Tech Workers Escape BART Strike Woes

Tech workers waiting for buses.

Tech workers at the bus pick-up at 24th Street and Valencia. Photo by Emily Gibson.

As more than 400,000 people in the Bay Area scrambled for alternate ways to work during the first morning rush of the BART strike, the Mission’s tech workers lined up at 24th and Valencia streets, where a new round of private buses arrived every five minutes to transport them to their corporate campuses.

“I didn’t know there was a BART strike until you just told me now,” said Eric Zilli, an engineer at Facebook, waiting in line at the stop that draws employees from Apple, Google, Youtube, Facebook, Cisco and Yahoo. News reports estimate that some 35,000 tech workers a day are bused from San Francisco.

Gustaf Engstrom, a designer at Apple, said he rarely uses BART. “I haven’t really reflected [on the strike],” he said. “I guess I’m lucky.”

If employees that work in Silicon Valley were to take public transportation from 24th and Valencia to 1 Hacker Way in Menlo Park, the address of Facebook’s headquarters, it would take them one hour and 52 minutes, according to Google Maps. That same route takes 34-45 minutes by direct bus, depending on traffic.

Still, many of the tech workers supported the BART strikers and said they would be impacted in getting around the city if the strike persisted over the weekend.

“A strike in general is good if they haven’t gotten what they want,” Engstrom said.

Mark Loesel, a Cisco employee, added, “Overall, I feel that they have a proper need to be taken care of by their management.”

Loesel said his wife had been affected by the strike. Moreover, getting around the city will be difficult without BART, he said.

“It’s bad for my wife because she needs to get downtown,” he said. “Me? It’s not a big deal.” But that is only in getting to work. “We are still active in the city, and BART affects us very much locally. Muni is more crowded, you have to take a cab, or drive yourself to find parking. It’s not easy to get around town when BART is down.”

Several of the employees waiting in line asked that their names not be used, but others openly talked about the strike.

At one point, Jillian Stefanki, a PR person from Facebook, interrupted one commuter answering questions about his ride to work, and encouraged him to decline to answer further questions. She walked around directing all of the Facebook employees at the stop to stay silent until they boarded the bus.

After the Facebook bus departed, employees from other companies continued to talk.

When asked if he regretted not being able to use the BART excuse to stay home, Andrew Rostaing, a software engineer at Apple who lives in the Mission, doubted it would work.

“I don’t think people get to hang out [today],” he said. “People might not be being paid today because they can’t get to work.”

Jason Conn, an engineer in Silicon Valley who lives in the Mission, added, “I think it’s probably more frustrating to be stuck in an apartment because you can’t get to work.”

Conn said he uses BART four or five times a week to get downtown or the East Bay, but he always uses the corporate buses to get to work.

Riding a private shuttle, some said, did not mean they were unaware of what was happening around them.   “I’m a citizen of this city, and it’s important to me,” said one rider who asked that his name not be used.

29 Comments

  1. Azucnea Amador

    And “WE” wonder why people with rent control are being booted out of their homes in the Mission…because only “private tech commuters” can afford to live in the Mission!!

    Breaks my heart. It’s a shame.

  2. John Murphy

    You know who else escaped BART woes? That’s right, winemakers in Sonoma County. Those guys hardly ever take BART to Santa Rosa.

  3. Marie

    I don’t know how I feel about this article. It seems to intentionally seek to villainize tech workers, painting them as privileged just because they don’t depend on BART to get to work.

    Lots of people aren’t affected by the BART strike people who drive to work, people who live and work in the same city, stay-at-home moms, freelancers who work from home, the list goes on. Are they villains too?

    • Marie: Thank you for your comment. It was not our intent to vilify anyone. The article makes clear that many of the tech workers support the strikers and are also impacted by the strike in other parts of their lives. They do use the city and therefore they do use the BART. They recognize their own luck in having a ride.

