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San Francisco commuters have long been unhappy with the city’s transit service, and entrepreneurs have seized the opportunity. Private companies like Leap and Chariot are offering shuttle services they claim get people to their destinations faster, and with perks such as gourmet coffee. Critics say these private transit options further the divide between the rich and poor, and take resources away from public transportation agencies.

Guests:
Ratna Amin, transportation policy director for SPUR, a San Francisco-based urban planning think tank
Ali Vahabzadeh, CEO of Chariot
Timothy Papandreou, director of strategic planning for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)
Bob Allen, director of policy and advocacy campaigns for Urban Habitat
Mark Farrell, supervisor representing San Francisco District 2

  • Elizabeth Vaughan

    Not many people understand that the pilot program initiated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last year is illegal, in that it violates the California Vehicle Code. The vehicle code prohibits any but common carriers from operating in public bus stops. Aside from the obvious economic injustice of charging these enormous vehicles a song for their trespasses — $3.67 per stop per day — and slapping everyone else with fines of $271 per violation and each rider with $68 for monthly passes, these buses interfere with the operation of Muni buses. Don’t believe me? Ask a driver. Ask a blind person who has been passed up by Muni because these illegal shuttles have been in the way.

    And now imagine more. Carli Paine, the SFMTA person who administers the pilot program, has said publicly that she expects the demand for “permits” to operate in private buses in public bus stops to increase.

    Could Leap and Chariot start competing with the tech shuttles to crowd out Muni?

    San Franciscans should know, as well, that a majority of their supervisors are about to sell out yet one more public asset for private gain. On February 24, six out of ten supervisors present voted to “watch” a state bill introduced by a Republican from Orange County, AB 61, to amend the vehicle code to make privatization of bus stops legal — instead of to oppose. Those who voted to oppose the bill were Eric Mar, Jane Kim, David Campos, and John Avalos.

    Who do those other six represent? San Franciscans? Or the tech companies down the Peninsula who won’t build housing for their workforce or mitigate the impacts of their burgeoning industries?

    Sue Vaughan

    • Another Mike

      To the contrary. California Vehicle Code Section 22500 allows “common carriers engaged in local transportation” to load and unload passengers in zones designated by signs or a red painted curb. Per the Public Utility Code Section 211, passenger stage corporations are common carriers, and companies like Bauer Intelligent Transportation, which carry the tech employees to and from work, are passenger stage corporations. So their use of bus stops within SF violates no state law.

      • PhilipM

        Au contraire, Mikey. The public untilitiies code governs what is considered a “common carrier” and private buses not serving the general public for compensation are NOT ‘common carriers”:

        Public Utilities Code Section 211 Common Carrier

        “Common Carrier”

        211. “Common carrier” means every person and corporation providing transportation for compensation to or for the public or any portion thereof, except as otherwise provided in this part.

        “Common carrier” includes:

        (a) Every railroad corporation; street railroad corporation; dispatch, sleeping car, dining car, drawing-room car, freight, freightline, refrigerator, oil, stock, fruit, car-loaning, car-renting, car-loading, and every other car corporation or person operating for compensation within this state.

        (b) Every corporation or person, owning, controlling, operating, or managing any vessel used in the transportation of persons or property for compensation between points upon the inland waters of this state or upon the high seas between points within this state, except as provided in Section 212. “Inland waters” as used in this section includes all navigable waters within this state other than the high seas.

        (c) Every “passenger stage corporation” operating within this state.

        Google, Yahoo, Genentech, Apple, etc buses all are NOT common carriers.

        • Another Mike

          Yes, the bus companies that transport the workers are common carriers because they are passenger stage corporations, as I said. Also, because they provide transportation to even a portion of the public.
          Thus they are entitled to use San Francisco bus stops, even without payment of a fee.

          • PhilipM

            Wrong again. They are not common carriers and those who ride the bus do so for free. Go to the PUC site and look under passenger carriers under “Google” http://delaps1.cpuc.ca.gov/public_cpuc/f?p=203:35:15194483125404::NO::P35_CARRIER_TYPE:CA

            What do you see Mikey?

          • Another Mike

            What is your point, if any?
            “Google” operates no buses.

        • Doug F

          The law you quote says you’re wrong. It says “corporation,” not just “government agency.” I’m not a lawyer either, but you need to quit playing one on TV.

      • Sue

        No, they are not common carriers. I can’t get on them even if I paid.

