Transit Researchers Want Your Videos of Tech Shuttles at Muni Stops

The public debate about the proliferation of tech shuttles, and the fees they should pay to use Muni stops, has thus far been driven more by emotion than by data and empirical analysis. But two city planning researchers at UC Berkeley are looking to change that by studying crowdsourced videos of private shuttles in bus zones, which they’ll use to gauge the delays they impose on Muni.

Photo via Mark Dreger and Dan Howard
Photo via Mark Dreger and Dan Howard

The $1 fee that the SFMTA will charge shuttles every time they use a Muni stop, as part of a recently-approved pilot program, has outraged gentrification protesters who view private transit as a cause of skyrocketing rents and evictions. They want higher fees. But the fee is limited by state law to an amount that recovers the costs of administering the program, and $1 is what the SFMTA has estimated to be the cost of enforcement and permitting.

By amassing videos of shuttle stops, Cal researchers Mark Dreger and Dan Howard think they can demonstrate the costs of Muni delays due to shuttles blocking stops while loading.

“We would like to find out what it really costs to provide this service, and no data exists to set a precedent for a fair market price for the use of these stops,” Dreger and Howard wrote on a Facebook page about the study, which includes instructions on submitting a video.

Of course, as we’ve written, Muni and private shuttles — which make it easier for commuters not to own and drive cars — wouldn’t be fighting for scraps of curb space if the SFMTA re-purposed more parking spaces for transit stops. The SFMTA has implemented a few of those in a pilot, but it’s not a widespread practice yet.

There’s no doubt, though, that data on the quickly-growing private shuttle industry is lacking, and solid empirical evidence is key to good policy decisions. Maybe these videos will help make the case that more curb space should be devoted to private transit boarding.

“It’s worth trying to find out whether the shuttles — or any other private vehicles — are causing Muni delays, and to remedy it,” said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich.

One useful stat on private transit is the finding from two other UC Berkeley researchers in a separate study [PDF], which found that without the employee shuttles serving tech companies in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, 48 percent of their users would drive alone, another 18 percent would take Caltrain, and 15 percent would carpool. So they certainly take a lot of cars off the road and open up seats on public transit.

People railing on the shuttles have held up, as a smoking gun, the finding that 40 percent would move closer to their job. But even if you believe that efficient transportation which enables people to live in walkable SF is a bad thing, this figure means that without the shuttles, most riders would stay put, and of those, half would drive alone to work instead — hardly a net benefit in terms of traffic and congestion.

And while the focus has remained on the Silicon Valley shuttles, the SFMTA recently reported that 80 percent of private shuttle stops in SF are for trips that stay within the city. That, more than anything, seems to indicate the need for better Muni service and safer streets for bicycling.

Head on over to the study’s Facebook page for info on submitting a video. Here’s a sample video:

  • Matt Laroche

    Having these videos will give an idea of the duration of delays, but not give a sense of the percent of shuttles that cause issues – can good data really be had from this type of collection?

  • mikesonn

    *insert comment about how private auto drivers are 100x’s worse*
    *have it fall on deaf ears at SFMTA*

  • guest

    Where do we send our videos of drivers outside the 24th St Whole Foods blocking the 48 bus? 311 doesn’t care.

  • Mario Tanev

    It’s a good idea to assess the actual impact and adjust the price up from $1 if warranted. Same thing should be done with private autos, however, but I think there is no chance in hell it’s going to happen – those same people protesting the shuttles will rise up against that.

    One thing I would like to remark on is the belief some people have that some percentage of people would choose to not live in SF, and that that is somehow good to minimize gentrification. But what it actually means is that SF will lose those transit-dependent employees (except those that start crowding up on Caltrain), and will retain mostly the drivers. I think that is a pretty backwards thing to encourage. If the complaint is that shuttle riders don’t participate in and empathize with the community enough (as one I disagree), they would participate even less confined to their multi-ton shells. You might lose me if the shuttle goes away, since I certainly don’t own a car. You would get someone else in my place who does own a car, creating more congestion for everyone. They will also create more pressure on housing prices since they will demand housing with parking, raising the price for everyone. Or maybe I will move to an SF job instead, and create more pressure on office space.

