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    Small shuttles are more inefficient, put more vehicles on the street, and are pretty much just as disruptive. They just look a little more friendly than a big bus.

    The complaints people have are largely about much bigger issues around housing and gentrification. Those are tough problems, and it seems a lot easier to focus on a bunch of buses instead of the actual issue. I’ll remind you that everyone riding those buses is also a SF resident too.



    They can do that, which I think would be better. Small shuttles do not assert themselves in the way that the big ones do. Or they can move more of their offices to SF, which is also fine. Basically, shuttle companies should not get special privileges. If the people have complaints, you have to take them seriously, as a supe, as these are the people who elect you and pay your salary.



    Fair point that we complain. But it’s not really a parallel since we’re not asking for special privileges.



    Eh – sort of a different discussion. Twelve lots isn’t going to hurt anyone.



    I think if they can invent the self-driving car, they can deal with the permits process in SF.



    You are right about that– many far-sighted and growing companies have been opening up big offices in San Francisco, while maintaining headquarters in their original Peninsula locations. LinkedIn, for example, is completing its own building near Howard and Second Streets — 19 stories or something. And it will be filled to bursting almost as soon as they move there. The difficult commute and poor public transit are leading to more offices in SF, not a move away from the talent pool in the Bay Area. So, more pressure on the City’s housing market. Meanwhile, the Google Bus protestors tilt at windmills.



    But most tech companies get a ton of hires sourced through internal referrals, not head hunters. That is only for a few roles, talent acquisition is a lot cheaper than the 50% fee you are quoting.



    Once again, San Francisco residents trade car convenience for safety:



    Let’s say that google has to place employees in 7 different buildings. Maybe 15. The current Googleplex has over FORTY buildings. I’ve got the GPS track from Amphitheatre and Shoreline to the outmost buildings on Crittenden – that’s 1.5 miles. They have expanded to buildings on the other side of US-101, which require either sitting in horrible traffic on Shoreline no matter what time of day, and biking requires either a circuitous detour to Steven’s Creek Trail, or a dangerous US-101 crossing on Shoreline. If they have a floor in Embarcadero 4 and one in Embarcadero 3, it’s a lot easier than moving around the Plex.

    And while “co-location” is great and all, Google is a very large, very diverse company. It’s really not that important for the guys working on the search engine to be co-located with the self-driving cars people. And remember, Google has huge offices worldwide. The granularity required for a new office doesn’t have to be that large.

    Even though Apple is building the new spaceship, they aren’t letting go of Infinite Loop. The distance between Infinite Loop and the Spaceship is about the size of the financial district.

    “Now for the cost of hiring: that cost is not going away. I am not sure
    how that makes any difference when adding the payroll tax.”

    How this matters is that if Google can put offices in SF, it is an even better perk than a shuttle bus. That’s a key perk for *retaining* employees. You never have to hire a replacement for an employee who never quits.



    The payroll tax in SF is complicated because of its interaction with stock options: While it’s reasonable to tax stock compensation (or employers would simply use it to avoid the tax), it can lead to a disproportionate tax bill, especially as SF taxes the stock given to non-employees as well.



    OK – I was wrong the cost of office space is cheaper here. BUT – where are you going to find housing for 5000 -6000 employees in one place for your company with appropriate parking. This is how many people Yahoo have in Sunnyvale, Google and Apple have much larger spaces. And oh yeah, generally own and do not rent their spaces. They are buying by the acres so they can continue to expand as they grow. That is not so easy in the city. Salesforce is currently in at least 5 different buildings in SF trying to keep up (though soon will be able to consolidate a bit) as they just kept taking floors here and there as they were growing. I cannot see how this is cost efficient. All these costs of moving, customizing, and upkeep are huge.

    Also, comparing residential sq. footage to office sq. footage pricing is not usually a good idea. But I did look up in SF -and the going rate is about $65 per sq. foot so not that much of a difference.

    Now for the cost of hiring: that cost is not going away. I am not sure how that makes any difference when adding the payroll tax. This is still another expense when dealing with large companies and a consideration when deciding to move offices into the city.



    “Office space is much more expensive here and more rare”

    [citation needed]

    How about this one.

    In Mountain View, for example, the home of Google, the price of office
    space is more than two-and-a-half-times the national average: nearly $97
    per square foot, versus just less than $35. In Palo Alto, the suburban
    enclave where Facebook was born, office rents top $88 per square foot,
    with a vacancy rate below 4 percent. Surprisingly, office rents in San
    Francisco, home of the $3,000 one-bedroom apartment, are low by
    comparison, coming in at $60 per square foot.

