The Mission Talks Tech Buses

Photo by Steve Rhodesi

Photo by Steve Rhodesi

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Interviews with more than two dozen people near Mission District transit hubs revealed a nuanced view of the private shuttles that take some 35,000 workers a day to Silicon Valley.

Residents and workers offered some solutions to changing the debate that has focused on the shuttles as symbols of privilege. They expressed impatience with the city’s lax enforcement policies on using the city bus stops, but understood that tech folks needed to get to work. They gave the latter some credit for using the buses instead of driving cars.

For many, however, the buses also represent an unfair benefit that underscores the beleaguered state of the city’s public transportation system. Most see both the city and the tech companies as the parties responsible for resolving the tension.

“These buses should pay a fee that is underwritten by the city to create funds to fix our transportation system,” said Wayne Whelan, 54, who owns Therapy on Valencia Street. “It’s easy.”

Whelan has operated his retail store in the Mission for 20 years and has watched the city change numerous times, but said this latest wave offered a new opportunity to create lasting private-public collaborations.

Seeing the buses come back into the city, largely empty after a drop at one of the tech campuses, he wondered if there was a way to use crowdsourcing to ascertain if anyone else could benefit from the buses.

“I live in Cupertino now and have to come back and forth to the city every day, but I can’t use these shuttles,” he said. “If you are sitting at a Muni stop, waiting and waiting for a bus that never comes or see one leave without you, and then you see this big Google bus pull up and wait for its riders, then, yeah, it’s kind of frustrating.”

Residents who have put up with shoddy transit in the Bay Area feel slighted that the city has allowed such a privilege while its own public transportation system comes up short. Getting from point A to point B has long been a thorny issue in the Bay Area. The BART strikes (and threats of strikes) crippled the region for several days in July and October, highlighting already inadequate service and creating palpable tension between residents and transit operators of every form.

“If they could just figure out our existing system better and everyone was served, I don’t think so much tension would be out there,” said William Anderson, 26, while sitting in Dolores Park with a group of friends. “If they could extend BART to Silicon Valley and make our city buses better, maybe people wouldn’t jump on this symbol of tech and feel so upset.”

One woman in her 50s, who asked not to be named, recently moved to the city from the East Coast for a tech job but refuses to take the shuttle service.

“I think it creates a system of classism in the city that is just really unhealthy,” she said. “You have all of these people who are being treated differently, free of the daily issues that one experiences when you have to be responsible for your own transportation, and it makes them blind to the problems everyone else has to deal with.”

She said if the buses did not exist, the tech companies could work with the city to ensure better transportation methods.

“As it stands, they aren’t investing in that part of the city at all,” she said.

A task force appointed by Mayor Lee just announced that San Francisco’s transportation system needs about $10 billion worth of improvements. To tackle nearly $3 billion of that hefty bill, the task force recommended that city leaders ask voters to approve taxes, bonds and fees.

Most people interviewed wondered why the city would miss out on an opportunity to charge the buses for their use of the Muni stops. The private tech shuttles use more than 200 Muni stops every day, not only blocking other buses, but taking up more of the already insufficient bus stops where delivery trucks, bicycles, pedestrians and buses all jockey for room to pass.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to a Muni driver start complaining that a tech bus was in their way,” said Anja Denouden, 40. “It’s kind of ridiculous when the city’s transportation system is already in such bad shape.”

Denouden, originally from Holland, has lived in San Francisco for 12 years and works as a nanny in the Mission. The father of the family employing her works for Google and reportedly loves the shuttle service that comes along with his job, but thinks that it wouldn’t be necessary if there were better public transportation.

“On one hand, it’s great because he knows it will get him there and he doesn’t have to drive,” Denouden said. “But he is at the mercy of these specific times when the buses leave, so he is kind of isolated from being able to choose when he comes home.”

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Director Ed Reiskin recently announced that the tech buses will soon have to follow some new rules. Over the last few months, the transit agency has been meeting with some of the tech companies to put together a set of regulations around use of the Muni bus stops. The pilot program, which will require such things as permits, could start early next year. The transit board will vote on the proposals next month.

In the meantime, residents balked over the fact that no formal agreement has been established and the buses get to enjoy consequence-free stops.

“They shouldn’t be able to use the MUNI stops for free, they should pay like the rest of us and be subject to the same fines everyone else is,” said Justin Line, 28, who has lived in the Mission his entire life.

Echoing that sentiment, David Poppinga, 28 and also a native, added, “I’ve had a ticket for parking in the bus zone for like, 10 seconds. It was almost $300. If the tech buses were treated like us, they would owe billions.”

Working to resolve the inequities in transportation would be a step toward seeing the tech workers and companies engage with the city, residents said.

“If people are going to live in a community but not interact with it, then what is the point?” said Cedric Hamilton, 42. “If people want to live here, but they are going to go to cafes and bars and only sit on their laptops, then they might as well live at their workplace. They already have gyms and everything else they need there.”

While expressing a disconnect between new tech residents and longtime or working class San Franciscans, most conceded that wanting to live in the city but work elsewhere was understandable.

“This is a very special place and people are always going to want to live here,” Whelan said. “Someone making $150,000 per year to sit in a cube and hit ones and zeroes on a keyboard doesn’t want to live in Sunnyvale. But maybe we can figure something out. Maybe Google can run our transit system some day and do a better job than San Francisco ever could.”

146 Comments

  1. John

    I cannot help but feel that this is one of those “15 minutes of fame” stories that will fizzle out as soon as a formal agreement is made between SFMTA and the private buses.

    There have been shuttle buses in SF for as long as I can remember, and it’s important to note how much of this is really a problem with just one more commuter shuttle bus, and how much is the “envy issue” because the folks who rides these particular buses are more successful than most of their neighbors.

    If we allow airport shuttles, UCSF shuttles, tourist buses and so on, then we should be careful not to discriminate against one specific type of shuttle bus just because of stereotypes about the kind of riders it has.

    • Envy, envy, envy. What are they envious of exactly? It seems that the sentiment is that google bus commuters don’t contribute in a meaningful way to the city. So rather than use ‘enfy’ on repeating lets expand the vocabulary to ‘dismay’.

