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    Sububanites are very attached to a vision of their communities as semirural villages,.as many of them once were. They fight densification. because they are clinging to these rural vestiges that emotionally resonate with them.



    Actually I think the reason Silicon Valley sprung up where it did was largely happenstance; Hewlett’s famous garage, SRI, the Homebrew Computer Club and an abundance of cheap land on which to build fabrication plants formed the nexus of what would come later.



    Also South, South West, and North are feeling rather left out. I’m not sure why other areas of the city need to wait until downtown is finished, and how long that would be.

    The population base in south-heavy and the jobs north-heavy, so the biggest value would seem to be improving north/south routes. Lincoln is a critical 24hr north/south connection across 280. For the SW to utilize this connection though, the planned Leigh lane extension from Curtner to the Willow St connection really needs to be finished. This is also needed to fully utilize the future (and will be excellent) Dry Creek bike boulevard.

    The north/south street connections north of downtown getting across 101 and 880 are an extremely weak point in the network. GRT is not a solution for everyone (closes at dark, underpass floods, some don’t feel safe). With the current plan, I don’t see any decent street based solution being presented for getting from downtown to the concentration of jobs in the north.

    I would not assume that people only want to make short trips around downtown. People don’t make longer trips because of the difficulty in bridging gaps in network. Yes downtown has better transit, but if you have a bike you don’t really need to combine it with transit downtown because of the size of the area. Its the outer lying areas that really need some help, with fragmented widely spaced bike networks and less transit options.



    1) It has accommodated more than its share of Bay Area growth and 2) a shockingly large number of people get murdered there.



    I think the reason many transit advocates get so annoyed by the anti-tech shuttle activists is because they claim to be acting in the interests of Muni or Caltrain or the environment, yet are completely ignorant about the actual issues involved. It’s obvious that they have no real interest in improving transit, it’s just a convenient outlet for their fear over the changes that are happening to the city.

    On the specific points:

    1) Google have been trying to add housing on their campus for a while now, and have been prevented from doing so by Mountain View. The city wants a slice of the tech economy without contributing to the housing required to house the people who work at the tech companies.

    2) Caltrain are working on adding an extra car to their trains, using cars bought from Metrolink; but if they want to add any more cars after that they’ll need to lengthen their platforms, which is a major piece of work that they don’t have the funding for.

    3) Caltrain is cleaner per passenger than the tech shuttles, and will be cleaner still with electrification. But that’s irrelevant given that the people who currently take the tech shuttles would likely switch to driving if that option wasn’t available. Tech shuttles are cleaner per passenger than private cars, yet there seems to be some sort of blind spot that prevents otherwise sensible people from seeing the damage that cars cause to the environment, and the finger is pointed at the tech shuttles instead. Probably because cars are driven by “people like us”, and tech shuttles are ridden by “people like them”.



    Out of curiosity, which bike routes in the SF version would you make fun of? If anything it seems to be missing very good bike routes (e.g., The Wiggle is notably absent.)



    I would agree, except that how many cities are denser and cheaper in the US? And how many cities are less dense and more expensive per square foot? This isn’t a causal relationship per se, but supply of housing isn’t everything, as certain supply increases can actually increase demand. Housing costs are a rising problem for urban areas around the world; IMO the densification needs to be happening in all the cities that are failing to attract demand like SF is right now. Why has San Jose utterly failed at being a city?



    Well, we could make fun of plenty of bike routes in the SF visualization too, except that one does not distinguish between different types of infrastructure. I prefer the Oakland version, which makes the value of different applications more apparent, and even shows how existing segments have been upgraded over time. The fact that the “bike route” miles are now decreasing while the other categories increase is evidence that the city no longer sees these BINOs (Bikeways In Name Only) as acceptable.

    I also think it’s okay to appreciate how much we’ve accomplished over just the past 10 years while also admitting how much work we have yet to do.



    And your point is…what? Do you understand that our transportation network is so crappy that if somehow all Peninsula employees moved to the Peninsula, they’d all still drive? Google and Facebook are out of parking spaces as it is, actually.

    Never mind the fact that in a typical household, you’ll find two working adults. Two adults who, chances are, found jobs/schools/etc in two different parts of the Bay Area.

    Don’t start with these ridiculous strawman arguments about the shuttles being polluting. If you think this is a net negative for the environment then why don’t you take over leadership of BAAQMD and tell us how you’d figure it all out.