    Payroll taxes are a couple percent a year? Companies pay headhunters upwards of 50% of one years salary for any employee they place, and that’s only part of the cost of acquisition of an employee. Paying a payroll tax on an entire employee tenure would be less than the cost of hiring that employee.



    Oh come on. Plenty of people in tech ride BART and Muni every day, and plenty of people walk to catch shuttles. Reliability and predictability is a pretty basic attribute for a transit system.



    Because the best use for 12 commercial parcels in the city is a bunch of private bus terminals? Get real. I’d rather have street space used for loading and unloading motor vehicles than bulldoze perfectly good space where people can live or work or shop.



    The problem with this is 2-fold: 1) Office space is much more expensive here and more rare. 2) City Taxes. Unless everyone gets the “Twitter Tax Break” it is not really worth it to move that many employees to the city – even f there are more restrictions and buses become more expensive, I doubt this expense would be more than the city taxes.



    Or figure out how to open more offices in the city – attracting even *more* of their workers to SF



    “Actually, the process for “bulldoze whatever laundromat is currently
    there” is so onerous and time consuming in San Francisco that no one in
    their right mind would consider doing it.”

    Oh quit your whining. Lifelong San Franciscans have dealt with that for decades (by doing copious non-permitted work).

    Google should just bulldoze whatever laundromat is there at night Richard Daly style and then just pay the fine. Cost of doing business.



    “Us lifelong San Franciscans have used public transit to get everywhere
    for decades, through every era of Muni. We are grateful for it and don’t
    sit around whining about it.”

    And that folks – is exactly why MUNI sucks. Because the lifelong San Franciscans do not give a crap that it sucks.



    A company I know was running 2 Google buses per day from the City. Ridership was sort of meh, so they combined the 2 shuttles into one route. The net result was that the ridership of the new route was roughly 1/4 the ridership of the total from the 2 prior routes. The new route served a smaller subset, and few riders who had “closer” stops on one of the old routes dealt with the longer last mile problem.

    The riders on the West side of town just started driving. The cohort that lived in Potrero Hill went back to Caltrain. The Potrero cohort was interesting – they had mostly moved to Potrero because of Caltrain before the shuttles. Despite Potrero being the highest concentration of employees living in SF for that company, the shuttle stop in Potrero was eliminated due to poor ridership. That group mostly just took Caltrain anyway!

    Caltrain is much faster at this point than a shuttle on US-101 – but the door to door trip is only good if your last mile problem is solved. The company provides excellent shuttle service, non-stop from Mountain View for baby bullets or Lawrence for limiteds. And it’s close enough to bike quickly. But only the Potrero people (who could walk to the train) stuck with Caltrain because the real last mile problem for Caltrain is in SF – where MUNI is woefully inadequate to Caltrain.


    Kyle Huey

    Oh please, whining about Muni has long been one of the most popular pastimes in this city.



    I said this on another article, but will repeat it here. If the City makes the bigger,private busses untenable, private employers on the Peninsula will probably institute a host of alternatives, including multiple smaller shuttle vehicles that go deeper into neighborhoods, use streets the big busses are barred from, and stop in traffic lanes to let passengers out as cabs now do. This will probably make traffic worse, while doing nothing to alleviate displacement of less well off San Franciscans. The proposed hub system is a non-starter for most current users, and the Board of Supervisors knows this. Truly a disheartening lack of political leadership when what we really need is many more housing units and local and regional transit construction on a large scale.



    Actually, the process for “bulldoze whatever laundromat is currently there” is so onerous and time consuming in San Francisco that no one in their right mind would consider doing it. Just to get the permitting and approval is likely to take at least 5 years and there is no guarantee that the planning department would even let it happen.

    The people who use the shuttles are wealthy enough that they either have cars or would buy them if they needed to get to their jobs. This program keeps people off the roads in single occupancy motor vehicles in the city and down the Peninsula. In fact, the whole reason that companies on the Peninsula are doing this has more to do with traffic management agreements they made with their communities (Mountain View, Cupertino, etc.) to reduce the total number of cars on their roads, highways, and streets than anything about San Francisco.

    That being said, the primary culprit is that regional public transit planning, coordination, and investment is so awful when compared to the bay area highway network that regional public transit options rarely make sense relative to just driving a car. If only there was a state or regional agency with just as much power as CalTrans that could help our community public transit agencies stitch together networks that would get people to their jobs in the same ways that these company shuttles are doing so now.