      Yes, shuttle buses have been around for a long time – they are 1/3 the size of a google bus and shuttle people WITHIN the city. For example, UCSF is the 2nd largest employer in SF. And a business in SF vs peninsula is a totally different story. Taxes, taxes, taxes, plus many of those people volunteer and outreach with the community (and live here). Plus UCSF shuttles move around medical and research professionals so there is an ethical prerogative. If only Google et al were more like UCSF …

      So, absolutely not the same thing.

      Oh, and are tourists buying milion dollar homes with cash? And of course there is a strong backlash against tour buses, see the Alamo Square story.

      • John

        B2B, you are correct in identifying two distinct issues here. The trivial one is formalizing a deal with SFMTA about where and how these buses pick up and drop off.

        Once that is resolved, then the only argument that people who dislike these buses will have is based on a stereotype of the people riding them, and that looks a lot like envy to me, although you can use another word if you wish.

    • As this well written article deftly shows, this is a problem that is recognized by broad swathes of the populace including residents, small business owners and even Google employees themselves. It’s clearly not a case of “class envy” when so many people from all walks of life are in agreement about it. Please stop with the repetitive class-baiting and join with the majority of the city that recognizes the problem and is willing to work together to find a solution.

      (also UCSF has legal right to use bus stops under California law allowing exceptions for school buses)

      • John

        I’m not aware that envy of google employees is “broad”. Can you supply evidence rather than just anecdotes?

        I am confident SFMTA will negotiate a solution with private buses, and that will leave no viable objection to additional commuting options.

        • Lol.

          My whole point was that even Google employees (as quoted in this article) agreed it was an unfair situation and welcomed alternatives, so what you said was “class envy” is clearly nothing of the sort.

          It’s problem everyone in the city recognizes and it’s clearly not motivated by envy.

          • John

            Everyone in the city recpgnizes?

            I only have to find one exception to that and your statement is false. And in fact i know several.

            Like I said, it’s two issues – the need to formalize the use of Muni bus stops, and the need to educating people to stop feeling angry at a class of people who are doing nothing wrong.

          • Everyone was generalizing statement, true.

            But the fact is that a majority from all walks of life acknowledges and wants to fix this issue and envy has nothing to do with it.

          • John

            It’s impossible to know what a majority think without asking a majority, or at least a sampling poll using a valid methodology.

          • MissionLocal asked more than two dozen people living near Mission transit hubs and found a near unanimous opinion that the tech buses were causing problems for the community. While it may not have been a scientific survey, the evidence of their reporting clearly supports my claim and contradicts yours. In fact, I haven’t heard from anyone (you don’t count) that the current situation is equitable or sustainable, so I’m willing to go out on a limb here and claim that the majority acknowledges there is a problem and wants to fix it.

          • John

            Depends when they want out and what drove the decision of who to ask.

            For instance, if you are out on the street during working hours, then your sample is skewed towards those who have no job, which might give different responses than those who, say, work in tech who are presumably miles away and stuck in an office by then.

            Likewise, the people you talk to probably have more in common with you, so the fact that your little circle thinks X doesn’t mean that others think X.

            Nobody I know has expressed any problem with these shuttles, and more than one of them actually use the shuttles.

            I’ll be glad when SFMTA formally approve some arrangement. This alleged “problem” then goes away.

          • It’s hilarious that you immediately followed this statement:
            “the people you talk to probably have more in common with you, so the fact that your little circle thinks X doesn’t mean that others think X.”

            with this statement:
            “Nobody I know has expressed any problem with these shuttles, and more than one of them actually use the shuttles.”

            Would you object if I started referring to you from now on as “Oblivious to Irony Man”?

            Furthermore, the MissionLocal sample included two accounts from people for whom the shuttles are available (at least, we can only see the ones they chose to quote), one of whom chooses not to use the shuttles because she feels it creates a feeling of classism on the part of her coworkers.

          • John

            Anecdotes are not statistics and ML’s sample was too small and skewed to be statistically significant.

            It may be that a majority are mildly irritated by these shuttles but I struggle to believe that is high on anyone’s agenda, except perhaps for the odd far-left extremists who will protest just about anything.

          • Thank you for at least admitting that it MAY be a majority who are annoyed by the tech commuter buses (it is). Considering how willfully stubborn and immune to reason you’ve been in the past when it comes to admitting you’re wrong, I’ll chalk this one up as yet another victory.

          • John

            Well, since nobody knows, it MAY be anything. But you started out saying “everyone”, then it was a majority, and now it is established that nobody knows how many are for or against, absent a credible poll.

          • I may have spoke in generalizations, but it was a deliberate tact to make you admit that the opposition to the buses was much larger than you would have been willing to admit previously. You did have to finally admit that all the evidence supported my claims and finally had to resort to saying that it was merely a case of the available evidence not being sufficient. The fact that you finally admitted that the majority MAY be annoyed with these buses is about as much of a victory as I could have hoped for against one as allergic to reason as you.

            Furthermore, you have already quietly ceded the fact that this is not an “envy issue”, which was my original point anyways. :)

          • John

            As stated, nobody knows and that includes you. What i do know is that the half dozen people here who have been endlessly whining about it are not representative of the silent majority, but then that is in the nature of any message board.

          • Providing proof that this is more than a “class envy” issue (and is actually based on clear and definitive law breaking and inconveniencing of the community) is hardly whining. Accept that you’re class-baiting claims have been refuted and move on.

          • John

            The categorization as envy of those whining about the google buses is of course the expression of an opinion, so questions of evidence of proof do not reasonably enter into it.

            I am simply offering the only reason left after all the other claimed and alleged reasons have been debunked.

          • Lol.

            You’re wrong that “all the other claimed and alleged reasons have been debunked”. Why, just the other day I proved to you that these tech buses were illegally parking in Muni stops. They are therefore illegally using public infrastructure for public gain, which I suspect most San Franciscans would oppose just on principle (maybe it’s the fact that people often make judgements based on principles rather than emotions is what’s proving to be so hard for you to understand here). Also, it is not under dispute that the tech companies’ deliberate blocking of Muni stops causes Muni buses to be delayed and creates hazards and inconvenience for drivers and bikers alike.

            These are all valid reasons to be complain about tech commuter buses, and you have failed to refute any of them. Furthermore, they lay bare the falsehood of the class-baiting, specious lie you put forth claiming that most opposition was based on envy.

