SF Approves Tech Bus Pilot Program Despite Public Dissent

Today the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved a controversial pilot program that will see some 200 area bus stops made available to private shuttles that ferry corporate tech workers to campuses outside of the city.

Despite impassioned, and occasionally coherent, commentary — not to mention more than a handful of Google talking points — the agency’s final deliberation was quick and to the point: Yes.

The shuttles, often referred to as ‘Google Buses,’ have become frontline in an increasingly bitter argument between the younger, newer and wealthier technology workers that call San Francisco home, and long-time residents concerned about the balkanization of the city’s less well off. Toss in a still weak job market for most sectors, spiraling rent costs, and tax incentives to wealthy tech firms to stay local, and the miasma begins to boil.

Shuttling employees south instead of forcing them to commute has ecological benefits: Fewer cars means less congestion and a lowered carbon footprint. But for private companies to use public spaces in flagrant violation of the law has many up in arms. The meeting room was packed.

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Also, the proposed one-dollar-per-stop fee that Google et al will pay is viewed by many as little more than a perfunctory donation, given that the folk of the city pay more for a bus ride inside the confines of their own area code.

Frankly, tech companies have played their hands poorly: Instead of apologizing, offering to pay a fee for past transgressions, and a more reasonable tax per stop, they have offered little and placated no one. Still, they got their pilot program, so they won.

The cleaving of San Francisco into two camps — those who think that Google is a public benefactor, and those that view it as a public menace — is not healthy for our little community. But then again as an Uber taking, young tech-related bastard, I’m probably biased.

Whatever the case, the shuttles will continue to run. The pilot will proceed, and following something more permanent will take its place. That’s where we are now.

Top Image Credit: Flickr