      • Mel

        I’m with Marie on this one. You guys know that the corporate buses and “tech workers” are a hot button issue in the Mission right now. If your intention was to get a perspective on the BART strike from people who are fortunate enough to have an employer who provides transportation to their offices, you could have broadened everyone’s horizons a bit and included some of the folks who wait for the UCSF shuttles at SFGH and 16th and Mission.

        • Mark

          The reporters are just college kids being taught the journalistic craft of emphasizing crisis and conflict.

      • Josh

        Gonna have to agree with Marie here and disagree with you Lydia.

        There is implicit villainization all over this, whether you meant it or not. Especially in the context of the general gentrification coverage on mission local in recent months.

        I am a tech worker who does take bart to work. I have numerous tech worker friends who also ride bart on a daily basis. We’ve all been affected by this and more than once.

        • Yes Josh, good to note that the city’s many tech workers had the same difficulty getting downtown. We didn’t find any of the tech workers we interviewed arrogant or defensive, just lucky not to have to hassle with Muni. I fail to see how that makes one a villain.

          • Ben

            Lydia, it feels disingenuous because it seems like you’re fishing for apathetic or ignorant reactions to the BART strike from a group of commuters that all work *in the south bay or peninsula* which are not areas that are served by BART – the last station is in Millbrae. Regardless of the strike situation, BART is not a viable option for commuting to work in those areas.

            This is what John Murphy was poking fun at when he said you might as well be asking Sonoma county winemakers what they think about the strike. They’re not the folks you’d expect to have a strong opinion about the strike.

          • Ben: Come by the office sometime. We should all have a beer.

  4. landline

    Not only does Facebook mine its users’ data and contribute to the surveillance state, it also won’t allow its employees to freely express themselves while standing on a public street on their own time.

    It is a sad social commentary that our “best and brightest” tolerate such treatment. Imagine how it is for the less privileged among us.

    Thanks to the author for revealing the despicable behavior of Jillian Stefanki.

  5. Mark

    Facebook workers silenced? Keep up the good work Jillian. Meanwhile Marie, just because a person doesn’t take BART to work doesn’t make her/him a bad person. You’re not alone. BART is a very specialized system which serves very few in SF.

  6. endangered species

    Good article, thank you Mission Local.

    I don’t percieve villification of tech workers in the piece, but rather a clear illustration of how SEPARATE AND UNEQUAL thier transportation options are.

    This is a very instructive anecdote about what’s happening in our country in a broader sense: The elite not only have separate and better transportation, but separate and better schools too, Add to that access to (expensive) chemical-free food, access to legal resources, safe and secure housing and top-notch medical care. They even get to cut lines at theme parks and airport security points (by paying a fee).

    This growing aristocracy/serf situation is profoundly corrosive to the society -antithetical to our national philosophy of fairness.

    PS The fact that companies like Facebook want to own all information about you, but forbid free speech by thier employees should serve as a wakeup call to users of these proto-fascist entities.

    • Josh

      National philosophy of fairness? You must be living in another country. This is a nation of take-what-you-can-get greed.

      • endangered species

        OK, maybe “national myth” of fairness would be a better way of putting it. It was a belief that things were (roughly) fair, and that hard work paid off eventually with some comfort and security for self and children.

        What’s changing is that even the myth, which most people accepted a generation ago, is evaporating.

        Once people believe that the game is rigged against them, they stop working hard and start PRETENDING to work. At that point, the country has thrown away a vast amount of human capital, and is heading downhill.

    • John

      On what planet does having more money NOT get you better stuff?

      Isn’t that why people want money in the first pace?

    • Blurpy

      In fairness, Facebook also prohibits speech on their own platform. It’s not like their employees are special in that regard. Since FB employees can be seen as representing the company, and FB doesn’t want to be on the record commenting about a BART strike, it’d make sense they’d be shushed. That’s part of working for a company. You give up a ton of different freedoms for that paycheck. Kinda basic stuff, mate.

