Protesters delay a Google bus in the Mission today. (Photo by Zach Mack)
Protesters delay a Google bus in the Mission today. (Photo by Zach Mack)


Update 2 Wednesday: In Oakland today, another tech bus protest.

Update 1 Wednesday: Opponents of San Francisco’s tech shuttles have lost an environmental appeal to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.

Late last night, the board voted to go ahead with a program that would allow private employee shuttles to pay for permission to use city bus stops — but only at $1 a stop per day.

The vote was 8-2, with supervisors David Campos and John Avalos voting to oppose rejecting the appeal.

Opponents’ attorney Richard Drury told the board there should be an environmental review first. “You don’t approve a project and then find out what are the impacts by measuring air quality, pedestrian safety risks, after the buses are already out of the gate,” he said.

Opponents are considering filing a lawsuit over the pilot program.

The bus controversy is so intense that master’s candidates have been doing their theses on it. Here’s one from a UC Berkeley student called “The Google Shuttle Effect: Gentrification and San Francisco’s Dot Com Boom 2.0.” And here’s a more recent one from UC Berkeley called “Riding First Class: Impacts of Silicon Valley Shuttles on Commute & Residential Location Choice.”

The latter asked and answered the question: “Does the provision of shuttles and knowledge of shuttle stop locations influence commute mode and residential location choice? In short — yes.”

The data show that nearly half of current shuttle riders would drive alone if the shuttles were not provided, supporting the positive impacts of the shuttles provided, on environmental and congestion reduction goals.

On the other hand, since 20% say they would use public transit were the
shuttles not available, the shuttles do have an impact on public transit ridership and finances. With regards to residential choices, the data indicate that many are choosing to live farther away from their workplace than they otherwise would. Additionally, 22% of shuttle riders have already moved farther from their jobs since accepting their offer, suggesting that shuttles enable some commuters to live in San Francisco who would otherwise live closer to work.

–Bryan Goebel and Jon Brooks

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SAN FRANCISCO (Bay City News and KQED) — Google played a lot of April Fools’ Day jokes today, but this wasn’t one of them.

Protesters decked out in colorful outfits, some walking on stilts, handed out fake “Gmuni” passes as they blocked a Google commuter bus in the city’s Mission District this morning. (Video from KPIX here.) The action was just the latest in a string of protests against the shuttle service, which to some has become the No. 1  symbol of gentrification in an increasingly unaffordable San Francisco.

The protest came ahead of a San Francisco Board of Supervisors hearing this afternoon on a pilot program to charge private shuttle buses for using public bus stops.

Police said they were called around 9 a.m. as a group of 20 to 30 people blocked a private shuttle bus at 24th and Valencia streets.

Officers told the group to disperse and the bus, apparently transporting Google workers, was able to move around 9:15 a.m., police said. No one was arrested or injured during the brief protest.

The Heart of the City Collective, which has been staging protests at tech commuter bus stops throughout the city since December 2013, said on its website that it organized today’s action.

(Photo by Zach Mack)
(Photo by Zach Mack/KQED)

In a statement on the protesters’ website, the group wrote, “Let’s take back the city!” and included a list of demands, including the halting of private shuttles from public bus zone use and making Muni free for all residents.

The group called for “tech companies (to) pay for their impact on housing and public infrastructure” and to fund affordable housing initiatives.

A recent phone poll by the Bay Area Council actually showed wide support for the buses in the city. Mother Jones and the Bay Guardian this week questioned the objectivity and accuracy of the poll.

The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hold a hearing today on an appeal of a San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency pilot program concerning the shuttle buses, slated to start July 1. (Watch today’s board meeting live at 2 p.m.)

The 18-month program would charge private shuttles $1 per stop to use designated Muni stops. Some opponents have called that a giveaway to rich tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook.

Opponents appealed the planning process after the SFMTA board of directors approved the program in January with a California Environmental Quality Act exemption.

(Photo by Zach Mack/KQED)

The appellants, including members of Service Employees International Union Local 1021, affordable housing advocates and other community activists, are calling for an environmental review to study the impact of the new shuttle program.

If the board accepts the appeal, the start of the program would be delayed to include a more thorough CEQA review.

This morning’s protesters said in a statement that SFMTA and the city government “will decide if these corporations can continue to use public bus zones for a mere $1 per stop.

“Meanwhile, underfunded Muni is considering a fare hike. Why fund Muni on the backs of poor and working class people while rich corporations use public infrastructure for pennies?” the group wrote.

San Francisco Supervisors Deny Appeal of Google Bus Law 2 April,2014KQED News Staff

  • Fred

    Identify, arrest and prosecute these protesters. They are blocking vehicles and workers from getting to their jobs.

    • No_C_Nada

      Lucky they have a job, which probably pays twice what you and I make.

      • C’mon really?

        So they work hard to get a degree, a good paying job, and they should be punished for it? C’ mon.

      • Parque_Hundido

        So you’re protesting based on your belief that they earn more than you? How does that help our city?

  • jnffarrell1

    Making the world safe for street performers: one city at a time, starting with San Francisco.

  • Great news shared “San Francisco Supervisors Deny Appeal of Google Bus Law”, really cool idea….

  • Parque_Hundido

    Protesting mass transit helps our city how? Protesting companies that employ SF residents stops evictions how? These protesters are an embarrassment to San Francisco.

    Avalos and Campos ought to be ashamed of themselves. Weaponizing environmental impact reviews is about as low as they can go. Those two are shameless and I’d like to see them get what they deserve: the boot. They, too are an embarrassment to San Francisco.

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