    Underneath all those complaints is that instead of fairly charging for impacts created (which would require charging private auto drivers as well) or progressive taxation, they would just like to ban these shuttles in the hopes it will remove some percentage of “gentrifiers”. But things don’t just happen in a vacuum, and the end result will be worse.

  • A residential parking permit cost $109/year. That is the price for private vehicle storage/curb occupancy in public space in San Francisco, even in our congested NE quadrant. Dirt cheap. Just have the shuttles buy 3 parking spots at every place they want to stop. Stripe the three spots with a white loading/unloading zone 6 am – 10 pm. Problem solved.

    The real problem is that California state law does not allow San Francisco to charge anywhere near market value for car storage/vehicle occupancy of public land, and so we have demand far outstripping supply. We have this law because no place else in the entire state has the density that San Francisco has, and no one outside San Francisco can imagine that this is valuable/important. This law is what needs to be changed. If we, as taxpayers, made $6,000/year off every tech shuttle stop (and $2000/year off every private car stored on public land, which would still be under market rate in the NE quadrant), I, personally, would be much more cheerful about private car storage/curb occupancy.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I already have an extensive collection of photos of trucks and cars and taxis using Muni stops.

  • Dan Howard

    Matt, thanks for your comment. We are using the videos primarily to get a good estimate of dwell time, which we will use in our analysis to estimate delay to Muni. Recently, one of our UC Berkeley colleagues published a report in partnership with the SFCTA that outlines a way to estimate delay by combining the average delay an event causes with the probability that the event will occur. In their example, they were able to estimate delays to a Muni corridor caused solely by double parked cars. We plan to use their method to combine the data we get from the videos people send us with other primary observations related to the frequency of a Muni/shuttle encounter. From there we can determine the daily cost due to delay. This is just one component of the total cost of allowing these operations, but we believe it is the greatest one and therefore a good place to start.

    Interestingly, just by watching the first few videos we’ve been getting, we’ve found a lot of variety in how the shuttles operate. On Van Ness, it seems that a number of shuttles simply stop in one of the travel lanes instead of pulling into Muni stops. This will have a different effect on delay than in other places where the shuttle does use a Muni stop. Once we have a good number of videos, we’ll have a better idea of how these shuttles behave and what the best way to analyze their impact on our transportation system is.

  • kidcharles

    “…48 percent of their users would drive alone, another 18 percent would
    take Caltrain, and 15 percent would carpool. So they certainly take a
    lot of cars off the road and open up seats on public transit.”

    “Opening up seats” on public transit isn’t a good thing. Yes, in the short run it means less available seats on the train, but in the long run higher ridership means more fares collected and a greater potential for mass transit expansion. The private nature of the buses really is the only true negative about them, it means the companies that run them and their employees are disconnected, financially and in terms of political interest, from public mass transit.

  • murphstahoe

    Indeed. Will this analysis take into account that the denizens of these shuttles are not blocking the bus stops or travel lanes with their cars, mitigating the impact of the buses themselves?

  • murphstahoe

    Completely. A recent target of the vitriol has been a woman who testified at the SFMTA hearing and noted that most of the shuttle riders, while comfortable, aren’t taking baths in hundred dollar bills. She pointed out her student loans which still carry a balance.

    The mob ran through her history (using Google presumably) and discovered that she and her husband recently purchased a 1.2 Million dollar house in the Mission, and vilified her millionaire status (nevermind that purchasing a 1.2 Million dollar home doesn’t mean you have a million dollars – it means the bank would lend you a million dollars).

    Her husband is a partner in a law firm downtown. If the shuttles go away, are they going to sell the house in the Mission and buy one in Mountain view so her husband can commute?

    The shuttle riders are being lumped into some amorphous blob worse than cyclists with regard to stop signs.

  • Ciaran

    They should also video a muni stop next to a coffee shop to see how the dozen or so people who park while getting their lattes every morning are affecting muni.

  • Dan Howard

    Our goal is not to advocate for the elimination of the shuttles, we do understand that they have a role to play in taking cars off the road (although based on the results of our colleagues’ study, perhaps fewer cars than anticipated). However, we think that SFMTA’s decision to charge for the use of curb space is interesting and merits further study. Since there’s no data on how to price this use, we’re trying to determine what an appropriate price would be. Should it be supply-based (ie. based on costs) or demand-based (bid on between the companies)?

