I read an article in the press a few years ago about the commuting patterns of the wealthy in Brazil and other developing countries. In order to avoid clogged city streets, they'd hop across town in a helicopter. It seemed quite extravagant at the time.
Now, here in the Bay Area, privileged people don't commute by helicopter: they take the company bus. You know, it's that ubiquitous Apple or Google bus that heads up and down 101 or 280. Those ticker signs on the back go on and on about all the wonderful stops — Glen Park, Noe Valley, the Castro — as if to say to us chumps in our cars, "See you there." And, "there" happens to be a neighborhood that many of us have lived in for years, a place that a lot of people who worked in Mountain View in the past wouldn't have considered living in, the Mission. Now with the bus option, high tech workers are returning to their new homes and rapidly driving up rents and causing protests in the process.
Now I understand the inevitabilities of capitalism — with increased demand comes rising costs. As a commuter myself, I see value in shared transportation. I've heard good arguments in favor of these buses — they cut down on pollution and free up traffic for the rest of us. My point, however, is that they're yet another sign of the increasing economic divide in America, a visceral in-your-face, as my son would say, manifestation of the maldistribution of income.
You wouldn't notice these folks pulling up in their Audis, but the private bus making a right onto Mission and blocking a Muni stop is just impossible to ignore. Let's face it, they're not for the average citizen. They're for the new elite; those who have the ear of City Hall and the cash to buy their dreams while the rest of us eat their environmentally sensitive dust. While our salaries barely keep up with inflation, some of these bus riders are buying houses in the Mission and second homes in the country like there's no tomorrow.
Maybe one day Google will offer helicopter rides for its employees; the rest of us will be able to look up from the gutter and watch them go by; that is if we don't get hit by a bus.
With a Perspective, I'm Josh Gnass.
Josh Gnass lives in San Francisco's Mission District.