            You’re speculation is clearly invalidated by the many logical arguments people have provided for their opposition that you have ignored. You’re continued insistence that envy is the only logical reason left, against such clear evidence, is proof that you are more interested in class-baiting and maintaining your own rigid, dogmatic ideology than you are in having a civil and rational discussion with anyone.

          • John

            Interesting how as my replies get shorter, yours get longer. almost as if you’re trying just a little too hard to save face.

          • I’m obviously spending more time refuting your illogical claims than they deserve, true.

            But it’s telling that you’d rather continue to lie and act like you’ve refuted everyone’s valid and reasoned opposition rather than attempt to actually refute them. I guess when a valid and logical argument so consistently proves to be beyond your reach, you have no recourse other than to try to lay on thick with the misdirections and lies in an attempt to drown the opposition with a river of bullshitting. Of course, you “could” just admit you are wrong and move on, but I suppose the typical troll fallbacks come more naturally to you.

      • Pete

        I take UCSF shuttles every day, and to my knowledge none of them use Muni bus stops. The tech buses should not be using Muni bus stops–which are city infrastructure–without paying something to the city for the privilege.

        • John

          The fact that something is city infrastructure does not mean that private entities cannot use it. A close example would be that a city bus lane can be used by any bus regardless of whether it is public or not.

          The question here is whether a bus stop is like a bus lane or not. SFMTA will resolve this and then the supposed problem goes away.

  2. Pete

    Man, the mission is a tiresome place.

    • lj

      i agree. the mission is always at war with itself. not long ago ‘we’ were hating on ‘trust funders’ and hipsters. now it’s techies and buses. what will it be 2 years from now?

      • It was one of the last affordable hoods in the city with good transport links. And it’s been undergoing rapid change. The thing with change though is that at certain points people can still intervene and help direct change to something meaningful.

        Can you imagine the Mission without tenant protections, zoning laws, transport policies (eg new bike lanes)? Even with all that people have been pushed out and new developments are exclusive and luxurious…

        Mostly its a lot of people with vocal opinions – the opinion makers? If you want something quiet there are plenty of other neighborhoods and towns (almost all of them?) fitting the bill.

        • John

          The Mission has never been particularly affordable in the time I have been here. Go back 15 years ago and most of the areas south of the Mission were cheaper, and still are.

          The outer Mission, Exclesior and the vast tracts down to San Mateo county border have lower RE prices per square foot than the Mission.

          The Mission to central, with good transit and freeway links, so it’s never going to be cheap again. That’s the reality that we either accept or ignore, but cannot change

          • Of course there are cheaper areas but with no transport links.

            And there are plenty of low income residents here, are your saying all of them have been here longer than 15 years?

            I suggest you closely study the makeup of Mission schools.

          • John

            That was my point, B2B, the Mission can’t be cheap because of it’s proximity to BART and the freeways.

            I’ve no idea how long the average low-income person has been here, but given that both rent control and Prop 13 encourage never moving, it wouldn’t surprise me if some have been here for decades.

            My kids don’t attend a school in the Mission.

          • Crocker

            “Of course there are cheaper areas but with no transport links.”

            Wrong – “Of course” those cheaper areas do have “transportation links”, like Balboa BART, MUNI, and easy access to both 101 and 280. I live in the “bottom third” and I can be downtown inside of 1/2 hour via BART, or on either the 280 or 101 in 5 – 10 min. I can also hop on any number of MUNI busses, or get on my bike and ride north for 10 min and be right in the Mission. IMO the emphasis on and desirability of The Mission has more to do with socio-economic self segregation.

        • lj

          you’re right, i’ll need to find a different neighborhood or town since i’m no longer willing to go along with the ‘vocal opinion makers’. all too often, it just looks like an endless cycle of anger and hate to me. good luck.

        • two beers

          That’s just wrong, John. The Mission was affordable with its two BART stops for at l25 years after BART went in. The ’98-’00t dotcom wave was the first jolt. The ’03-’08 housing bubble was the second jolt. The ’11-’14 twitter/facebook bubble is the third jolt.

          The rise in Mission housing prices is due to exogenous events. Take away the Bernanke Put, and it implodes, which would provide Main Street an opportunity to heal. John’s interests are aligned with Wall St; sociopath’s think alike. But everything that puts gravy on John’s biscuits screws Main Street.

          • two beers

            “for at least 25 years”

          • John

            TwoBeers, your comments could apply equally to all of SF. Other neighborhoods have appreciated even more, like SOMA and Hayes Valley.

            Insofar as the Mission has appreciated more than the city average, it is because of the combination of a central location, good transit and freeway links, and the move of downtown and business southwards and eastwards.

          • Zig

            Two beers

            Agree with your history but not the pending implosion. Correction maybe but the Mission just has too much positive going for it. Affluent families will move in.

          • Zig

            Hayes Valley and SOMA totally different

      • John

        True, lj, but don’t overlook the fact that it is only a very tiny (but loud) minority of people who are sequential haters in this way (don’t forget they were also hating on bankers a while ago).

        The majority of people in the Mission are tolerant of diversity and admire those who succeed. The envy pity party is a sideshow.

        • Yesterday you claimed that techies are less than 10% of the city – who’s the minority?

          You have locked yourself into a suffocating definition of ‘success’, from what I can tell defined by supposed ‘envy’ of others … Completely against the ethos of diversity. And extremely divisive.

          • John

            I was guessing less than 10% city-wide. Do you have a better figure.

            By your argument, almost every profession is a minority. Are you angry that million dollar homes are sold to doctors, lawyers, hedge fund managers and real estate brokers?

        • two beers

          What do you mean “hating on bankers a while ago’?

          They’re still Public Enemy No. 1. That you’re aligned with them speaks volumes.

          • John

            I wasn’t aligning myself with anyone. I was simply noting how a couple of years ago these “usual suspect protesters” wwre whining about banks, and now they are whining about tech.

            Who do you think they will be whining about next year? Maybe your profession or employer?

          • two beers

            You interests are aligned exactly with those of the Wall St bankers keeping this Ponzi scheme afloat, so of course you’re aligned with them.

            Notice how you trivialize as “whining,” the many discussion of political economy over the last few years that have critiqued the neo-liberal, austerity bubble circus. that constitutes the current economy. Keep digging, landlord.

          • John

            Anyone with a retirement plan, mutual fund, bank account or insurance policy is “aligned with Wall Street” So what?

            The markets do well when the nation is doing well, except that they tend to be early indicators and so the markets turn up before the general economy turns up, which is what has been happening of late.