    As city planning students, we believe generally that roadway space is overconsumed because often there is no price attached to its use. Ultimately we’d like to see all road uses priced (parking, stops, and a per mile charge) because that limits the demand for scarce roadway space (as exists in this city), provides data as to the amount of space which is consumed, and provides a way to recover costs related to the maintenance and construction of roads from users in proportion to the amount in which they use it. Hopefully all of these things serve to better inform drivers of the costs they are incurring per trip and lead them to self-limit their trips to only those which are necessary and can’t be accomplished via another mode.

    Using the data we collect in this study, we’ll have a better idea of how shuttles use the space allocated to them, and whether their payment matches the cost they impose onto the system. We hope this data guides us to a conclusion as to what a good ‘market price’ will be for curb space and will further the understanding that street space is a valuable commodity.

  • Chris J.

    “But what it actually means is that SF will lose those transit-dependent employees (except those that start crowding up on Caltrain), and will retain mostly the drivers… You might lose me if the shuttle goes away, since I certainly don’t own a car. You would get someone else in my place who does own a car, creating more congestion for everyone.”

    This isn’t necessarily true. Such a person could just as well be replaced by someone who works in the city and/or takes public transit.

  • I thought part of the city’s agreement with these buses was access to their AVL feeds, which should provide the same data.

  • “It’s only for a minute, just a minute.”

    Lately I’ve been contending with Uber and Lyft (and some legit taxi) drivers pulling up and idling, trolling the bus stops. Their drivers can’t actually tell when a bus is coming because the new ClearChannel shelters have the NextBus signs relocated backwards. (At least the exhaust doesn’t collect quite as much, since these leaky structures aren’t actually shelters per se.)

  • baklazhan

    In that video, it took 55 seconds for 10 people to board. I wonder how this compares to Muni? Perhaps one of the requirements the city should impose is for the shuttles to have wider/multiple doors, so they can move out of the way more quickly.

  • Thomas

    No, it doesn’t “open up seats on public transit”, it disincentives public transit from getting better.

  • mikesonn

    Spot on commentary on those new stupid shelters.

  • Mario Tanev

    They open up seats on transit in that peak hour instance. But I think a lot of shuttle riders rely on transit for their city life because a lot of them don’t own a car, and a lot of them leave their car at work to run errands during work (and to avoid worrying about parking in SF). Also, quite a fair number of people do take Muni for a few stops to get to their shuttle stop.

    I think the private nature of the buses, while regrettable, still beats the private nature of single occupancy vehicles in terms of connection to public mass transit.

  • Mario Tanev

    Simple math dictates that if you kick out the most transit dependent people, and in their place you put a random person, that random person will be sampled from background the distribution where 50% of people are drivers. Thus you will be replacing 100% transit riders with 50% drivers. In effect, you’ll be raising the mode share of drivers. Drivers raise the costs of living in the city due to their demands for parking – they will value and be willing to pay more for a home with a parking spot.

    Of course not everything is simple math. I would argue that the replacement of the kicked out transit user would not be a random person. Their landlord will probably seek out another decently paid resident (stable decently paid job means less to worry for the landlord) and since demand is going to exceed supply for the foreseeable future they will have no hard time finding one. So, you’ll more likely end up with a person of similar income, but one that owns a car.

    And in the interest of fairness, let me concede that the complexity means other scenarios may happen. For example, the current shuttle riders who have a car may move to other areas of the city, releasing whatever pressure they have on housing prices in shuttle areas and distributing it more evenly throughout the city. There will of course be losers in that situation, but it is more “fair” to whoever (if anyone, that’s still an unproven hypothesis) is getting displaced now. In addition, those who do move to another city will raising rents there, and in some of those cities rents are already higher than in SF. Of course, since everyone is selfish, nobody cares about the fate of low income people in Sunnyvale, Redwood City or Mountain View.

    Overall, it’s a complex issue. The call to get rid of the shuttles will never succeed because it makes no sense and is discriminatory from a policy point of view. But it is also very alienating, and brings people away from the table. It’s a complex issue and the effects may be positive, negative, neutral or who knows what. There is no good irrefutable story for the effects being strictly positive for anyone. Why argue for something so drastic if it’s not at all clear what it will achieve. It just alienates people.