    Jeffrey Baker

    I once saw a very similar timelapse of a snail crossing a desert.

    That movie of Oakland bike paths is a bit of a joke. They’ve got the entirety of Mountain Blvd as a “bike route” but there’s not a bike amenity to be seen anywhere on that road. Not even sharrows!

    I guess it’s nice that we have anything, if they really didn’t have a single bike lane 30 years ago, but it’s still a disconnected mess.



    I don’t have a problem with this per se, but a regional bus going from say, the Mission to Sand Hill Road would have to be heavily subsidized to attract ridership, and would only serve some pretty high salaried folks. How well would that go over with the Google Bus protestors?



    Are you going to make them move? Scratch a progressive and you’ll find an authoritarian.



    A similar time lapse map was put together by the City of Oakland a while ago as well:


    Andy Chow

    The key problem with the shuttle is really about the subsidy given by the companies to encourage the workers to compete for housing in San Francisco. If the cost is higher (like having to take Caltrain or own a car), some folks may reconsider where they want to live. Unlike public transportation, the subsidy can only be used by the employees (other commuters with the same commute pattern will have to pay on their own to ride Caltrain or drive).

    Part of the proliferation of those shuttles is the inability on part of the public agency to provide similar service. While Caltrain is the mainline service along the corridor, it doesn’t serve a large part of SF and a large part of the Silicon Valley. With each of the 3 counties having separate priorities, there’s no political leadership to push for additional bus transit along the corridor. There are many large companies located in SF but most don’t operate long distance shuttles because of the fact that there are political entities and leadership to ensure high level of transit is provided to SF from most locations in the Bay Area. The benefit is that some folks who work at McDonald’s in downtown SF can also take transit like their counterpart who works in a downtown law firm.

    I think that the Caltrain JPB should also be in the regional bus business to provide service along the I-280 corridor. Not only it would provide some relief for Caltrain, it would also provide some equity for those who don’t work for those companies. I am not suggesting a replacement of the private network but one or two routes mirroring the private network and not Caltrain.



    A friend recently moved closer to work. He bought a single family fixer-upper in Palo Alto for well over $2 million. (After repeatedly getting outbid on other homes.) Doh!

    Until San Francisco gets a lot more expensive, high paid workers will continue to flock there, despite the commute. What some call insanely high prices, they call relatively affordable.


    Jordan Klein

    And what about the 60% that won’t? (Also, I think the finding was closer to 30% said they’d move.)



    100 percent of riders think they could actually find a place to live closer to work, and that it would be cheaper.

    With this incorect knowledge, the question from the Berkeley Study is faked at best. When my rent got raised, I decided to move closer to work. That turned out to be impossible.



    The power of the almighty NIMBY.

    Even Google can’t convince Mountain View to build enough housing and transit–MV by and large doesn’t want it.

    Recently a friend of mine relocated to the Bay Area to work at Google. As part of her relocation Google put her up for a couple months in housing…in east San Jose/Milpitas. When I asked her why they didn’t just put her in Mountain View she said she asked that too but Google told her they just couldn’t find any available housing there–it doesn’t exist. The Milpitas area was the closest they could find.

    So she now takes the Google shuttle from there.

    Of course if previous generations had actually followed through with this original plan and communities had smartly built housing and jobs along these transit lines, these shuttles wouldn’t need to exist in the first place:



    Suppose there was one ridiculously easy trick (like shutting down the shuttles) to significantly bring down rents in San Francisco. You’ll never guess what would happen next. People would flood in from surrounding areas, driving rents back up. Doh!

    You can’t fix this problem by attacking symbols. You need to change the fundamentals (increase the supply of housing).



    Well, maybe in theory they say they would, but practice is yet another thing. As many others have mentioned Silicon Valley is also facing a severe housing shortage crisis–where would all these people go? NIMBYs there consistently block multiunit housing and transit infrastructure so the housing just isn’t there.

    And you do realize if this even happened it’d mean all the more cars driving around Silicon Valley, all the more low-income people pushed out of Silicon Valley, etc.

    You’re fantasizing about shipping a problem away to go elsewhere, not fixing its root causes.



    If tech companies didn’t provide bus service from San Francisco to Silicon Valley, 40 percent of riders would move closer to work, a UC Berkeley study found.



    It’s not that tech workers don’t like taking transit–every day Caltrain overflows with tech (and other) workers. The problem is the region’s transit and land-use patterns have not been optimized for more people to have Caltrain/BART/etc. as viable options.