            The business of America is business.

    • two beers

      ‘twould be less tiresome should you decide to grace us with your absence.

  3. Your friend

    Would we rather have the people driving their own cars to work or it it preferable to have them riding a bus, any bus?

    • Pov

      I would rather they just live in Silicon Valley and not have such a long commute. That’s what happened in the last dot com bomb.

    • Key question …
      Clearly the model where everyone commutes an hour one way, by whatever mode, is not sustainable. At least in this country with its infrastructure.

      Ecologically one bus is better than 50 cars. But you can’t just drop in buses at will with no respect for the existing systems. There is also the problem of mega buses on tiny city streets.

      An analogy is google trains running on Caltrain tracks. Unlikely right? Maybe not given the google expansion at SJ airport.

      • John

        The Google buses I see are generally not on the narrowest streets since they probably could not navigate the corners.

        Do they not use the broader streets like 24th?

        The situation is no different than with trucks. The largest trucks stick to the biggest streets, while smaller vans are used for the narrow streets.

        Seems that’s a SFMTA issue that they are well equipped to resolve.

        • 24th is narrow, no big trucks there for the most part. Again I suggest you check the Alamo Square tour bus story, where the residents won. Perhaps they are more affluent and well connected.

          And you seem to agree that everyone could commute an hour away. Isn’t that the definition of suburbs?

          SFMTA should be focusing on fixing MUNI and city infrastructure first, and not being distracted by corporate buses going far away and squatting at city bus stops.

          • John

            Commuting for an hour is a reality for many people. In fact some people have longer commutes. Isn’t that inevitable in an urban area as large as ours.

            I’m not in the business of telling people where they should work or live. Each individual can decide what commute he or she is happy with.

            SFMTA’s scope is all road use within the city and that includes private vehicles of all sizes.

            Sure i’d like Muni to be “fixed” but I fear it is impossible. I’d prefer to see it replaced.

          • two beers

            When John says “fixed,” he means privatized. It’s ever and always the right-wing libertarian idee fixe.

          • John

            2beers, if there is another solution to fixing Muni, then I’d like to hear what it is.

            Usually we do not invest more in failing organizations, and the idea of throwing billions more at Muni doesn’t sit well with taxpayers.

            Would some competition really hurt?

          • Muni was actually running much more smoothly in 2000′s compared to the 80′s and early 90′s, only getting worse again after massive budget cuts were achieved by cutting back service. It stands to reason that if we increased their budget back to past funding they’d be able to rise again to the level of reliability they’ve already shown they can achieve in the past.

          • John

            We would not need to throw money at Muni if the pay and benefits of Muni workers wasn’t so much higher than in the private sector.

            Any business person will tell you that you invest in your winners and not your losers.

          • It is disingenuous to continue to cut funds to a public organization and then claim that the public organization cannot meet its goals. It is not “throw(ing) money” at Muni to restore its funding back to levels where it was able to function reliably and smoothly. Your claims have no basis in fact and rely on inflammatory language to boot.

            Privatization of public iunctions is a proven failure. Paying private entities to perform government functions has proven to cost, on average, twice as much, with much less oversight. http://www.newsweek.com/us-government-paying-through-nose-private-contractors-224370 Any business person will tell you that it’s foolish to pay twice as much for an inferior product.

    • two beers

      False choice.

      They should take CalTrain.

      • I agree in theory, but Caltrain is pretty inconveniently located for many. Just getting there can take 30-45 minutes depending on where you live in the city.

        Andy had a pretty good idea down thread to set up a couple commuter bus hubs in areas where commuter buses wouldn’t interfere with Muni and traffic and using the fees the city charges for use of these hubs to invest in better public transportation for everyone.

        • landline

          BART to Caltrain at Millbrae with a shuttle at the peninsula station is pretty convenient and certainly more environmentally friendly than a shuttle between San Francisco and the worksite.

          Another unexamined issue is a comparison of the wages and benefits between these private shuttle drivers and their public sector counterparts. My guess is that they receive less pay and benefits, but their working conditions may be a little better.

          Also, the employer based shuttles allows the employers to squeeze every ounce of work from their employees with on board wifi and the motivating influence of seeing one’s counterparts working away as they compete for places in the corporate hierarchy.

          The Google worker quoted in another story stated his salary was $80,000 per year, definitely a nice payday (but less than skilled construction trade workers) especially in anticipation of much higher salaries later. About $40/hour for a 40 hour week. But if the expectation is for an 80 hour week, that translates to $20/hour, still good, but less than plenty of other professions.

          • John

            Personally I am not in the business of telling other people how they should or should not get to their place of work.

          • Your point regarding taking Bart to Caltrain is a practical one that makes sense. I’ve heard accounts that it takes longer to commute this way, but it is certainly more environmentally friendly and a lengthy commute has typically served as an incentive to live closer to where you work (which has numerous environmental benefits) anyways.

            Likewise, I agree that tech workers often are overworked and there benefits should be seen through that context. Tech is a prime example of an industry that would greatly benefit from unionization. Unfortunately, I believe people are playing the class warfare card here to make tech workers focus more on the “perks” they get that others do not and less on the ways they are being exploited side by side with everyone else.

          • John

            Tech is probably the very last industry that needs unions, because it is a meritocracy, with massive rewards for those who succeed.

            Unions work best in 9 to 5 situations where there are a lot of people doing the same job, like in government or service work.

            Interestingly, with stock options and employee stock ownership schemes, tech businesses are closer to the Marxist model than most, with the workers owning most of the business.

            Many tech workers do take the train but it’s always good to have other options, like buses and cars.

          • Tech companies have so far avoided any calls for unionization by offering large rewards and perks to keep their workers happy. This does not mean that their workers are not being exploited, merely that they are (currently) happy enough not to mind the exploitation.

          • John

            It’s hard to argue that someone is being exploited if they are happy, like their deal, and have head-hunters calling them all the time with even better offers.

            Exploitation in this sense has to be in the eye of the beholder. And knowledge workers generally see little reason to be organized. Indeed, they fear it may lead to talent being less rewarded and less meritocratic.

            The one exception might be for H1-B visa workers who are tied to their employer and therefore tend to get lower pay. But then they are hardly in a good position to push for unions anyway.

            It’s largely a non issue for knowledge workers.

