Opposing sides rally troops for tech bus throw-down

The first Google bus protest.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Tomorrow’s (Tue/1) San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting will feature a hearing on the environmental impact of commuter shuttles, including Google buses. In what promises to be a telling moment in a polarizing controversy that started in late 2013, supervisors will be forced to pick a side.

This past January, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) voted to approve a pilot program that would allow private shuttle operators, including a host of tech companies, to stop in designated Muni bus areas for a fee of $1 per stop, per day.

The narrative is by now well-worn, with the well-connected, deep-pocketed tech industry on one side and seasoned local activists concerned about gentrification and private use of public bus stops on the other. 

While tomorrow’s hearing comes amid a larger debate about the tech sector’s role in fueling displacement through rising housing prices, it will focus on whether or not to sanction an appeal of the pilot program under the California Environmental Quality Act. 

The proponents of the shuttles -- Google, Genentech, Apple and others -- maintain they take cars off the road. Many workers commuting to the South Bay, for instance, would drive were it not for the existence of the shuttles.

The CEQA appeal was filed by the SEIU 1021, the League of Pissed Off Voters, and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club. The groups contend that the private shuttle system is helping to push long-time residents out of the city. Studies show that in areas around the shuttle stops, rents fly high and displacement is rampant

A key argument in favor of conducting an environmental review is that those displaced workers then have to drive into SF to get to work from places like the East Bay, negating any environmental benefits. By calling for a CEQA study, appellants hope to city will study how shuttles are linked to displacement and its associated environmental impacts. 

Tomorrow, the Board must decide whether to allow the 18-month pilot program to move ahead, or to delay it until after an Environmental Impact Review has been completed.

In preparation for tomorrow’s hearing, both sides are drumming up support from their ranks.

SF.citi, an alliance of San Francisco tech companies, sent out an email blast (and web post) that reads like a call to arms: “Divisive shuttle opponents are now suing the City to challenge this pilot program before it has the chance to get off the ground. We need YOU to tell the Board of Supervisors in person that you want them reject this lawsuit and let the pilot program go forward.”


“We can not do this without a thorough review, which includes robust research and study of what the actual broad impact is. Without it, we can not be assured that tech is paying the fair price for their use of our streets and our transit infrastructure.”

To have your say, go to San Francisco City Hall tomorrow afternoon for the Board meeting


waste a ton of breath voicing their political gripes about tech buses, which have nothing to do with how environmental impacts are determined under CEQA (the actual matter at hand). And even if the board votes to uphold the appeal, the pilot has to have an EIR, which simply means it goes through later and at much greater cost. Win?

Posted by Odm2 on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

That is inherently illogical because things do not evict - people do. And I do not know any tech workers who have evicted anyone, regardless of whether they take a bus to work or not.

In any event, if the trial is rejected, the shuttles will simply pay nothing as before. How is that better?

Let's do the trial and then assess the results at the end. We're having a trial so we can learn.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

for the environment.

Moreover no link can be proven between the shuttles and any alleged. "displacement".

And even if it could, people displaced to Oakland are probably poor, can't afford a car, and would take BART to work (even assuming they had jobs in SF).

The arguments against the shuttles are very weak, so their opponents might as well just admit this is about envy - they just hate seeing more successful people getting a nice perk.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 2:47 pm

Public transit is designed to get people into the city in the morning, so wherever people move they can take a bus, train or ferry.

It's commuting OUT of the city to jobs in the burbs that is much harder to do without a car, which of course is why the shuttles exist.

Also, many people who leave the city will find a job in their new home.

Plus of course the link between shuttles and displacement is highly circumstantial and vague, even assuming that you believe that some social mobility and turnover isn't desirable.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

>"seasoned local activists concerned about gentrification and private use of public bus stops"

Yes. It is about time that people focused on the private use of public bus stops. Everyone talks about homelessness and exploding city pension costs as the city's big issues. I'm glad that people are finally focusing on the real problem -- private use of public bus stops. Bravo!!!!

>"those displaced workers then have to drive into SF to get to work from places like the East Bay"

Not to mention the cost. Between fuel, maintenance, tolls and parking these people who were forced out of the city for economic reasons will now have to pay about $20,000 a year to drive their cars back in. Because we don't have a mass transit system going from the East Bay to San Francisco.

Good point, Joe!!!!

Posted by Joe Progressive on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:05 pm

Other kinds of vehicles use them all the time, and far more often.

Anyway, why does it matter when a muni bus itself only uses a stop once every 15 or 20 minutes?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:25 pm

That's why people are voluntarily moving there anyway

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:26 pm

"Because we don't have a mass transit system going from the East Bay to San Francisco."
Uhh.. what would you call BART?
Seems to me that BART is a mass transit system going to the East Bay that is clean and affordable. Way more affordable than driving.
What isnt available is ANY mass transit system going to SJ or along the penisula. Caltrans is VERY limited and MANY efforts to extend BART south have met with opposition.

Posted by Googlemom on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:11 am

from the burbs, and not the opposite because work places in the burns are distributed over a wide area.