    Caltrain runs along a narrow band of real-estate far from where most people in SF live. The housing that does exist near Caltrain is often prohibitively expensive (in no small part due to Caltrain’s very popularity).

    Also, if only it were so simple to “just move closer to work.” Silicon Valley is also dealing with a severe housing shortage created by many of the same issues as in SF–at a high-level NIMBYs opposing new growth for decades.

    Another thing to point out–people who live in Silicon Valley overwhelmingly drive because the built environment basically screams for them to do so. Tech shuttles allow many a carless tech worker to return home to SF where they walk/take transit/bike to run errands, see friends and go out. These are things that people who live in Mountain View/etc. generally do in a car. Not only do they drive to work, but they drive to dinner, drive to the supermarket, drive to see their friends, etc.

    Btw, low-income people are increasingly being forced out of Silicon Valley communities, as well, precisely due to the same Bay Area-wide housing shortage. You may like to fantasize about “shipping all those techies away” but they’d be all the further exacerbating these same exact problems there, as well.

    Let’s be clear this is all due to a decades-long pattern of Bay Area communities’ utter failure to plan smartly and cohesively in terms of housing and transit. Every community’s been me-me-me and this is the result we get. Let’s stop blaming the coping strategies such as tech shuttles and start attacking the real root of these problems.



    As a bicyclist I stay out of these areas. The last time I was at Post and Larkin, I witnessed some vehicle just plow into the intersection I was approaching 50 feet back when I had a green light. Had I been just a few feet into the intersection I would have been killed, and this follows another accident incident in that area a few days prior. I will stay out of that area from now on.



    My question is, were police pursuing him? There should be no pursuits like that in this city any longer due to the potential dangers. Notice how they completely left that out, the police in this city should not be pursuing vehicles on the roads like this, and if they were, they were partially responsible for the carnage.

    10 years ago I recall how a police officer did a u turn on Lincoln Ave near 8th Ave. after he witnessed me spitting into the air. He was pissed off thinking I was insulting him. About 3 minutes later I was all the way down to 25th ave and he stopped me on a scooter and looked at my DL, then let me continue on. These police officers shouldn’t be pursuing anyone at high speeds in these high populated areas.



    Re the “capacity issue on Caltrain”: Can’t Caltrain add more cars to its locomotive load as needed? Also, I guess we need to know stats to compare carbon effluents per Caltrain trips to bus trips, bearing in mind that a train can carry far, far more riders in one trip than can even a monster bus. I’m supposing that the train comes out far lower per rider than buses. (Many Muni buses are electric, not gas powered so not emitting carbon or other noxious effluents for our city residents to breathe.)

    Also, it does seem as if housing needs to be built nearer the Silicon Valley work sites. Why don’t those booming businesses do something about that?








    Amen. There’s absolutely nothing new in Fran’s argument above, except more of the usual excuses for doing nothing, combined with more of the usual Boomer self-congratulation.



    I repeat, if the workers don’t like taking public transit then they can move closer to their work. The planet simply can’t afford excessive pollutants from transportation. Over 60% of global warming is coming from transportation. Source:



    “The real problem here is that tech companies were pushed to locate in suburban office parks which will never be easily accessible by transit. This was due to anti-development activists in both SF and the peninsula cities who did not want increased growth in downtown SF, downtown Menlo Park, downtown Palo Alto etc, and enacted height limits and office space caps to prevent development. Ironically, in SF many of those anti-development activists are also anti-shuttle activists.”

    Yup! At a generational level the “Mine-Mine” Bay Area Boomer m.o. seems to be:

    Step 1) oppose transit infrastructure for decades (“we can just drive! a train will ruin MY property value! MY taxes are already too high! squalor!”)

    Step 2) oppose new multiunit housing for decades (“it’ll ruin MY view! MY street parking! traffic! MY property values! squalor!”)

    Step 3) while the predictable and totally self-inflicted housing and transit shortage crisis has been emerging and affecting more and more people in the background for decades, don’t say anything until it actually starts to affect you and people you know.

    Step 4) Then have a photo-op in front of a shuttle.

    Just to be clear this isn’t an attack on any individual but on the kinds of collective actions a whole generation has taken for decades leading us to this situation.