    I agree with you: whatever problems there are,such as big busses using too narrow, neighborhood streets or heavily used public bus stops, can and have been tweaked and ironed out with public input and SFMTA oversight of the bus program. Eliminating the current Google bus program would be a symbolic victory for activists who wrongly think that the Google bus program causes displacement of lower income SF residents. A study by the SFMTA seemed to indicate that the busses followed where employees were already locating themselves, not the other way around. That same study surveyed the riders about what the would do if such busses were eliminated. Only 5% said they would move closer to their workplace on the Peninsula. So I very much doubt removing Google busses from SF streets would help with displacement, but it would significantly negatively affect highway and city traffic and quality of life for drivers and non-drivers alike. Study was written up on Citylab, but don’t have the link to hand.



    The difference between a shuttle and a bus is that a shuttle goes somewhere close to your home. Having to hike half-way across town to catch one destroys the entire point of them.

    So the “hub” idea is a non-starter. It’s possible that hubs could work if there “feeder shuttles” that used smaller vehicles that are free to go and ickup anywhere – more like Uber people carriers. But the waiting and changing would still be irksome, and far more drivers would be needed.

    I really fail to see any problem with the current system.



    California cities are barred by state law from having a local income tax. Ditto for taxes on capital gains.

    The closest the city can get is some kind of payroll tax, but that won’t affect anyone who works outside of the city, as these shuttle commuters do, of course. And of course that led to Twitter’s threat to move a few miles south, whereupon the city folded.



    Maybe a steep but progressive city income tax on high earners? Then see how they run. Away.



    It’s pathetic that a techie can’t be bothered to put his butt on a muni bus. Us lifelong San Franciscans have used public transit to get everywhere for decades, through every era of Muni. We are grateful for it and don’t sit around whining about it. I commuted twice a week all the way across town to BART, then BART to Berkeley for three days a week for a decade, and it was fine. And a tech bro can’t be bothered to take the bus or god forbid walk five or ten blocks to catch his stupid shuttle? All a techie can say is how upset he is that Muni doesn’t come when Google says it will. Know who’s at fault there? Google. Because Muni has always been unpredictable, long before any app claimed to be able to predict it.



    Nobody is going to get riled up about being ticketed for stopping in Muni stops, as this is already the norm. What riles us up is that we get tickets and the richest companies in the world don’t.



    Oh boo hoo, Scott Weiner. The job of SF supervisors is to craft policy that is accommodative of San Franciscans, not to solve the global climate crisis. And that’s all San Franciscans, not just the small fraction who use the buses.



    Even if you assume the shuttle riders would actually use Muni to get to SOMA, then transfer to their shuttles instead of just driving or Ubering…
    …how does forcing them to jam onto already-packed inbound Muni buses at rush hour make things better for everyone else?

    Political posturing at its worst.


    Mario Tanev

    This is impractical. And remember, the city has no legal ability to regulate shuttle buses, so it relies on this voluntary program. If this is not a practical program, the shuttles will go back to the wild west of stopping wherever. The city will need to find money to beef up enforcement (since the shuttles will not contribute towards their own enforcement anymore). But the city couldn’t just beef up enforcement of shuttle operators alone (as that would be discrimination and will make the city liable to lawsuits). Instead they can beef up enforcement of any violations in Muni stops, including private vehicles. That’s going to rile up many of the same people who complain about shuttles.

    This is a circus.


    Andy Chow

    I don’t think a hub idea will work. A hub will require a lot of space (think of Transbay Terminal) for multiple buses to stage and board passengers, and will require shelters for large groups of passengers. I expect significant opposition to these kind of facilities in most areas within SF.

    If this is an operation funded and operated by a transit agency, rather than self funded by companies, you can set up a hub near 101 or 280 outside the city. Buses from different neighborhoods that head to different companies would stop at those hubs and allow people to transfer. So there will be fewer buses and fewer impacts, but does not require everyone to board Muni to downtown and transfer.



    This is absolutely not true in larger agencies. Specifically, Berkeley recently posted a job in the engineering department to cover active transportation, which is a PE job. Public Works departments are doing lots of outreach and are often seen at the same meetings that the planners go to. The conservativism is necessary because engineers are focused foremost on safety, and need to implement designs, while almost nothing a planner will do will kill anyone.

    Both planners and engineers are accountable to the same people – the elected officials. It you want change, start with them and tell them to set the priorities that you want. If your planning head or public works director is recalcitrant, get the community to speak out against that individual, as goals are set from the top. But stoking this engineer/planner divide is very unproductive.