        • Another Mike

          “Common carrier” is defined by statute. The definition is much broader than “a bus Sue could get on if she paid.”

    • TimDoyle

      THANK YOU!!!! Well spoken!!

      • Sue

        Thank you.

    • TimDoyle

      I only walk or ride a bike in this city but used to take Muni, increasingly my bike rides are hairy aka dangerous.

      • Whamadoodle

        Bike riders often make my walks very dangerous, but that doesn’t mean I want to keep all bike riders off the streets.

    • Whamadoodle

      Each tech bus takes 120 cars off the road each day, according to the signs on some of them. (This is obviously not dismissable as propaganda, because each of them holds several dozen people, and makes several trips back and forth per day, so this claim is obviously just about true.) Studies have shown that if the buses went away, then at most 40% of those bus riders would move closer to work in order to avoid driving. Therefore, each of them takes many dozens of cars off the road each day.

      And yes, they DO represent San Franciscans. Not all of us work for one of those companies, but many thousands do. If they hadn’t employed us, or if we’d refused to work for them, would the bus protesters have paid our rent? Doubt it.

      I agree that more housing needs to be built, but this seems to advance the ideas either that San Franciscans don’t want tech companies in our backyard and they should go away (in which case you are NOT speaking for all San Franciscans), or even worse, that there should be no tech buses, so everyone on those buses should now drive back and forth. Traffic nightmares would plainly be worse without the buses.

      • Sue

        Not opposing the shuttles, but strongly opposed to the private shuttles encroaching on the public right of way and interfering with Muni and the absence of mitigation for their impacts.

        • Whamadoodle

          I think they do better things for the public streets than depositing all those cars back on them would do. The tech buses are a good thing for the environment and for traffic, not a bad thing. I continue to smack my head that people decided to make them, of all things, the symbol of Bad Companies.

          I mean… Really? A company’s environmental initiative is the bad guy? Doesn’t it make more sense that the bad guy should be the people who vote themselves raises while laying ordinary workers off, or companies that use sweatshop labor in countries with awful environmental and worker protection? You’re really going to aim at the environmentally-FRIENDLY parts of a company’s workings as if that’s the problem?

      • “Each tech bus takes 120 cars off the road each day” is in fact propaganda. That would be true if and only if the buses always operated with full loads, but half the time they are running empty, and even when carrying loads, are often well below full. So it’s probably more like 40 cars, and if the buses weren’t running at all, perhaps half those people would be living closer to work (instead of driving up housing costs in SF), so the bottom line is probably more like 20 cars. That’s still worthwhile, but far less than the hype.

        • Whamadoodle

          I hate to disagree, but you may be unaware that: each bus route (i.e., Google to Vallejo will have one bus on that route, Google to SF will have a separate bus, etc., to include a couple of dozen different routes; Box to Oakland has one bus, Box to SF has another one, etc., to add up to a couple of dozen different routes; etc.) makes several runs per day.

          Therefore, if you’re only counting one trip per route, then yes, that might only be 40 people. But each bus makes FOUR trips, or even five, per day. So if you count all four of five trips they make, then it definitely adds up to more than 120 people (hence, 120 cars) who’ve been driven, per route. If you’re claiming the buses are driving with only 5 people aboard each bus (5 people times 4 roundtrips per day=the 20 cars you’re claiming), that’s simply untrue. We can all see that the buses we’re driving next to usually contain at least a couple of dozen people, and are at capacity often during rush hour.

          Also, it’s untrue that “half those people would be living closer to work,” as according to the UC Berkeley study mentioned elsewhere on this thread, it would not be any more than 40%. Some 63% said they would still either drive alone or carpool to work, even if the buses didn’t exist.

          • “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
            -Benjamin Disraeli, as reported by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

            That buses make more than one trip doesn’t really address the issue of average real world load factors that are much lower than those used to calculate claims.

            As for what difference buses make on commutes, studies based on what people say are notoriously unreliable, because what people do is often quite different from what they say. My own take is that the percentage willing to commute from SF without buses would likely be much lower than 50%.

      • Frisco20

        I ride back and forth to work on my car because of the schedule that i have. I do not work in the tech industry but in the security industry. Where are all those cars not driving the rode parked at? Finding somewhere to park here in the mission is worse than three years ago. If at least these techies knew how to park and not double park but no, these private rides are affecting everyone.

        • Whamadoodle

          Uh… you’re telling me that the people taking the tech buses are double-parking for the entire day, while they’re at work?

