transportation infrastructure they’ve done such a fantastic job of degrading? it’ll never happen unless they’re forced.

        • Valenchia says:

          Google hasn’t “degraded” the mass transit infrastructure — the idea that the occasional bus stop conflict is a meaningful part of Muni’s problems is absurd. The Google buses fill a huge gap in the existing mass transit infrastructure — one that would not ever be filled with public transit. And Google is reducing congestion greatly by providing these buses. People’s insistence that everyone should be forced to ride inefficient (yet subsidized) public transit is just ideology gone bonkers.

          • Valenchia, my point is not that google has degraded mass transit infrastructure through the occasional bus stop conflict, but rather that by employing these buses in the first place, google has invested resources in a private transportation system at the expense of caltrain, muni, and bart, when instead those resources in private could have helped contribute to the development of bay area public transit.

          • Truth says:

            This is a nice idealistic fantasy from someone who probably doesn’t ride caltrain, muni, or bart everyday during rush hour to get to work. If they just stopped providing those shuttles and gave every one a commuter check, there would be lines around the block at many bus stops and Bart station; Caltrain would be impossible. it’s nice and convenient to blame Google for SFMTA’s faults, but it’s also naive and inconsistent with reality.

          • YuckFuppies says:

            I don’t understand this bleeding heart attitude that Google is responsible for improving bay area infrastructure…

            @Truth said it all best.

        • Sam says:

          Yes, Google would cover the cost of Caltrain.

  2. Truth says:

    These bus drivers aren’t Google employees are they? Google hires a company to drive the shuttles, it’s the shuttle company that’s mistreating it’s employees, from what I hear Google is pretty great to it’s employees.

    • YuckFuppies says:


      I can tell you this from personal experience as I have worked for contracting companies on site at Google doing AV work, and having a contracting company that treated me like absolute shit.

      My first thought was not that Google mistreats me, because spend a day there and talk to anyone, they don’t. Google provides the majority of it’s day to day amenities for these contract workers, including the free food.

      The offerings of Google itself are often the greatest part of being a contract worker working a project there, your own company is the one fucking you.

      I have spoken to these drivers myself, because as a contractor you are also given access to the shuttles. The drivers rarely complain when you chat them up, but when you get down to it, they are not mad at Google whatsoever, but the contracting firm they work for.

  3. arse says:

    sounds like non-union work

  4. Oyster boy says:

    That’s one of the ways companies get around not paying benefits, etc – contract the work out. In Australia there’s a bit of a covert plan to make the health care system a bit more like in the US – rather than adding needed capacity to the public system, they’re letting private hospitals pick up the slack and profit. If it continues, eventually all the public hospitals will be old and crumbling, while all the new hospitals are private, at which point the private hospitals will be more likely to leverage their position by jacking costs to the taxpayers. I’m not a fan of overly generous benefits to MUNI drivers and the system that leaves a gap in service when drivers call in sick (mostly weekend service has these horrible gaps), but there has to be something between that and private contractors who make drivers put in ridiculous hours for low wage and poor benefits. You’d think the system could come up with something in the middle instead of these extremes.

    • Truth says:

      If Google was in the transportation business, this analogy would hold up. It’s more like saying Twitter gets around paying benefits by hiring outside plumbers to do plumbing in their builing . . .

  5. Samsung overlays Android with is TouchWiz user interface and the latest version is better than ever before. It has a lighter feel and looks closer to stock Android using the card style recent apps. There are fewer pre-installed apps and some handy extra features as usual such as Multi-Window for running two apps side-by-side.