          • I’m a knowledge worker. I am happy with my situation. I still can acknowledge the degree of exploitation that goes on. I know many of my coworkers that feel the same way.

            You do not speak for us.

          • John

            You are free to feel anything that you want. But the tech workers that i know make 150K a year plus great benefits, love their jobs, and would laugh at any suggestion that they are exploited.

  4. Dave

    The fuel behind this fire is classism. These workers sit with their headphones on using their ipads, waiting for luxery busses to pick them up, completely unaware of the normal lives others around them live in. They frequent only new posh shops and restaurants in the area, and essentially have set up a parallel neighborhood to what the Mission was even 3-4 years ago. Agree or not, this is what fuels the story, not making a buck for Muni…

    • ThatGuy

      As opposed to Muni and Bart riders who ride with the utmost awareness of their surroundings.

      • Actually they are aware, otherwise they can get shot, stabbed, mugged, spit, vomited, and peed on. They also have to keep track of breakdowns and figure out alternatives when their mode of public transport fails them. Beyond that they to stay aware because public transport is rarely on time and can arrive at unexpected moments. Finally there is no wireless …

        • John

          Nice job of explaining why many people refuse to sue Muni, or public transit in general.

          Anyone who is entitled to ride a private shuttle, surely would.

        • Pete

          Why do San Franciscans insist on the sort of exaggeration that equates using Muni with an ever-present danger of being “shot, stabbed, mugged, spit, vomited, and peed on.” It’s a public transporation system. It has its faults. But using over-the-top rhetoric just because you don’t like some of the inconveniences is really counter-productive.

          • Pete, I totally agree, but it used to be much worse in the 80′s and early 90′s.

            Getting shot or stabbed for wearing the wrong colored clothes used to be a valid concern while riding the 14 past 24th street. Likewise, being assaulted physically or verbally on the 19 Polk was also not uncommon. That being said, Muni is a lot better than it used to be (it’s much more reliable now too), and bringing up old concerns is counterproductive.

            I would even venture to say that Muni these days is a much better above ground public transportation system than most comparable cities have. Cities like New York and London that put our public transportation infrastructure to shame rely much more heavily on subways, but this is due to the inadequacies of Bart more so than Muni.

    • John

      Yes, Dave, success in your field comes with benefits. Why resent that just because your successes are not rewarded as much?

  5. Andy

    1. The city needs to charge a LOT of money for these very wealthy companies to operate these buses on our streets. Google, et al will happily oblige. Use that money to fund public transit infrastructure with the goal that one day, tech workers can take public transit to their work, an everyone else’s experience of MUNI/BART/Cal-train is improved as well.

    2. These buses are too damn big for the vast majority of streets they operate on. The city should identify a number of hubs in which the buses are allowed to pick people up, so they do not idle on every bus stop in the city and cause congestion, threaten safety, and frankly, produce an eyesore for everyone who is trying to enjoy the community while the employees isolate themselves from it.

    These are reasonable demands. If they’re met, you won’t hear a peep about the buses from me, ever, again. This isn’t about envy.

    • Kaliman`

      Agree with Andy. For that many buses coming in and out of the City there could be tech hubs and they don’t have to be in the City (due to land availability) but there are options in the Peninsula/Airport near Bart stations.

      The payment for Tech buses to use the City’s infrastructure is a no-brainer.

      • Andy

        Thanks! Could be easily done too. I can think of a bunch of streets where it would make sense to allow tech bus stops/hubs. Duboce, Van Ness, Market! Potrero, Sloat, Fulton, Lincoln etc. There are many more; and the fact that an organization has already done the leg work of investigating the current routes for EVERY companies’ shuttle service would make it even easier.

      • John

        No, your hub idea will lead to wait times and congestion. The shuttle buses just need formal confirmation of their rights to use SFMTA stops, in roder to subdue the present misunderstandings.

        If some kind of reasonable annual fee needs to be negotiated, then so be it. But there is no reason here for wholesale changes, especially given the statement that envy isn’t appropriate here.

    • landline

      These are some good suggestions. I agree about hubs for private employer shuttles–one or two per neighborhood. It won’t kill shuttle riders to get themselves to those hubs in order to keep the extra large shuttle buses largely off already congested city streets and public bus stops.

      I fear that the MTA will (belatedly) put forth a plan that will just confirm the present system without fair or adequate compensation from the employers. And, most importantly, without public input.

      • Andy

        Agreed, that’s what I fear too. I e-mailed Avalos about it once, but he claimed that the Board doesn’t have control, that it’s up to SFMTA who gets to use the streets and for what. But I disagree, I think the Board can pass rules that may force MTA’s hand.

        • landline

          Elected officials respond best to community-
          based grassroots agitation. That’s why this week’s bus blockade has been so effective in pushing forward efforts towards solutions to the problems caused by these private employer shuttles (perhaps lessened by the wildcat theatrics which shifted the media focus of the action).

          Similarly, anti-eviction and anti-gentrification campaigns have forced the Board of Supervisors to pass reforms (albeit modest) to address the displacement epidemic that troubles many San Franciscans, not just those directly affected.

          • Totally agree. Writing to elected officials can only go so far. We’re seeing first hand that community actions can force a dialogue where the normal political process has allowed community concerns to be ignored.

          • John

            landline, the google bus protest was about 20 people, at least in the report I read.

            I’d worry if the supes changed anything on the basis of a few people acting illegally.

            They are hopefully not that fickle and unpredictable, and listen more to the majority.

      • ThatGuy

        Believe it or not, it makes more sense to re-use mostly-idle bus stops for other purposes. Its very inefficient to jam up city streets with this hub idea.

        This isn’t a hub and spoke problem.

        • Andy

          I’m not saying there would be only 5 hubs, such hubs would have to be parking lots. There could be many. But they’d be on larger thoroughfares, not skinny streets like 24th that are already congested enough.

          • What about on Mission and 16th past the Muni stop where the buses for the Cache Creek Casino currently park?

            I’ve always been confused if the casino buses have a deal with the city as well (I’m sure they must be paying for the privilege to park there), but maybe they could share the space with tech buses during commute hours?

          • John

            The casino buses would most run on week-ends, I would have thought. Likewise tourist buses mostly run during the day. So there isn’t necessarily a conflict between the private work shuttleds and other private buses.

            I am confident SFMTA can clarify the rules so that this debate goes away.