    By the way, there are lots of cities in the world that have chosen to preserve their historic centers intact–more or less as living museums–while concentrating new office and modern housing developments in smart clusters outside the historic centers. There are various pros and cons to this, but my experience living in Amsterdam showed me that this is at least viable when you cluster all the suburban growth in smart targeted areas all linked by excellent transit to the city center. For me it took living in the Netherlands to realize that suburbia doesn’t have to suck per se, especially when it’s designed smartly.

    Our land use + transit policies have got to change, but undoing decades of poor (and self-serving) decisions which are still ongoing is tough. Standing in front of a tech shuttle (which itself is a coping strategy for the unfortunate status quo the Boomers have bequeathed the next generations) is not doing anything remotely close to addressing the actual problem.



    Caltrain will never attract a significant number of people who currently use the shuttle buses, because the Caltrain stations in SF are not close to where most people live, and the Caltrain stations in Silicon Valley are not close to where most people work. You’d need a connecting bus on both ends, and a Bus + Rail + Bus journey will never be able to compete with a door-to-door shuttle.

    Just Google Map a few examples if you don’t believe me. Travel times from most SF addresses to Google, Apple, or Facebook HQ come in at 2 – 3 hours on public transit. You might shave 15 mins of those times with better connections – not enough to make transit competitive with the shuttles.

    Sadly, you won’t be able to create a more attractive transportation alternative to the tech shuttles with current land use patterns. The only way to get people to stop using the tech shuttles will be to ban them. And if you ban the tech shuttles, the people who currently use them will choose the next most attractive form of transportation – driving alone.

    The real problem here is that tech companies were pushed to locate in suburban office parks which will never be easily accessible by transit. This was due to anti-development activists in both SF and the peninsula cities who did not want increased growth in downtown SF, downtown Menlo Park, downtown Palo Alto etc, and enacted height limits and office space caps to prevent development. Ironically, in SF many of those anti-development activists are also anti-shuttle activists.

    Resolving this land use problem is key to solving the affordability crisis.



    “A sensible schedule to accommodate all the buses at all the bus stops, down to the Caltrans (sic) station”

    You lost me at “Caltrans station”, but I’ll bite.

    Do you have any data showing that a “gas-guzzling bus” is more polluting than a train (which guzzles diesel by the way…)? Remember that the buses are going point to point and require little to no last mile transportation that may also guzzle gas.

    I think there are a few quotes that might enlighten you.

    Public Comment

    Greg Conlon, Atherton, said as former commissioner and President of the California Public Utilities Commission he believes corporate buses, such as Google ,are taking ridership away from Caltrain. He is not sure if there is an issue or a concern of staff and the Board.

    Mr. Scanlon (Caltrain CEO) said it is good these buses are taking ridership away because of the capacity issue on Caltrain.

    From Palo Alto

    Kate Downing, also urging more housing, suggested
    that the city do more to address the needs of its less affluent
    residents. She lamented the transformation of Palo Alto into a city
    exclusively for millionaires.

    “If we don’t allow for growth, Silicon Valley as
    we know it today will cease to exist,” Downing said. “We will have
    priced out all the young workers and all the new companies.”



    Yeah I laughed at that a bit as well. It’ll be interesting to see if Palo Alto does end up allowing any kind of development…



    They (not you) complain they aren’t engaged. Then suddenly the techies engage and OH NO!



    Hah–who knows, maybe! Either that or a Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes/Frank Luntz-type obfuscator wannabe.



    If the amount of money spent by the tech companies running these private corporate buses were put into the Muni and Caltrans coffers to add transit service to accommodate these workers, wouldn’t that solve the problem? A sensible schedule to accommodate all the buses at all the bus stops, down to the Caltrans station, would be worked out, the Peninsula workers would pay into the Muni fair box for their public transit just like all the rest of us and they could ride on the less-polluting trains instead of in gas-guzzling buses down to the Peninsula. And if it’s not so cushy, too bad — maybe then they’ll decide to live nearer their work and not crowd local residents out of San Francisco by inserting themselves into their homes.



    I did not neglect to factor in productivity on buses, you made that assumption. The people I know taking private shuttles are generally gone for at least 12 hours a day, 10 hours if they leave early. No one I know takes the 10:00 AM bus south and the 3:30 PM bus north in the same day (thereby working 8 hours 10-5). Even if they don’t do a full 8 hours on campus, it’s unknown in my experience that the entire bus trip duration would be knocked off the work day.