          Mm… doubtful.

  • bradfordbrian

    Please ask the providers how they comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. I am currently investigating suing Leap for this egregious violation as pertains to their coaches, which were wheelchair-accessible in their former life at Riverside Transit Agency. Granted their focused clientele probably aren’t in wheelchairs, but that does not relieve them of responsibility.

    • Andy Chow

      Are you a genuine customer in a wheelchair, or just ADA predator who want to sue for the money?

      • bradfordbrian

        Predator? How about you say that to my wheelchair. I would not sue for money, any proceeds would go to SFMTA to pay for ADA stop improvements.

  • Guest

    What entity is it that provides the free PresidiGO shuttle? Why can’t they just create a few more of those e.g. SunsetGO, DalyGO etc?

    Why does every service have to become privatized and costly? Privatization as a trend began really with the Nàzis: http://www.ub.edu/graap/EHR.pdf

    BTW usually when a company offers “gourmet” coffee you know it’s BS. It’s probably poorly ground-up low grade stale beans from a can or a plastic bag.

  • Elizabeth Vaughan

    I will add that the Coalition for Safe, Legal, and Environmental Transit is suing the city (including the SFMTA Board of Directors) and real parties if interest to get the private shuttles out of the Muni bus stops. You have a guest from the SFMTA, but you do not have a one of the plaintiffs in the suit on your show today.

    • Doug F

      You NIMBYs should be suing the Muni for fraud, misappropriation of funds and breach of public trust, not those running or allowing Google and other buses that are making the transit and traffic situations better.
      If you’re for safe transit, you should be against the current crop of Muni drivers and mechanics. And if for environmental transit, opposed to smoking poorly-maintained old diesel buses. (Modern high-tech diesel buses can be clean, but have to be perfectly maintained to stay that way.)

  • Sue

    Citizens to Save Muni and Oppose AB 61, the Assembly bill introduced by Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, to make the Google buses legal in Muni bus stops, can be reached at stopab61@sonic.net. But contact your district supervisor and get him or her to advocate against AB 61 also. And Mayor Ed Lee. Let’s be unified in our opposition.

    • Another Mike

      As I recall from the Berkeley students’ study of “Googlebus” riders, absent the Googlebus most would drive their cars, or carpool, from SF to Mountain View, Cupertino, etc. In fact, the vast majority had driven to work at least once in the preceding six months. Do San Franciscans really want more cars on the street during rush hour?

      • Sue

        In public bus stops? And for the pittance these corporate goliaths now pay to operate illegally in the bus stops? No. Put the shuttles in parking lots near freeway entrances and let their riders take Muni to those lots.

      • Guest

        Many of them wouldn’t be living in SF if the shuttle buses didn’t exist.

        • Another Mike

          SF has attractions that Mountain View doesn’t. Consider the recent report on the cities with the most and fewest gays. San Francisco was ranked Number One, while the South Bay was fourth from the bottom. Obviously single people move to the place they find more attractive.

          • Guest

            So SF is Vegas by the Bay?

          • Another Mike

            Restaurants, bars, clubs, live music, comedy, the opera, the symphony, theater, parks, beautiful views, places to ride your bike, or walk, or play basketball, or soccer, etc. etc.

          • Guest

            But realistically it’s mainly not the poor who are able to take advantage of all that.

          • Another Mike

            True, but it’s not the poor riding the googlebuses.

          • PhilipM

            No Mike, See my reply above. Google had to offer their potential hires SF because they wouldn’t move to Mt View.

      • PhilipM

        Mike, you seem to be spreading a lot of misinformation. I actually attended a meeting at SPUR last spring that had the Google, Genentech and other private bus companies giving presentations. Besides being blown away by learning Google has 300 buses, the Google person laid the bus history out as follows: Google was trying to hire recent grads on the east coast but they would not move to Mt View for the job. So Google got this idea–they told these young people (who do NOT have cars) that they could move to SF and Google would bus them down to Mt View. It worked. BOOM! Tech influx of young people and the privatization of the city’s bus system. Mike, note two things: 1) these young millennial do NOT own cars so they would not ordinarily be driving to Mt View, and 2) this whole thing is an HR program for the sole purpose of helping these companies. They are skimming the cream off the top of the transit system. They made NO effort to work with local transit people and find a solution using exisitng infrastructure. Microsoft did as they have their people take Caltrain and then they provide local jitney service from the depot to their local offices.