  • Mahlen Morris

    Is the goal to ascertain the amount of delays to Muni? Is there a concern about selection bias in the data? For example, do you really expect to get videos where the shuttle doesn’t delay Muni at all? This technique also biases against getting video from shuttle users themselves, since they would be getting onto the shuttle.

    It seems like just sitting and watching (or pointing a GoPro on time lapse at) a shared stop for a few days would lead to more principled data. You also then get data about other things that use the space and delay Muni (truck/auto drivers, other Muni buses, etc). If “efficiency of Muni” is the desired metric (and as a daily Muni rider, I’d like that!), then a survey of all causes of Muni delay incurred by re-use of the stop seems more useful and principled.


  • Mario Tanev

    I agree with your mission. My response was to the unspoken but obvious desire of protesters that the shuttle just be banned, which would mean that some percentage will move out, which would mean lower pressure on rents.

    I ride the shuttle and have observed my shuttle blocking Muni or bike lanes. Riders in those shuttle have complained to their companies, so that’s why those companies have come to the table to find a solution that negates their negative footprint on the city. That’s because they want to be good neighbors. The better numbers and research we can have on what their footprint is, the better, which is why I support your mission.

    That said, while I understand why as researchers you focus on the issue du jour, there is an inherent bias in picking that. It would be great to also do such research for impacts on Muni being blocked by drivers, but no protestor finds that to be a problem. Also, parked cars already take a dominant portion of street space, but since shuttles are big, they can’t fit in those spaces – perhaps research showing the opportunity cost of parked cars would also be nice. It would also be interesting to know the actual impact on congestion if the shuttle disappeared (perhaps get a control and experiment group where the experiment is to have some shuttle riders drive alone instead).

    In the end, your research will show there is some impact (the question is how much). The anti-shuttle protestors will jump on it, completely ignoring the lack of research on the impacts single-occupancy vehicles as the alternative.

  • Mario Tanev

    One thing that would help here is the new data SFMTA will start collecting from shuttle operators. That’s probably one of the best outcomes of what the board voted for. If SFMTA makes the data public, you could compare Next Muni position information with shuttle position information and compute correlation of delays between shuttles and Muni.

    But again, I think the bigger bias is of what is NOT being measured at all. And that would be the impact from cars, trucks and so on. In the end, the result of this research will be “shuttles – provenly bad, cars – no proof)”. The political consequence of that is clear.

  • Dan Howard

    We are concerned about selection bias. It is our hope that this method gives us a large enough dataset that we can trim to ensure we only use a representative sample. We are also supplementing crowdsourced data with our own observations which we are taking at places and locations where we don’t have enough data. We believe both of these things should help control for selection bias.

    Again, we will not be able to determine the frequency of shuttle / Muni interactions from the videos alone, we will use other sources to determine that probability. We are mainly using the videos to find the average dwell time, as well as whether this dwell time varies significantly between stops or time of day. Secondarily, we will be cataloging the shuttle’s behavior, such as whether it stops in the Muni stop, in a travel lane, in a white zone, in front of a driveway, etc.

  • murphstahoe

    I know more people who take the Google Buses and don’t have a car, than people who work in the city and don’t have a car.

    Some of those who work in SF take MUNI – but this is primarily downtown workers. I had several neighbors who worked at UCSF Parnassus. They could take the 24 to the N I think – but they all drove. 100%

    And those that took MUNI to work sure as heck weren’t taking the 48 to go to dinner in the Mission.

  • murphstahoe

    higher ridership means more fares collected and a greater potential for mass transit expansion

    Public transit agencies run an *operating* loss and are subsidized. Expansion means capital expenditure dollars which are 100% subsidized, no amount of higher ridership will pay for any expansion.

    The only way higher ridership gives a potential for expansion is that it expands the political base to push for more tax dollars to be allocated to the transit system. The current systems don’t have enough capacity to fit enough people to create a quorum.

  • Dan Howard

    I appreciate your comments, and I would love to do a study that includes cars, taxis, Uber/Lyft drivers, whoever stopped in Muni stops and causing delay. What that would require in terms of our methodology, is getting a number of cameras, aiming them at stops, and leaving them alone for a week or two, then counting all the instances where people use the stop. I certainly can see us (or others) building on our research in this way.