    Has anybody though how LOUD that sucker’s gonna be? Imagine sitting right behind a fan jet and you’ll get some idea. Sure, it’s electrically powered, not a real jet. But moving all that air to propel the bullet at six hundred miles an hour will require a large amount of energy; fans aren’t perfect impellers, so some of that energy is going to become a large roaring sound. Bank on it.



    I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t. I like the scenery and deliberately take slower routes to enjoy it. As a matter of fact I like slow trains, although I am not foolish enough to think that they are a viable mode of practical transportation, because of the high labor costs.



    Bad news: the Board of Supervisors is moving to dismantle one form of private mass transit that actually works: the Google Bus program. If they are successful in moving these busses from mostly underused bus stops to a few hubs that are cumbersome to arrive at, most of those commuters will go back to using private cars, hopefully carpooling, but still adding a lot of traffic to city streets and the highways. Housing prices will remain unaffected, but those fearful of displacement by tec workers will feel good with their illusions of victory.

    My prediction: that tech companies will hire smaller carpool type vans seating 8-12 persons to get their employees to work and home, closer to door to door service. It will cost more than the busses, but considerably less than the loss of talented current employees and future talent.



    CAHSR costs are higher than other countries because all transportation construction costs are higher in the US, for a variety of reasons. The Hyperloop won’t be exempt from that.

    Additionally, the mountain crossings are hugely expensive and jack up the cost per mile. If you look at the cost per mile of the Central Valley segment, it’s much closer to the the cost of HSR in Europe.

    The Vegas HSR route is cheaper because there are no major mountain crossings (hence the Victorville terminus), there are very few people in the path of the line, and the route is engineered for lower speeds than CAHSR.



    it’s a nice fantasy to talk about new “subways” after all a guy running for state Senate made a big fuss about it. there’s just one problem – no US federal government is going to fund the M subway, or the N subway or ANY subway in San Francisco anytime soon. They already paid a billion dollars for a stupid Central Subway that just goes to Chinatown, and there’s not even money for fantasy extensions of THAT, so yeah. Oh and if you say “But nancypelosidiannefiensteinwillgetthe$$$” both are out of office in the next few years. have fun with the meetings and maps though, maps and such are fun.


    Martin Atkins

    We have a grand history of building big train stations and then running tiny streetcars to them… just look at Muni Metro!



    Thank you for this great follow-up letter. I hope they heed your requests re: Fulton bike lane and also wuarterly coordination meeting b/w planning, public works, and bike east bay. Keep up the good work.



    Dude, you do NOT understand railroading. There are actual, real, live human beings living in the intermediate cities and wanting to travel. And there will be a LOT MORE real live human beings living in them in twenty years.

    The intermediate stops are a feature not a bug.



    Sure, but Union Station is almost as far from LAX as is Anaheim. Almost. You’d be going around two legs of a roughly equilateral roughly right triangle; the Green Line extended would roughly be the hypotenuse. LAX-LAUS-Norwalk is an almost perfect equilateral right triangle (using an air line “route” to LAUS), and the Green Line really IS a hypotenuse.

    Check the LA map.



    If you are interested, the lightning/thunder explanation is quite good. The waves of an earthquake propagate at the speed of sound, so news of the impending shaking could easily outpace the waves themselves.

    Of course it seems to me that if the epicenter is miles under ground (as it usually is) then it would seem to move outward at greater than the speed of sound, due to triangles.


    Andy Chow

    Very soon Denver would have an electrified commuter rail system to and from the airport. Something Caltrain is still trying to catch up for decades.



    Criminal negligence requires more than merely a mistake in judgment, inattention, or simple carelessness. It only pertains to conduct that is so outrageous and reckless that it marks a clear departure from the way an ordinary careful person would act under similar circumstances.



    Not sure you’d enjoy a high speed tube ride either! I wonder how a hyperloop route would be laid out given the projected speeds of 760mph and the human body’s ability to tolerate only so many G’s of force. Looks like each turn would need a radius of about 15 miles to make the turns bearable.



    Criminal negligence requires more than merely a mistake in judgment, inattention, or simple carelessness. It only pertains to conduct that is so outrageous and reckless that it marks a clear departure from the way an ordinary careful person would act under similar circumstances.



    That’s pretty sneaky — the corporate shuttle program is temporarily extended by one year to avoid environmental review. As I understand it, on January 1, 2016, VMT (vehicle miles travelled) will be the new standard state-wide compared to LOS (level of service) for CEQA due to SB 743. It’s hard to argue against the corporate shuttle program reducing VMT.



    Making an illegal turn that kills someone seems pretty negligent. Did I miss something?



    Thank you gneiss. Enlightening information.