With the Google bus now a potent San Francisco cultural symbol and magnet for controversy, the company is exploring new transportation frontiers. KPIX reported Tuesday, and everyone including yours truly is jumping on the story, that the purveyors of Don’t Be Evil products and services have launched a 30-day trial ferry service for workers traveling from San Francisco down the Peninsula.
The service, not to be confused with the still mysterious Google barge, is being run aboard the M.V. Triumphant. It’s a New Zealand-designed 83-foot whale-watching catamaran owned by Washington state’s All-American Marine. KPIX says the boat, which can carry 150 passengers, is making two runs every morning from San Francisco’s Ferry Building to Redwood City and two return trips in the evening.
Google’s buses, along with the rest of the armada of big motor coaches carrying Silicon Valley workers to work from San Francisco every day, have drawn demands that employers and vehicle operators pay for using Muni bus stops in the city. On Monday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency announced an 18-month pilot program under which tech companies and charter bus operators will pay to use about 200 of the bus stops. They’ll pay an estimated total of $1.5 million during the year-and-a-half experiment.
The buses are also the focus of protesters who point to tech-sector workers as driving runaway home and apartment prices in the city. Twice in December, anti-displacement activists blockaded Silicon Valley motor coaches in the Mission District.
Independent technology news site Re/code quotes a Google statement that suggests the Triumphant trial is, in part, a response to the bus controversy: “We certainly don’t want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents and we’re trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work,” the statement said.
Personally, I love ferry travel and the only downside I can imagine to the Google boat is that I picture it as crowded with people staring down at laptops, tablets and other screens who look up only to see what Google Glass has to tell them about their surroundings. People, the whole point of riding a boat on the bay is to take in the sights in all their sublimity, maybe while sipping a cool beverage. I hope the Triumphant at least has a bar.