  7. Jamie Guinness

    Muni should not be in all caps. Muni is short for “Municipal Railway.” It is not like BART which stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

    Please correct the error.

  8. Carlos

    no one is villifying tech workers. They do a great job of doing it for themselves. what the article is doing is pointing out the great big divide between “us” (working class folks) and “them” (privileged tech folks who don’t have to worry about BART strikes because they get pretty buses).

  9. TechGood

    um… tech workers *Are* hard working folks. And yes, this nation still strongly rewards hard work — that is why you see the tech workers getting special treatment — they studied hard and work hard and are being rewarded for the effort.

    this is not some bullshit marxists “elites” vs. “common man” situation. All the educational materials you need to learn how to write code are available for free — there are free class on the basics of programing — anyone who wants to be treated well in society can achieve it — it just takes some hard work and study — and getting out of the “us vs them” trap that keeps people on the sideline. Engage, learn, and work hard, and you can live well. This reality has not changed. What has changed though is the nature of the work. Many wealth producing industries are now just commodity jobs with limited futures. You have to let go of that and be flexible and educate yourself on the industries that are producing growth.

    • Pamela

      Right on TechGood!

    • endangered species

      TechGood, Your comment is a half-truth.

      While highly paid tech workers ARE hard workers, they are also winners of the genetic lottery. You know as well as I do that all the studying in the world wouldn’t land a job at Google unless the IQ was there to build upon.

      Such high achievers like to pat themselves on the backs for all their hard work, but they don’t like to talk about the fact that their smart, professional parents made a smart baby, and gave him all possible advantages, including an elite education.

      It is complete BS to state that the bulk of the population can simply educate itself into affluence.

      There is no doubt that the intellectual elite who are willing to be loyal servants of the billionaire class will be well taken care of. The question is this: what is to become of the other 98% of the population, now that advanced technology has rendered them largely unnecessary ?

      • John

        It’s not written anywhere that life is fair.

        If I were not happy with my position in life’s hierarchy, I would move to Europe where it is considered far more politically acceptable to take from the successful and give to those who achieve less. And where not working appears to be a valid lifestyle choice because of a vast, expensive welfare system,

        • endangered species

          Who said anything about not working? The issue is the vast (and growing) gap in hourly income between the elite and the ordinary.

          I suppose you heard on FOX that people who are economically struggling are just lazy. But it’s been my observation that most work harder than elites. Try some repetitive or physically demanding labor if you doubt that.

          The question of what kind of society we want is an urgent and serious one, and is not answered by “if you don’t like it, move to Europe and collect welfare”.

          • John

            Income inequality isn’t necessarily a problem unless you have a problem with envy. If Warren Buffett moved into your zip code, your neighborhood would become more unequal as a result. But it would also become wealthier in aggregate. And his wealth would increase prosperity for all your neighbors.

            America’s poor are wealthier than the poor in most nations, and it is because we have more rich and successful people who generate prosperity. No poor person ever offered me a job.

  10. Pamela

    What a stupid article!
    There are lots of tech workers in the building where I work downtown. Most of them come in by BART, many from the East Bay. It now takes them 2-3 hrs to/from work. Franklly, having the tech workers moving into District 9 is a good thing, especially when they tend to be property owners. The area is greatly improved due to them.
    It is infuriating that BART is on strike. It effects the 400,000 who take it daily, plus definitely effects the small mom/pop businesses that are close to the BART lines, particularly the ones in the suburbs like Walnut Creek. It makes it difficult for the many people who depend on Muni/BART & do not have cars to get around, myself included.
    Too bad Muni/BART does not run like the private buses, they’d be on time, clean, & comfortable instead of a moving roach motel. .

  11. Kylee

    Come on. BART does not serve Silicon Valley. If Caltrain went on strike, the tech workers would be in big trouble. Only a small percentage of the tech companies have private shuttle busses.

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