        • Whamadoodle

          PhilipM, your information is incorrect. The Berkeley studies that Mike refers to DID show that most tech bus riders would NOT move next to their job, if the tech buses went away, but would instead move back to using their cars. Page 12 of the studies, here, show that a full 63% would do so, if the tech buses were not offered:

          http://www.danielledai.com/academic/dai-weinzimmer-shuttles.pdf

          So I’m afraid that the misinforming is coming from you, if you are denying that.

          • PhilipM

            I am quoting Google and their manager in charge of their 300 Google buses. You are suggesting that we change our opinions based on a student sample? ;And speaking of samples, the students handed out In total, 1,169 individuals were approached with a flyer, and 924total flyers were distributed. The survey link was opened 291 times; however, responses wereexcluded from the analysis if the respondent stopped before finishing the survey (44respondents), or if the respondent did not work at a technology-related company in San Mateo or Santa Clara counties, or left critical questions blank such as commute mode choice (77respondents). Of the 170 valid responses, 130 werefrom commuters taking employer-providedshuttles between San Francisco and Silicon Valley

            So, only 1 out of 10 people given a survey responded online. This is NOT a good survey. Again, my information came from a public presentation Google made at SPUR.

          • Whamadoodle

            Based on Berkeley Master’s candidates’ scientific study? Um, YES, I’m suggesting that you take their opinion, unless you have a study that disproves it. You don’t, right?

            Also, if you dispute it (without evidence), may I ask: how many cars DO you think that the tech buses remove from the road? None at all?

          • PhilipM

            “Scientific study”? lol Yes, I would prefer to have Google tell me what the real information is and not some students who are making inferences of what Google is thinking based a small sized sample.

          • Whamadoodle

            Duck the questions much? Plainly, then, you admit that the tech buses DO take several dozen cars off the road each day.

            Yes, UC Berkeley students do scientific studies. More scientific than any study you cited (since you couldn’t cite any at all).

            Nice try ducking the questions, but your failure to answer: “unless you have a study that disproves it. You don’t, right? Also, if you dispute it (without evidence), may I ask: how many cars DO you think that the tech buses remove from the road? None at all?”

            shows clearly that your word is not trustworthy. You’re just yelling and hoping nobody notices when there’s a hole in your logic and when your facts are lacking.

          • PhilipM

            My point is why do a study when the company with the information, ie., Google, is standing in the room and telling us -everyone in the room, the press, the world-what the facts are. We don’t need to have small sample, poorly implemented survey to make inferences for us when the facts have been presented by the group in question.

          • Whamadoodle

            The facts are that we see thousands of people taking the buses with our own eyes, every day. The study is one piece of evidence to show that they would use cars if there were no buses; tap dance all you want, but nothing you’ve said refutes it, and you have no evidence to show otherwise. Therefore, it is clear that the buses are improving things by taking cars off the road.

          • PhilipM

            Well, then your “eyes” are not giving you the entire story. If someone would have normally had to move to Mt View to take a job but Google tells them to move to SF, then by doing so Google is creating a “trip” to Mt View. So your “eyes” don’t see those trips. But, they are then telling the employees that they will give them a ride to Mt View for free, thereby taking a potential passenger off of the public transportation lines and privatizing that trip. So, there are multiple hits that the transportation system it taking because of this and as Elizabeth points out, now google , et all want to take even more from the city by using transit stops, slowing down muni, discriminating against certain types of transit users. Etc. Your “scientific study” does not address that and as such it is meaningliess.

          • Whamadoodle

            I know you want to insist that. But the fact remains that if Google had their offices in SF and “told them” to move to Gilroy and that they’d bus them, people wouldn’t have done so; SF is simply a more desirable place to live. So unless your plan is to encourage all businesses to move so far out of the area that they can’t be reached–which would be stupid–you either have buses, or you have more car traffic. Your choice.

            Any time you have any evidence to disprove the study, let us know; but it shows that the buses are taking cars off the road. I know that the minute you’ve once made a street protest, you have to keep trying to prove you were right in the street protest, so you’re going to puff yourself blue before you ever admit that, but you’ve still offered no evidence to the contrary. Let us know when you have any.

          • Robert Thomas

            It seems that there’s some unclarity regarding the size of the fleet serving Google employees.

            “There is no reliable data on the number of shuttle trips in and out of San Francisco, although the local transportation authority has launched a pilot program to gather that information. Google’s shuttle system, with about 140 vehicles serving seven of the nine Bay Area counties, is now one of the largest transit systems in the region. And about one-third of the roughly 5,000 Google shuttle riders come from San Francisco or points north.”