    However, we are just two grad students with no explicit funding for the project (our prize, the iPad mini is, actually funded from an award I received for some previous research on self-driving cars, so we are ‘paying it forward’ and hoping this research will similarly lead to recognition, which will fuel the next study, and so on), so we couldn’t afford a number of cameras. As we were brainstorming, we wondered wouldn’t it be great if we could harness the attention and energy that is going into this debate and use it to help us with data collection? As I mentioned in a previous comment, we are most interested in determining what the market value of street space is. Once we have such an estimate, we can use this number in other ways, including applying it to things that aren’t shuttles. As you astutely pointed out, we are targeting the shuttles because they are the issue du jour and we think people will be motivated to take videos of them, giving us a nice big data set to work with.

    Our professors have told us that data collection in this way has never been tried before. Many people in the Berkeley academic community are interested to see how successful we are in building a dataset using crowdsourcing, and how valid the data is. If it is successful, it will be the beginning of an exciting era for urban researchers, where we are able to collect data on urban phenomena from the residents themselves, and where community members take more of an active role in the urban research that shapes the issues they care about. If that does happen then we can collect data on things that previously had been more difficult to quantify, like the effect that SOVs have on Muni delay.

  • Dan Howard

    Also, I wanted to mention that we intend to combine our research with the UC Berkeley / SFCTA study I mentioned before. They recently presented their methodology to the Transportation Research Board last month and used as a case study the impact of double parked cars on a segment of the 38 Geary. Our goal is to collect similar data on the shuttles to input into this analysis so that it can be compared with other sources of delay, and we do intend to present our findings side by side with the numbers the TA has come up with. We hope that combined these analyses will provide a better understanding of where unanticipated delays to Muni are coming from.

  • Mario Tanev

    This is awesome! I wish you success!

  • KWillets

    I’m still trying to figure out why “cost of providing the service” is different from the going rate for parking, or real estate.

  • murphstahoe

    When I read “I would love to do a study that includes cars, taxis, Uber/Lyft drivers, whoever stopped in Muni stops and causing delay” I hear “Nobody will fund that because no ZOMG page views”

  • Rod_North

    Don, I do not believe that it will be possible to isolate out all the obvious biases at work here. Not just the obvious bias that people will only record bad behavior. But also that there is a group of people who clearly have a vested interest in criticizing these shuttles, and they will be the ones out on the streets just looking for anything that supports their cause, while of course ignoring anything that doesn’t.

    Moreover, the people who oppose these shuttles are much more vociferous than the probably much larger number of people who are either neutral on the shuttles or are happy about them. But they will be the ones submitting footage.

    My concern is that all this will do is create a visual sounding board for the discontented minority who will produce an endless list of “here’s another shuttle behaving badly” videos.

  • Rod_North

    Karen is confused here. The $109 is not the cost or value of a street parking space at all. It is the cost of issuing a permit.

    And of course a permit does not mean that you will be able to park your car at all. It certainly doesn’t reserve you a space not guarantee that there will be one available. It only buys you immunity from a ticket in that area if you do manage to find a space and you stay for more than 2 hours.

    State law prevents the city from trying to turn a profit on the issuing of permits. Although looking at the cost of some DBI permits, I do wonder how broadly that is monitored or enforced.

  • Rod_North

    Dan, I still think you are vulnerable to the accusation of picking a fashionable target while ignoring other classes of road user like cabs, airport shuttles, delivery trucks, tourist buses and so on.

    And unlike the corporate shuttles, who at least pay something, these other road users cause congestion everywhere, and not just the ten times a week that a corporate shuttle uses a stop.

    The resultant danger is confirmation bias. It’s like following black people around all day and filming any wrongdoing. You will end up discovering what you want to discover, and that is not an exercize in objective research.

  • murphstahoe

    San Francisco should offer non-residents a reserved parking spot for $1000 a year. Then the cost of issuing a permit will have to include the opportunity cost of not issuing one to a non-resident.

  • Rod_North

    I’d be interested in seeing the number of RPP’s issued versus the total number of street parking spaces in that area.

    It is entirely possible that the city collects more in fees than they would for charging the actual market value of each space. Simply because of the ratio of RPP’s to actual spaces.