So we don't need corporate shuttles to take people into Montgomery and Market, but we do need then to get workers to some technology park in the middle of nowhere.

Oh, and BTW as well as BART from the east bay, there is AC Transit and various ferries

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:25 am

Joe, PLEASE do some research, the cause of gentrification does not fall on the shoulders of tech alone. Yes gentrification is occurring and this wont stop, and a small group of people blame the techies for this, wrong, lets look at some 2013 job statistics, 10,600 professional and business services, 6,800 leisure and hospitality, 6,500 professional, scientific and technical services, 3,900 trade, transportation and utilities, 3,400 construction.
Techies make up a small slice of the incoming job pie.
San Francisco is booming, it also has a 4.8 percent unemployment, one of the lowest in the country.
Many non tech corporations and businesses are establishing their HQ in San Francisco.
It is not only tech buses that seem to be every where, there are hospital, art even tour buses that seem to be ever where.

Posted by davidinSF on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:08 pm

The new progressive call to arms.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

they have lost all sense of what the prize really is.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 3:54 pm

on the bike lane plan the Guardian was hedging its bets by saying whatever the EIR the city should go ahead with the bike plan.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 4:27 pm

which is why they always oppose the tearing down of the Hetch Hetchy dam.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

It's about getting your way.

The progressive want to get their way so they make up this non sense.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 4:43 pm

regulations on private automobile ownership. They're quite sad the city's policies have led to additional costs on the car-driving poor.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!! Steven Jones should remember this the next time he's screeching for higher vehicle registration fees, additional meters, longer meter hours and higher prices on those meters. He only makes things hard for the poor because he cares.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 4:55 pm

That's essentially what the SFBG's argument boils down too. "If we get rid of their transportation the techies will leave - the Mission will return to being a vibrant slum and we'll get our grubby apartments back."

What a winning solution.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 8:08 pm

It's so insipidly insidious you just have to laugh…Rent control junkies are the most egotistical maniacs around...

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 9:58 pm

Correction: there is nothing "vibrant" about a slum. Except maybe the bacteria count.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 10:01 pm

isn't displacement. It's a fight against the dark forces of evil.

Yes, that's right, a coder who takes a bus to work is the new anti-christ.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 5:53 am

So when existing residents are forced to move then it is not displacement, but when techie arrivistes are challenged, all of a sudden a different standard applies?

Prior tempore, prior jure.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 6:08 am

Both are displacements, so why does the left like one kind but not like the other?

Even if the tech workers did all leave, the former residents could not afford to return.

Personally I do not have a problem with a little turnover and social mobility, as it makes the city more dynamic. But if I did object, I'd be consistent about it.

You're a white male tech workers who bought a Mission condo, right?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 6:26 am

San Francisco's newest drinking game!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 8:55 pm

Every political consultant hangs out here!! Even Keith Jackson in between arranging international arms deals!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 31, 2014 @ 9:00 pm

You mean the guy who a low-life drunk like Gavin Newsom humiliated by fucking his wife while they were still married and had a toddler son?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 5:16 am

SFBG is promoting a new Apartheid....Welcome to the corruption of "progressive" values.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 10:44 am

The ideal SFBG approvee is a disabled lesbian illegal with no job.

The untouchables would include anyone who builds prosperity and/or contributes to the tax base.

No wonder socialism has never worked.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:01 am


Posted by marcos on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:28 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:36 am

"Make sure tech is paying the fair price for their use of our streets and our transit infrastructure.”

This comes from people who's sole purpose, is preserve their unfair advantage of subsidized rent... they are so PATHETIC and self absorbed.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 10:49 am

The google (and other) private buses are the symbol of the gentrification of the city and specifically the Mission area. They only serve a select type of people while collapsing traffic for everyone else in the Mission area. The city should have a bus station allocated to buses leaving the city in the outer rim of town and employees should take the muni like everybody else to get to that station and thake their bus. They might then start thinking twice before moving to the city and screwing up with rental and real estate prices and indirectly have long-standing SF residents with smaller incomes have no choice but to move out.

Posted by Me on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

Who in the hell do they think they are with their high-paying jobs and hoity-toity spending habits? We'll fix them - we'll fix them good. We did it back in '99 and we'll do it again.


Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 3:40 pm
Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 3:47 pm

blacks and Jews can not choose their DNA.

Instead replace the progressive hysterics here around tech with with illegal alien... err undocumented.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

regardless of whether that class can help being a member of that class, and it is all equally wrong.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 4:58 pm

illegal aliens or tech types.

Progressobots choose to rant about tech types because of their behavior while screaming racism when pointing out the behavior of illegal types.

I think it is a pretty good analogy.

Progressobots want to use new laws in the legal code to torment one group, while wanting to ignore the present legal code around the other group.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

They should take what they can get and quit bitching.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 5:05 pm

But when people with smaller incomes move out, that solves the income inequality problem ….

Posted by Guest on Apr. 01, 2014 @ 11:27 pm

and not because our poor are any poorer than the poor anywhere else.

So inequality doesn't mean failure - ironically it actually means success.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 02, 2014 @ 6:08 am

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