            “The shuttle effect, and the commute that divides us”
            By Michelle Quinn
            San Jose Mercury News
            12/05/2014 03:00:36 PM PST
            http://www.mercurynews.com/michelle-quinn/ci_27078188/quinn-commute-that-divides-us

            And so, apparently, something like two-thirds of the employees are traveling to and from destinations south of San Francisco; some proportion of the one third heading to and from points north of there are continuing further than SF or reside in the northern East Bay.

            Since no fewer than two of my Santa Clara neighbors with whom I occasionally converse also are Google employees, it seems that at least that number actually live in the South Bay as well. That would explain their shuttles I not infrequently see serving my homely flat-land neighborhood rather than speeding back and forth to and from the wind swept, mildew ridden garrets of Belle Bohême By the Bay.

          • Another Mike

            The plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”

          • Whamadoodle

            Mentioned above, but: what is this public presentation you’re talking about? I can’t find a single reference to it online from SPUR or from Google, though I may not have looked long enough.

            I know you ducked my request for evidence to refute the Dai study already, but while you’re ducking that, could you provide evidence of this public presentation you’re claiming happened, so we can read it ourselves?

          • Robert Thomas

            I looked around a little bit and found the SJMN report I provided the link to above, from last December. The size of the fleet described there seems a little discrepant compared to the numbers Guest reports from last Spring.

          • Whamadoodle

            Thanks, Robert–yes, I could never find this SPUR meeting that the poster claimed occurred, at which this Google manager supposedly said these things.

        • Another Mike

          Two-thirds of techies rode in their automobiles or carpooled in the preceding six months, according to the Dai-Weinzimmer paper. Therefore, these young milllenials do own cars.

          KQED holds comments containing URLs for review, so search on Dai, Weinzimmer, “Riding First Class: Impacts of Silicon Valley Shuttles on Commute & Residential Location Choice”

          • PhilipM

            I am quoting Google’s manager of bus operations based on a public presentation he made at SPUR. the Dai/Weinzimmer paper is based on two students who handed out 1100 forms requesting that the person take an online survey. Only 1 in 10 actually did. This is NOT a good survey and a really small sample group. I would prefer to hear directly from Google and not from some students who are making inferences from a small sample size.

          • Whamadoodle

            The Genentech buses say “directly” that each bus removes 120 cars from the road each day. And they plainly do, since you can see each route carrying several dozen people per trip, for four or five trips per day. You can see that with your own eyes.

            Do you have any study, or any evidence, that disproves the Dai/Weinzimmer paper’s findings, that has a bigger sample? What evidence do you have to show that the buses do not remove cars from the road?

          • PhilipM

            I am sorry, you seem to be completely lost, The comments were originally related to Google employees driving their cars if there wasn’t a bus. Factually, Google is providing buses so their employees can live in SF and not in Mt View and because many of the young recent grads do not have cars.

          • Whamadoodle

            Mm… no, I’m only “completely lost” if you pretend that the buses aren’t carrying thousands of people who would otherwise be using cars, which would be worse. I know you want to insist otherwise, but your claim is plainly untrue. If you want to pretend, you can pretend the sky is green, but it doesn’t make it true. I’ll trust my eyes.

            We can see with our eyes how many people use them, and we know that most of those people would use cars if they didn’t have the buses (you have, again, produced ZERO evidence of any kind to show that they would not. I’m still waiting).

          • Whamadoodle

            By the way, where are you finding this public presentation? I am searching online, but I can’t yet find anything from SPUR that documents such a meeting. Do you have a link to it?

          • Sue

            Reason I refer to it as a preliminary study.

      • Whamadoodle

        Precisely. You are exactly correct–the studies showed that 63% of tech bus riders would revert to using cars, while only at most 40% would move closer to work. Therefore, that would put several dozen more cars PER ROUTE (that is, several dozen cars, multiplied by every company offering buses, multiplied by a couple of dozen different routes they offer, to Cupertino, Marin, etc.) on the road.

  • John

    The elitism and audacity of these people is unbelievable. And techies wonder why they are so hated.

    • Sean Dennehy

      How dare they not suffer bad public transportation alongside you!