    Or not, of course.

  • 94103er

    Yeah, also, 1.2 mil for a DINK household: Pretty much what counts for middle-class prices these days.

    Besides all that, is anyone else getting as creeped out and disturbed as I am about these invasions of privacy? People getting singled out and researched like they’re some sort of public figure (that guy in Berkeley being the truly extreme recent case)? Like, really, city planners asking shuttle-haters to film people getting in a vehicle going to work? I am not OK with any of this.

    (Edit #1: Mistakenly thought Muni was asking for video footage. Edit #2: I wasn’t meaning to badmouth @Dan Howard’s research. I was concerned that the active data-collecting rather than passive–which could be done as suggested elsewhere via bus cameras or maybe even security cameras [?]–would lead already biased individuals to trot said videos out as further indictment of the shuttles, or worse.)

  • murphstahoe

    Even that statistic would be misleading, because there are plenty of cars with RPP’s who own a garage and actually use it. You could then try to count the garages, but there are plenty of unusable garages.

    But the actual market value of any given space in Zone S is probably 10-20x the cost of a permit.

  • mikesonn

    SF: Complains about over permitting, would never allow capped permitting.

  • Rod_North

    John, most people who park in their garage still get a RPP just for convenience. Sometimes it’s easier to park on the street if there’s a space outside. Or you have friends and family staying and of course they cannot get a RPP, (FYI, in Santa Monica, RPP’s are transferable – it’s a tag you put in your windshield)..

    I’m in zone S as well. Covered, secure parking goes for $200-$300 a space per month. Uncovered off-street parking – maybe half of that.

    But it’s apples and oranges because a permit confers no certainty of a space.

    Mike, I wasn’t complaining about over-permitting at all. It makes sense because not every resident wants to park at the same time. I am curious about the ratio of permits issued to spaces though, if that information is public.

  • KWillets

    I believe those white loading zones are a few grand a year. In fact those would be a good alternative for shuttle stops if muni stops are banned.

  • 94103er

    I think it’s very easy to prove you’re not correct. The previous calculus was very simple: You live x miles from the train station. No car parking at the station? Drive to work alone. No room for bikes on train? You go home and drive to work. Walked to the station and can’t get a seat? You’ll probably drive to work after it happens several times.

    Now there’s a shuttle and you leave your car at a park-and-ride or take your bike on the bus. And you’ll have a seat to ride in. Other people can now find parking at the station or a berth for their bikes. They too will have a seat to ride in.

    I think Caltrain and BART are doing just fine without the shuttle riders. All these other transit agencies have got to figure out this last-mile-or-three problem (to 80% of jobs) and I fail to see what that has to do with ridership numbers. It has everything to do with money being spent on the wrong infrastructure in the wrong places for the sake of political gain.

  • murphstahoe

    Rod – most people who park in their garage still get an RPP because it costs bupkus.

    But the actual market value of any given space in Zone S is probably 10-20x the cost of a permit.

    I’m in zone S as well. Covered, secure parking goes for $200-$300 a space per month. Uncovered off-street parking – maybe half of that.

    Half of that is $1200 which is more than 10x the cost of an RPP permit. A permit confers no certainty of a space? Not when they are $109. But if they are $1200 – dollars to donuts that space in front of your house is wide open because people will clean out their garages to park their cars or get rid of the second clunker they don’t need.

  • Andy Chow

    It would be nice to have a survey of the income/education levels of the commenters here versus the general population of SF. The problem isn’t so much about delays on Muni or that more people are living in SF, but the fact that people most vulnerable are being priced out and that folks who are well paid and received free transportation (I would like to know what happens if the inter-county shuttle riders have to pay a fare at least comparable to Caltrain or BART) are pretending that they’re not a problem.

  • Mario Tanev

    When you phrase things like “class X of people are a problem”, you’re not going to achieve anything. One thing humans value most is the sense of fairness. No upper-middle class transit-dependent resident of SF will agree that they should move out of the city, whereas rich drivers should stay. That would be fundamentally unfair, and one thing people hate the most is when unfairness is perpetrated on them.

    There are two things that people are mixing up here: the transportation impacts of the shuttles, and the impacts on displacement. Shuttle supporters have very much expressed interest in addressing the transportation impacts (in fact, what the SFMTA board is exactly a move in that direction).