    As to lowered productivity from crowding Caltrain, it’s stretching it to say it is going to have that much direct impact on revenue and therefore taxes. I do think that Caltrain needs better funding and to find ways to relieve the crowding.

    My point this whole time is to say that it’s hard for most people (not just tech workers) to work the hours demanded by their jobs, plus often 1+ hour commutes one way, and still have time and energy to be engaged locally. Although, as you said, there are different ways people do get engaged that may not be in person or may be different than other ways of building community. It’s not a value judgment, it’s an observation. I think we’re being asked/coerced to work too much and it’s hard to maintain a work-life balance, especially when work is 40 miles away from life.



    East Side neglect is an ongoing issue. The west side of the valley gets all of the goodies. This is partially due to the makeup of the VTA BPAC which is weighted towards the west.

    There’s also some political inertia on the East Side. I tried contacting the east side district council members to get support for closing a few key gaps in the bike/ped infrastructure (101/Ocala for example) but there was no interest. Maybe they have different priorities.



    You neglect to factor in that for many of these employees, their work day starts the second the board the bus, and ends the second they get off the bus, allowing them to compress their work days. This can’t happen – at least not as well, if they are on public transit. While I have seen people writing what is surely confidential software on Caltrain, and even making phone calls that should be private – while on the company bus you are effectively on company property and can work away.

    This brings up another Caltrain point. An argument for Caltrain funding regarding the current crowding – in the less crowded days it was a lot easier to work on the train. That is falling by the way side, which is a hit to worker productivity, which is a hit to local/state/federal tax revenues… that fund things like Caltrain.


    Upright Biker

    Is it run by Rob Anderson and SFParkRipOff, by any chance?



    Jeffrey Baker

    re: Muni Diaries … maybe we can ask Siemens for a reinforced front end and a setting on the throttle for “ramming speed”.



    at Palo Alto Council last night for the Comprehensive Plan discussion millennials outnumbered no-changers





    That’s true, there are a lot of different types of engagement and ways of being part of the community. At the same time, spending 10-14 hours working or commuting has an impact, and I’m not just referring to the tech bus riders. It has an impact for anyone doing a super commute, especially if it’s by car.



    So where in the article does she address the specific issue of shuttle buses?



    As we know, only a “select” few amongst those who don’t have a commute can make it to Board of Supervisors meetings. These days a lot of the organizing and advocacy is done online – see for example this forum – and this particular demographic is particularly suited for it. I successfully pushed Caltrain to imitate weekend bullet service from my cellphone.

    Add in a flexible schedule and my experience is that many carve out the specific chunks of time for key public meetings. The Polk Street meetings were like a shuttles convention.

    More critically – a large number are car free or car light and when they are home, they are in their neighborhood, not hopping in their car to head to Tosca or Serramonte.

    The knowledge of issues and problems at the ground level requires actually being on the ground level – this problem can be solved in an accelerated manner via the crowd source.



    In Massachusetts the outer ring suburban and city leaders have got the message that people *want* to live in walkable communities, and developers are repsonding: If only the political classes in the cities and towns to the south and north of SF could actually see a different way to grow then just ‘build housing’, they might have a sense of how to maintain the character of their communities while relieving price pressure on their existing housing and rental stock. It doesn’t have to be either densify or maintain character. It can certainly be both.



    It can be hard to be part of a community with the demands of work and a 3-4 hour commute on top of that. Not to a (wo)man, but many people I know who take the shuttles don’t have time or energy for civic engagement, let alone for doing their own laundry.


    bob tobb

    “Younger readers may not appreciate how much of what they take for granted comes thanks to our rebellious generation. We’re used to fighting back and not letting big money dictate to us.”

    This is yet another example of Baby Boomers crowing about how much better they are than everybody else while conveniently forgetting that they spent their lifetimes building unsustainable infrastructure. Perhaps if the Boomers had built adequate public transit throughout the Bay these shuttles wouldn’t need to exist at all.

    “The people who came here in these earlier migrations came for freedom and community, not to make money and sneer at the poorer people already here.”

    I bet Fran has never met somebody who rides these shuttles, or she’d know that they don’t actually “sneer” at poor people. They live here for the same reasons: they want to be a part of a vibrant, diverse community. The job is just a job, and the shuttles are the path of least resistance to get to it.



    By the way, if Muni functioned like other transit agencies outside the employment center – Golden Gate Transit, SolTrans, VINE, WestCAT, etc. – it would buy luxury buses and run these shuttles themselves.