      • ben

        thechies offering so called public transportation is a bad solution to a bad problem, the city should be in charge of organizing public transportation, not so profit oriented companies-

    • Guest

      The selfishness and self-serving behavior is offensive, but American culture encourages it and grows a substrate of callous narcissism in each person who is raised here. The poor aren’t immune to that.

    • Whamadoodle

      I see precisely as much elitism from the people who wax righteous about techies, because after all, aren’t they simply saying “don’t these interlopers realize that San Francisco should be a gated community that protects only ME, and excludes THEM?”

  • Another Mike

    The claim was made on KQED’s Newsroom that LEAP cost $6 a ride compared to Muni’s $2.25. But Muni’s farebox recovery ratio is one of the lowest in the nation. Last year, when the fare was still $2.00, Muni reported their farebox ratio was right around 25%. The long-suffering San Francisco taxpayer makes up the difference.

    That would mean the true cost of a Muni ride is $8.00, making the LEAP fare look like a bargain. Could we get the LEAP people to run Muni?

    • PhilipM

      “Long suffering taxpayer”? lol What do you mean by that? Just exactly what taxes to you pay in SF? Sales tax? Property tax? But property tax is governed by prop 13. There is no income tax.

    • Could we get the LEAP people to run Muni? Sure, if you really are happy with just infrequent service to the healthy and affluent when load factors are high. But not if what you want is frequent, reliable service available to everyone.

  • Sean Dennehy

    Everyone knows that Bay Area public transportation has many issues. However, instead of working to fix public transportation, it seems liberals criticize any attempts for people to find alternatives. First it was with tech company shuttles, now it’s with this. It’s as if they want everyone in the Bay Area to suffer bad transit. I can’t figure out why else they would act like this.

    • PhilipM

      Sean, it it just the opposite. Google, et all didn’t work with existing agencies to see if they could first use existing infrastructure for their transit needs.

  • Ben Rawner

    Sometimes the free market can come up with agile answers that can rapidly change to changing facts on the ground. Right now Muni and BART are already overcrowded and companies such as Chariot are just responding to a growing demand. Maybe the city could facilitate these bus companies by building a carpool only street, so busses and private busses could move more rapidly towards downtown.

    • ben

      I am not sure it is the role of free market to offer basic service such as public transportation; then why not disrupt the public school system, the police system… this is creating a devided society, of those who have and have not…

      • Another Mike

        The free market offered public transportation in SF from the beginning — 1860 — to when Muni acquired its last private competitor in 1944.

        • ben

          that just reinforce my point- REAL public transportation should not be run as a business, its meant to loose money- its meant to provide a basic service to all the resident of a city, not the happy few who can afford it, because the so called public service company is driven to make profits…. travel to europe and you’ll see how it’s done…

          • Whamadoodle

            I agree that public transportation shouldn’t be considered a stand-alone business, that must either profit or perish. It is part of an infrastructure system that foreign investors consider as a plus, when deciding whether they should site their business in a place. Without it, workers can’t get to work, and therefore business can’t function. So it’s necessary, regardless of whether it turns a profit.

      • Doug F

        I agree with your logic–the CA public school system should also be disrupted by effective competition. Back when I was in HS (mid-’60s) it was 9th in the US in per-pupil spending, & around that in quality too. Now it’s 49th by both measures, barely beating Mississippi. I’m no fan of the Catholic church, but its schools do a far better job on less money. I see you went to a bad school too; otherwise you’d know how to use an article and spell “divided.”

        • ben

          no Doug it’s just me not spell checking my comments, as I am just laughing at how people here have a false conception of what any type of public service ( transportation, school, etc ) should be. FYI I went to public schools ( In Europe thank god) and they are FAR FAR much better than any school you could have EVER attended.

          • Robert Thomas

            Oh, well played.

  • ben

    PLEASE go and see how the crazy Europeans are doing it… SF is a public desert in terms of public transportation…. the fact that startup companies are feeling the major gaps is just an aknowledgement of the lack of a real public transportation policy.

  • TimDoyle

    The SFMTA is useless and ineffective.

    • PhilipM

      I like Muni. I think SF is a real California city and as such it is tied too much to the auto. If we got rid of some of the street lanes and gave muni some lanes where they are not tied to the general auto congestion, I think they would be great. But of course, no one wants to get rid of cars and everyone likes to complain.

      • Whamadoodle

        Tech buses, as shown below, also get rid of cars. The Berkeley Danielle Dai studies clearly show that. But people have to protest against them. It makes no sense.