    The only arguments I have heard about how to solve the displacement issue is to displace people in class X into another town. It is discriminatory and not productive. A productive and fair proposal would be to impose a progressive income tax, reducing disposable income of the upper middle class, making them less able to compete for the same housing. A productive and fair proposal would be to impose a rent tax based on income or longevity at that address – that would give a competitive advantages to existing tenants. I have not heard any productive proposal to this regard from the shuttle opponents.

  • Andareed

    People keep talking about the state blocking higher fees, but if SF wanted, they could have a ballot measure to allow the fees to be set higher. If the revenue is used for general coffers they only need a simple majority.

  • Andy Chow

    I have no problem with the transportation impacts. Those are relatively minor. The difficult one is the displacement. That’s why I suggested that those shuttle riders need to pay some kind of fare. I see that employer provided transportation subsidy (look at the economic value each of those riders get in terms of dollars) are being used to compete for housing that most other folks don’t have (not those who have to pay for their own transit or auto). Another way is to perhaps disallowing companies to write off shuttling cost as a business expense.

    Googlers and Facebookers already earned enough not to deserve such corporate subsidy, and that they shouldn’t use those subsidy to displace those who don’t have much to begin with.

  • murphstahoe

    That’s why I suggested that those shuttle riders need to pay some kind of fare.

    They do. It’s part of their compensation that would otherwise result in higher salaries.

    “Googlers and Facebookers already earned enough not to deserve such corporate subsidy”.

    Wrong. If the perk went away, they might switch jobs. That’s why the perk exists (neglecting the fact that low paid secretaries also take the shuttles).

  • Andy Chow

    Some could say that residents already paid for the roads through taxes so they deserve free parking. And now it is suddenly wrong that some people shouldn’t use price (fare) as a signal similar to paid parking.

    If there’s a law that companies can’t provide free commute with inter-county shuttle, that would be applied to all companies. So if Google wants to retain top employees, they might as well buy a new apartment complex or subdivision in Vallejo for their employees and ferry them to Mountain View, rather than dumping their employees in SF and compete with the transit dependent for housing. Companies take advantage of those political barriers (Mountain View doesn’t have to deal with housing in its cities as long as those companies can transport their workers from other cities where those cities cannot plan for).

    What about those displaced residents’ jobs? They were able to get there by a short Muni ride. Now they either have to spend more on their own dime on Caltrain, BART, or AC Transit, or buy a car, and/or get another job.

  • murphstahoe

    And now it is suddenly wrong that some people shouldn’t use price (fare) as a signal similar to paid parking.

    Read what I wrote again. The employees ARE paying a fare – their salaries are lower because of the shuttles. Companies competing for their services but who do not have a shuttle are forced to pay higher salaries, which the shuttle riders give up for the perk of the shuttles.

    Of course, I should have just laughed you off completely when you suggested Google could retain top employees by getting them an apartment in Vallejo. That would lead to employee attrition never seen before in the history of Silicon Valley.


Today’s Headlines

Man on Bike Hospitalized by AC Transit Bus Driver at Folsom and Beale (SFGate) “Street Fight” Author: Private Shuttles Indicate Need for Better Regional Bus Network (SFBG) 80 Percent of Private Shuttle Stops Are for Trips Within City Limits (SFGate) SFBG: SFMTA Could Charge Shuttle Operators More to Use Stops Under Law SF Weekly: “Theatrical […]

How Google Busers Can Avoid Bus Backlash: Get a Car

Tech workers’ humdrum daily commutes in San Francisco have recently become anything but. An environmental appeal was filed (and later rejected) against the city, on the grounds that the “Google buses” are a direct cause of skyrocketing rents and housing displacement. Protestors blockading tech shuttles in bus stops have drawn a frenzy of international media attention. So what can […]

New Study Recommends Augmenting the Benefits of Private Shuttle Service

Photo: Matt Baume With Bay Area public transit languishing, market forces have evolved a "shadow industry" solution: fleets of shuttle buses, operating outside of any agreement with public transit agencies, carrying employees between work and home with greater efficiency and comfort than Muni could ever hope to offer. Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Genentech, Adobe, and Advent […]