          • Are you sure you live here?

            You continually make comments that imply you have no idea how things work in the city, and in the Mission in particular. The casino buses are there every single day and they’ve been there for the past 10 years at least. Once again you’re only proving your own ignorance.

            And please stop stalking me. Your need for my attention and validation is embarrassing.

          • John

            I’ve probably lived here longer than you but do not linger much around 16th and Mission as it is too skeevy for me.

            Whatever, my point was that there are many non-Muni buses that pick up and drop off people in SF, and yet it has never been a problem until a bus for more affluent people started showing up.

          • I was born and raised in the city, only living elsewhere for college in the late 90′s but I still came back every summer, so it’s safe to say that I’ve lived here longer than you even if I were to believe your claims that you’ve lived here around 20 years.

            Thank you for admitting your ignorance of the Mission and your own personal classism though.

          • John

            20 years is more than enough to speak credibly about the city and this neighborhood.

            That said, anyone is entitled to an opinion even if they have just arrived. In fact, one of the reasons that i am happy to see so many newcomers here is that the old-timers can be a but parochial and narrow, and new blood can shake them up from their NIMBY’ism and narrow outlook.

          • Your own words prove you believe people who have been around longer have a more valid outlook.

            http://missionlocal.org/2013/12/1050-valencia-development-must-scale-back/comment-page-1/#comment-377279

            I can only interpret your accusations of narrow mindedness and NIMBYism against those who know more than you as desperate taunts from a troll who has already been caught in the web of his own ignorance and lies.

          • John

            Disingenuous. That reference was to the fact that you lack experience on ML, not in the city.

          • So, when you stated: “anyone is entitled to an opinion even if they have just arrived”

            You were referring to only a new resident to a city, but not a new commenter on MissionLocal?

            That makes no sense, as a city is a much more complex system that requires much more understanding of its inner workings, history and political dynamics before a valid opinion can be formed. In a website comment’s section such as this one’s, one only has to observe for a short period of time before the dynamics can be accurately assessed.

            I stand by my theory that you are either new to the city, have never lived here and are just an internet troll, or that you have remained willfully ignorant to the facts when it comes to San Francisco. You didn’t know stopping in a bus stop was a ticketable offense, you had no knowledge of the large casino buses that are a prominent daily presence on the corner of 16th and Mission, you routinely underestimate the support for liberal causes in this city. This all indicates you really have no real knowledge of San Francisco, despite the fact that you would obviously like to be considered an expert in the dynamics that effect us.

          • John

            Your being new here is obvious, because you do not know thats talking one person day after day is bad manners.

            Whether you know anything about Sf is something i have not determined yet.

          • I’m only responding to you because you continually seek out my comments to attack. I have stated numerous times that I find your constant stalking and trolling of me in some misguided attempt to receive validation to be embarrassing. (As in, it makes me uncomfortable because I become embarrassed on your behalf).

            If anyone is displaying bad manners here, it is you.

          • John

            I respond to any comment here. If you are posting more than others, and you are, then obviously more of my replies will be to you.

            Most others here withdraw when they are refuted but you seem to have some masochistic tendencies.

          • I have refuted you multiple times, John.

            This time in your supposition that casino buses mostly ran on weekends, your claims that a new transplant to a city has more valid opinion than long term residents, and your claim that I was only here to engage in your illogical prattle every day.

            You seem to be under the mistaken impression that if you outlast other commenters and manage to have the last word, that you have refuted them. Often times it seems like people just get frustrated with your faulty logic and underhanded tactics (lying, class-baiting, race-baiting, personal attacks, etc) and choose to stop engaging with you. This does not mean you have refuted them, just that you are adept at trolling and bullying and have too much time on your hands.

            Prove me wrong, John. Quit while you’re behind and if you come back, be prepared with some semblance of a sound argument based on rational thinking and evidence that would be required to ACTUALLY refute someone.

          • John

            As I said to you when you first arrived a few days ago, you do not win debates here by claiming to have won.

            Nor by continually making personal attacks.

            I do find it amusing that you try so hard, as if winning here is sooooo important to you.

          • I’m merely speaking the truth, John.

            If you interpret my statements that you are a proven liar, class-baiter, race-baiter and a troll as a “personal attack”, that says more about your relationship with the truth than it does about me.

            I win by providing proof, facts, and citations. You laughably claim you have “refuted” others based on nothing at all, and then whine like a kicked puppy about MY tactics (absurd) when your verbal sh!t on the carpet is shoved back under your nose. I know I shouldn’t going through so much effort to make fun of a mental midget such as yourself (it’s like celebrating beating a kid at the special olympics)… But for some reason I find it amusing to slap you around (I’m bad, I know) ;)

          • John

            When your posts become 100% abuse and no content, readers know to ignore you.

          • If that’s what it takes to get YOU to stop stalking me with your patented brand of lies, class-baiting, race-baiting and illogic, so be it.

            I’ll let any other readers judge my posts on my clear, rational arguments and generally sunny demeanor. ;)

          • John

            You’ve been stalking me since I arrived. I challenge you to be able to resist the overwhelming temptation you clearly have to respond to my every post.

            Go on, I double dare you to resist. I do not think you can. Prove me wrong.

          • If you continue to respond to my comments with fabrications and outright lies, then you’re clearly inviting a response. Especially since I’ve already stated how much I enjoy humiliating you and proving you wrong. ;)

            You stated that I’ve “been stalking (you) since (you) arrived”. But since you have previously stated that I am the one who is new here, you’re statement is obviously false, proven so by your own words. QED.

            I’ve proven you wrong yet again, but not quite in the way I think you were hoping for. ;) I predict you won’t be able to resist digging the hole deeper for yourself, but if you insist in piping up again in your typical masochistic and self humiliating fashion, rest assured that I will happily prove your ridiculous claims wrong yet again. I only ask that you provide me with a bit of a challenge next time.

          • John

            OK, I’ve just now figured out who you are from a couple of other sites that you have been discredited at.

            You are in fact a well known troll who has been banned from at least two other Sf websites that I am aware of.

            Bingo, you’re busted.

          • Oh, this ought to be good!

            Please tell me what handle I’ve used on other sites! The only other sites I’ve really commented on relating to San Francisco are MissionMission and /r/sanfrancisco on Reddit, neither one of which I’ve ever been banned from. But I’m dying to hear what the ML troll thinks my “secret identity” is!