    • Whamadoodle

      Tim, I disagree completely. “Useless”? I use it every day, and every day I’m really happy for it. I’m never happy when there’s a serious delay, but for the most part, I find it VERY effective. I love it.

  • If people who can afford these services use them and free up much-needed capacity to low income folks who do rely on public transportation, I see that as a positive.

    • TimDoyle

      Brandon if high-income folks and low-income folks could ride the same bus it would be like Rosa Parks not getting arrested for having to give up a seat for a White person. I think all people should ride public buses if taking a bus.

      • Whamadoodle

        Tim, but… why?

        Why should all people ride public buses if taking a bus? I mean, I’ve heard the argument that it inconveniences bicyclists or is dangerous to them, but many and many have been the bicyclists who have zoomed through a stop sign and been darned dangerous to me. That doesn’t mean I say “every bicyclist should take Muni instead.”

  • Whamadoodle

    People seem to have settled on transportation issues as an emotional touchpoint. The emotional issues are unnecessary (not to mention hypocritical, since they’re usually based on the idea that the New Folks are elitist, but want to make the place a gated community to protect the Old Folks, without ever addressing the fact that the Old Folks pushed out a bunch of previous folks in their time.

    This is simply a question of “the City’s people take X number of trips, to locations X, Y, Z, etc., per day; therefore, they need transportation types X, Y, and Z, to make that X number of trips.” There should be the same sort of conversation happening as would happen if we were running out of water, and needed X amount of water. Questions of conservation and water-hogging would certainly come into play, but for such a conversation just to degenerate into screaming and rock-throwing is idiotic.

    City planning should be down to a science by now. Let’s bring more science into it, and less empty-headed yelling.

  • ben

    take a trip to Europe to see how public transportation is meant to be- SF public transportation is a joke!

    • Whamadoodle

      Well–“Europe” isn’t a monolith. Have you compared Belgium’s train system to Germany’s? San Francisco isn’t perfect, but I’ve used it for years, and I think it rocks. There should be more funding for mass transit everywhere in the US, however.

      • ben

        any public transportation of any major cities in Europe tops SF, NYC … are you serious?
        we’re not comparing small town European villages with SF, check out Madrid, Rome, Paris, London, Bruxells, Berlin… like one of the panelist said, it feels like SF is a suburb, not a real city, with dense public transportation service.

        • Whamadoodle

          I have been to two dozen European countries, have lived in one, and have spent over a month in several others. I also use Muni every day. Yes, I am serious, my experience of Muni is that it’s not perfect, but that it’s just great. I’m very grateful for it, and I think it compares very well to, say, London’s.

        • Another Mike

          Rome’s public transport system is pitiful for a city its size.

          • ben

            it’s not the two metro lines you need to look at… they have a dense bus system. plus a regional train system. from Termini station you can get to Roma Fumicino very fast- 30 minutes- there is something to say about the public spending on transport infrastrucures.

  • Bogo Mips

    I take issue with the perspective that these new private services are elitist and hostile to the poor/disadvantaged – as if somehow MUNI is better. I’ve seen plenty of examples of SFMTA behaving badly and indiscriminately fining riders for trivial infractions. Flushed with anti-terrorism funds, the agency has given no quarters in tolerating anyone who ends up on their bad side. MUNI is neither victim nor angel in this debate.

  • TimDoyle

    I see empty Muni buses all the time. I see empty SF University of Art buses all the time. This City is inefficient.

    • Empty buses is the price of running a regular dependable service. SFMUNI can’t just run buses when lots of people want to ride like the private shuttle service.

  • Doug F

    Scott and even callers haven’t been nearly hard enough on the Muni spokesman yet. The reason there’s so much demand for alternatives like these 2 bus services and the 3 ride-sharing services (I drive for Uber) is that the Muni is incredibly inefficient, corrupt and incompetent, so the resulting quality of service is pretty much intolerable for anyone who can afford anything else. My Uber riders have one horror story after another about Muni. I’ve been riding it occasionally since ’71, and have quite a few myself.

    • ben

      why is that so called public transportation in SF is so bad, so poorly designed? and above all why hasn’t it been upgraded for so long?

      • Doug F

        Because SF voters elect their public officials based on demagoguery and PC-ness, not honesty and competence. So of course those officials fill the appointed high ranks of every SF city agency using crony connections, corruptness and PC-ness as their main criteria. I bet you can’t name a single SF agency that’s competent and efficient.

  • Complaining about MUNI has long been an SF spectator sport. However, I must label myself as a big FAN of our public transit system–and I take it 4-6 times a day. Yes, there are delays/breakdowns. I’d estimate that I encounter that kind of a problem about once every 6 weeks, and that doesn’t always mean that I’ll be late–just forced to wait a bit longer, or find a different route. When I hear people complaining that MUNI is “always” late/broken down, I find myself wondering if perhaps other stresses in their busybusy lives make the slightest disruptions to their schedule seem larger and more harrowing than they really are.

    I live in the Lower Haight, which is served by a veritable abundance of bus and subway options; I work in the Marina, which I access by hopping on the 22 Fillmore which runs 24/7, and stops literally right across the street. When MUNI instituted the NextBus system, and I was able to plan my trips with exceptional accuracy, I was totally hooked, and I gave up my car, and even stopped taking taxis unless I’m in a particularly dire situation.

    I love being able to read or do crosswords, and I like feeling, well, “urban”–part of my SF community with my fellow riders, and savvy to getting around. As far as MUNI being “gross”–I left the suburbs, where I was raised, for a reason. Encountering the occasional non-sterile, scrubbed and sanitized aspect of daily life is part of living in a big city–seeing something “icky” is not enough to ruin my day. So yeah, I’m a MUNI believer.

    • Whamadoodle

      Well said–that is my experience as well. I have often traveled to Europe, and I think that San Francisco’s system stacks up pretty well against many of their systems. I love it!

      • Doug F

        Where were you travelling, Bulgaria? I lived in Germany for 7 years and used public transit all over Western and Central Europe. The only transit system that was remotely close to as bad as the Muni was in Naples, which resembles a 3rd World city in many other ways.

        • Whamadoodle

          That’s your experience–not mine. I have traveled to England, France, Germany and Italy between five and eight or nine times each; and probably two dozen other countries.

          But show me your data, perhaps you’re right. What, precisely, are you referring to, that’s so much worse with Muni? Please list the aspects that are so much worse, and list the studies that have shown which European systems are better. Germany has a great system, but Belgium’s trains were a pure nightmare, in my experience. Germany is certainly the standard, but that doesn’t equal “Europe.”

          I think Muni compares just fine to London Transport, but feel free to prove me wrong with any studies you have.

  • Another Mike

    In January, two transgender women were stabbed on one Muni bus (the No. 49) and a man was stabbed on another (near West Portal). A couple of weeks ago, riders dragged a man off a Muni bus in Vis Valley and robbed him. I haven’t collected all such incidents, but this should explain “the security aspect.”

  • John

    A hermetically-sealed yuppie city within a city is almost complete.

    • Whamadoodle

      Says someone who wanted a gated community protecting only HIS type of people, and who fails to acknowledge that his type of people originally pushed out other types of people, who said the same thing.

  • Luis Mendoza

    This so called “rich divide” is getting ridiculous!! Yeah, let’s blame the Romans too for riding in horses where all the rest of the population walked…

    • Another Mike

      Did you know there were people who drive around SF ALL THE TIME in their own private automobiles, carrying passengers from one spot to another, and charging an arm and a leg for the privilege?

      Shocking, I know.

  • This was a worthwhile program, but it could have been much better if Scott Shafer had done a better job of following up on issues and questions dodged by Ali Vahabzadeh of Chariot, who professes to provide a valuable service at low cost through technology, while actually following the time-honored business model of socializing costs and privatizing profits.

    That Chariot drivers are employees (rather than the fiction of independent contractors) is to its credit, but it probably pays far lower wages than SFMUNI (how low we didn’t learn except for a passing reference to scheduling them so they can work other jobs), and doesn’t provide health benefits (“we’re looking into it” doesn’t count), probably pushing them onto Obamacare.

    Then there’s the issue of just skimming the cream, running only routes where and when it can have high load factors, leaving expensive dependable scheduled service (even when buses are near empty) and service to the disabled to SFMUNI. Also the issue of not taking cash because it’s inefficient. The argument that Chariot provides service when SFMUNI is most crowded sounds good on its face, but actually takes away the most profitable loads, thereby raising costs for the remaining SFMUNI loads.

    I’m all for technology and for additional transportation options, but I’m also for a level playing field. Services like Chariot should be only be permitted to operate in San Francisco when they pay living wages and benefits (if restaurants can do it, shuttle companies can too), and serve all residents, not just the healthy and affluent. “Labor Harmony” is a welcome start, but only a start.

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