          • John

            It’s sufficient for now that you know and i know.

            It is inconceivable that someone who trolls as massively and extensively as you has never posted elsewhere. That really strains the credibility of our readers.

            As for the rest, all in good time, and when it most suits me to reveal..

            Your goose is cooked, “Fyodor”.

          • No fair, John! I really was looking forward to a link!

            I’m not even going to bother to ask for proof to substantiate your paranoia. I’m just really, really curious what commenter’s on other websites I remind the you of! You’ve just been the gift that keeps on giving for awhile now, but finally it looked like my continued humoring of the ML troll was about to really pay off with something amusing.

            Please don’t rob me of that! You OWE me a little amusement after I’ve traveled so far down the ML Troll rabbit hole with you!

          • John

            You sound kinda anxious and worried there. I think I’ll let you stew for a while.

            And anyway, our family dinner is coming up, and you probably have a TV dinner to microwave, so let’s resume this tomorrow.

          • No John, “Bust ” me NOW!!!

            I don’t have the time to wait for you to waddle up from your basement and beg your mom for a fourth hot pocket! I have been promised the ultimate entertainment the ML troll has to offer and I demand satisfaction! Please, John, I know it must be late wherever you live, but for a fun loving California kid like me the night is young! Please? /snark

            Seriously though, if you truly have nothing, just admit you’re spanked and move on. You have proven yourself incapable of challenging me with rational debate by the ease in which I’ve refuted all your amusing errors and lies here; if you can’t even provide me with the amusement I deserve for tolerating your trollish behavior for so long, then you’ve truly proven yourself to be a useless a waste of my time.

        • Bus stops certainly aren’t idle enough to justify their use during commute hours. That’s the busiest time of day for buses and they usually have increased service during those hours.

          • John

            Depends. On my route, the muni bus arrives once every 15 minutes in the rush hour, and 20-30 minutes at other times.

            Assuming the muni bus dwells for one minute, then the stop is unused for 14 minutes out of every 15 minutes, or more than 90% of the time.

          • Still not enough time for random buses to be able to stop there for 10 minutes at a time without causing a conflict, obviously.

            And please stop stalking me. Your need for my attention and validation is embarrassing.

          • John

            From what I’ve seen, the Google buses do not dwell for anything like 10 minutes. Rather they wait somewhere else close by and then arrive at their scheduled time, picking up in 2-3 minutes.

            I’ve noticed them waiting on streets that have street cleaning at the time, and the driver stays with the vehicle, so there is no obstruction or inconvenience to others.

          • I’ve seen them waiting in the stop for up to 10 minutes on 24th street, however, it’s hardly better if they wait somewhere else close by if they’re blocking a lane of traffic while they do so.

            But again, I have to ask you to please stop stalking me. It would be one thing if you were raising valid points or arguing in good faith, but it’s tiresome to have to deal with a troll with poor reasoning skills who routinely resorts to race-baiting and class-baiting on a daily basis.

          • John

            Exceptionally, perhaps. routinely, no. SFMTA themselves put their average dwell time at about 3 minutes.

          • Please supply citations to back up your claims, John. It’s not that I don’t believe that the average dwell time might be lower than my observations, but as a known liar and troll, you have a heavy burden of proof to meet before your claims can be taken at face value.

          • John

            When you stop being abusive, I will furnish a link. But you only have to watch these buses to know that they do not linger around. Why would they?

          • As you cannot provide a link to back up your claims, I must assume you are lying again.

            I’m not saying this to be abusive, only because you have proven in the past you have no compunctions against lying if you think it will bolster your case.

            As I have stated before, I have observed tech buses hanging out in bus stops for around 10 minutes. They seem to do so to offer a longer window of accessibility for straggling techies.

          • John

            Your definition of “lying” is saying something without a link?

            Everyone else uses a different definition, so that might explain your misunderstanding.

          • I made no such definition of lying. If you’re seriously suggesting that is what I said, you’d be lying yet again.

            What I was saying is that since you’ve been caught in many lies before, I must assume you are lying without proof otherwise. It would be foolish of me to accept the claims of a proven liar at face value.

          • John

            You stated that saying something without a link was somehow lying. I refuted that.

            I took a look for the link but couldn’t immediately find it. It was a link by someone else here or on another site.

            It seemed about right to me so it never occured to me that I’d need to bookmark it.

          • No, I stated that YOU had an extra burden to supply links to support your claims because you are a known liar.

            You are lying yet again to suggest otherwise. Please reread my exact statement and highlight where I said what you claim I did. http://missionlocal.org/2013/12/private-tech-buses-public-input/comment-page-1/#comment-377676

            If you cannot refute me without resorting to lying about what I said, you have already lost. If you continue to lie unrepentantly, why should I believe ANYTHING you say without proof? If you cannot meet the burden of proof your lies and bad behavior have made necessary, you have already conceded this and all future arguments.

          • John

            Since you define a liar as someone who doesn’t provide a link, that is a circular argument.

            How does calling people liars work out for you in real life?

          • I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish here, John.

            My statement that YOU need to provide links to back up your claims because you’ve been proven to be a liar does not at all show me making the “definition” you claim it does, as anyone and everyone can plainly see.

            Thanks for providing more evidence to everyone that you’re a liar though.

          • John

            One more time, the fact that someone cannot produce a link for something does not mean that what he or she is saying is false. Nor does it make them a liar.

          • “the fact that someone cannot produce a link for something does not mean that what he or she is saying is false. Nor does it make them a liar.”

            This is true, but you have proven yourself to be a liar many times already (conveniently in this very thread, as well), so it’s perfectly reasonable for me to demand a higher burden of proof from YOU specifically. It would be foolish for me to accept the claims of a proven liar at face value.

    • Great ideas, Andy. An investment in public transportation helps everyone and having devoted tech hubs for commuter buses is a particularly elegant solution.

    • Mark Rabine Staff

      Right. The Google Bus story once again points to the inadequacy of public transportation in SF and the Bay Area. Charging the tech companies a hefty fee to help build a 21st century public transit system should be a no-brainer, but then . . . BTW the Mission was “affordable” for 25 years after BART, though the intention was gentrification all the way. Earlier histories on Mission Local showed city planning documents as far back as 1966 projecting. The BART line was built through the Mission (with two stops!) precisely for this reason. See Michael Rios’ iconic mural at 24 street BART, now obscured in great part by trees.

      • backtothesuburbs

        The main actionable theme here is the weakness of SF politicians. It used to be that they preempted issues people might protest about, now its the opposite — not unlike most other cities. In short, SF now is on the side of embracing inequality …

        Just for comparison here’s a quote from NY mayor elect today:
        “It was very interesting: a lot of them talked about pre-K, a lot of them talked about early childhood education as one of the breakthrough things we have to do to change the dynamics, a lot of them talked about their growing poverty levels and how it was undermining the future of their cities. So I think there was a really organic unity among all of us of the fact that this is the issue of our times. Fighting inequality is the mission of our times,” he said.

        http://politicker.com/2013/12/bill-de-blasio-walks-away-from-white-house-meeting-with-sweeping-national-hopes/

        • John

          You assume there that politicians should respond to protests.

          But anyone can protest anything – that doesn’t mean that a politician should do something about it.

          According to the BeyondChron article cited, 69% of SF voters think SF is heading in the right direction. If 31% are protesting that, so what?

    • Zig

      Public transit can never serve spatially sprawling campuses.

  6. ray

    classism? unfair? news flash – these companies are being woed by the entire world who would give them anything to be near their cities. the g bus carries 71 employees, that is about that number of more cars which would be on the roads, and gas wasted … life is unfair and how sad you didn’t go to stanford, major in those fields and have a less “successful” life. … the world, and sf, does not owe you. it is a pity sf is losing some of its soul (and no, I am not in hi tech, and older, and a berkely counter culture person, but really, you are deluded to blame google for trying to make commuting easier and more attractive to employees. and no, I don’t think they owe the city more than they are giving.

    • nutrisystem

      Ray, It would be nice if these buses would dump thousands of relatively wealthier workers into YOUR Berkeley neighborhood instead of the Mission.

      Then you would understand what the fuss is about (hint: it’s not about mass transit policy). You’d see your area’s rents double, triple and quadruple, and its counterculture going into rapid decline.

      You’d see that no new artists, musicians, writers, teachers, craftspeople or tradespeople moved in anymore – only six figure salary tech dudes (and a few tech women).

      You’d see that the only new businesses that could survive the new supersized commercial rents were upscale food and alcohol sellers, and the occasional quirky home-furnishing shop.

      You’d maybe notice that one-by-one, the less profit-oriented shops and humans which gave Berkeley its uniqueness were disappearing.

      In short, you’d see a slow transformation from a diverse ecosystem of people and activities into a bedroom community with upscale food court.

      The sad irony is that the coming of the tech workers slowly creates the sterile type of environment they are trying to escape from in the south bay.

    • Zig

      I don’t think there is any doubt without private buses commuting from SF to Mountian View would be untenable for many.

      Of course we don’t like it. My family can’t move now to a new apartment we need because they are $4000/mo. Should I say thank you?

  7. Zig

    I know it is an imperfect statement but there is some irony in white middle class people preventing other areas from being like the Mission in past generations ( exclusionary zoning, parking everywhere, 1/4 lots for SFHs) changing their minds and, sorry poor peoples, but we like urban living now so you we are coming back and taking one the Mission. Please rent out a garage in a SFH in Crocker Amazon.

    And before you all flip out my family white flighted out of SF when I was small and I am back so it is a self criticism

  8. Steve

    The new tech crowd is trying to change the Mission to suit them. They are turning the Mission into Mountain View! Why can’t they embrace the things that make it unique?

    • nutrisystem

      It’s been my observation that there are 3 ingredients that create the “neighborhood uniqueness” which the Mission has (had?), and South Bay workers want to be around…
      1) Low rents.
      2) Lax enforcement of building and business rules by the city.
      3) Wide variety of people, including lots of Bohos but not a lot of criminals.

      Mountain View or any other South Bay city could create zones with these conditions, but they are too stupid to do so. In fact, they are downright fascistic with code enforcement, and the rents are sky high.

      America needs more urbanism EXPERIMENTATION. China does it all the time: draw a square on a map and say “these rules apply in this special zone”… and see what happens. We have a vast amount of land, what’s the downside of trying some stuff?

      • John

        The city has set up a number of such special zones, the most recent being the mid-Market corridor. We also had NEMIZ although i am unsure of it’s exact status at the minute.

        With that said, I’m not sure you can artificially induce bohemia. The danger there is you end up with a Disneyfied version of the real article.

        The best cities and neighborhoods evolve naturally. They are not centrally planned by a bunch of bureaucrats.

        • nutrisystem

          It’s true that the best cities and neighborhoods evolve naturally. But that’s not the whole truth…

          Society, through the instrument of government, can create favorable conditions for that evolution to occur.

        • Mark

          Mission St between 21st and 22nd is a “Business Improvement District”

  9. Josh

    There are several problems with these buses. We are way past the point of being able to stop them altogether, but I do believe they need to only be able to pick up at a central terminus. These giant, double-decker buses should not be allowed to run up and down residential neighborhoods and largely pedestrian sectors. They are blocking buses at Mission High School, blocking MUNI buses, and making illegal use of MUNI stops. Why are tech buses allowed on Valencia, for instance? We don’t even have a MUNI line on Valencia!

    The average ticket fine is $255.00 for illegal parking at a MUNI stop. As this article states, they make use of over 200 stops per day within the seven miles that comprise San Francisco. First, why in the hell do you need so many stops for such a small area? Second, if each of those stops received only one bus per day (there and back), that’s $102,000 in lost fines for the city AT MINIMUM, PER DAY.

    The central terminus would be connected to the public transportation system so that these workers would need to either find their own way to the spot, or take public transport. If it overcrowds the system, that’s a good thing. It forces the SFMTA and MUNI to look at what they’re doing and make changes. It’s one thing to have private citizens say that SFMTA needs to make changes, but when the CEOs of Apple, Google, and Facebook start telling the SFMTA that it’s affecting their workers, things will get done.

    If Silicon Valley tech firms want to use San Francisco as a bedroom community for their workers, they need to be leveraged to pay for civic improvements to benefit the quality of life for everyone, not just the gilded few. I hardly call Google putting free WiFi in parks an act of benevolence. It’s a way for them to get even more work time out of their employees. The lost fine money could for instance, accelerate the completion of the Transbay Terminal, and we all need that.

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