Transit Experts Weigh in on Tech Buses

A tech bus rides down Valencia Street. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

A tech bus rides down Valencia Street. Photo by Lydia Chávez.

To be less irksome to neighbors, they could be smaller and the routes could be restricted to larger streets, but transportation experts say the tech buses between San Francisco and Silicon Valley basically do a good job at what they do — effectively shuttling approximately 35,000 people a day and most likely keeping thousands of cars off the freeway.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), which passed its resolution to let the tech buses use Muni stops for $1 per stop in January and limit where these buses can stop, will be holding public hearings today and on February 22 to seek input on which Muni stops the shuttles should be using. Those who can’t attend the meetings have until February 23 to post comments on an interactive map on SFMTA’s website.

In advance of those meetings, Mission Local asked transportation experts for their ideas on how to mitigate the intensity of the buses’ impact on the neighborhoods in which they operate. The experts addressed the transportation issues and not the larger issues of rising rents or gentrification, though all said that these issues were crucial for policy officials to address.

Elizabeth Deakin, professor of regional planning and urban design at UC Berkeley, said that from an efficiency standpoint the buses are doing a pretty great job at what they do.

“The private buses’ strategy of having several bus stops in San Francisco is a pretty smart idea,” Deakin said of the fleet’s design. “It just has all these negative externalities for everyone else.”

Graduate students in planning, David Weinzimmer and Danielle Dai studied the shuttles and how their existence impacted employee choices about where to live. They also found that the private shuttles were significantly faster than public transportation from most parts of the city. “Coming from the Sunset, it takes 70 percent longer via public transit than it does on the shuttles,” Weinzimmer said.

“[The shuttles] are really efficient in moving lots of people,” Dai said.

The speed aside, putting tech workers onto the current public transportation system would not likely be a viable option because the public transit system is over capacity, the study’s authors said.

“Caltrain is completely at capacity at peak hours, so is Muni,” Weinzimmer said. “It’s a miracle that people rely on it as much as they do.”

Susan Shaheen, a professor at Berkeley’s Transportation Sustainability Research Center, has heard in informal discussions of transit wonks that out of the 22 different transit systems in the Bay Area, Google’s private network is the seventh largest.

“If Google is seven and Facebook is eight, that says these services are working at attracting lots of people,” Shaheen said. “If this is really working, it has potential to take a lot of cars off the road.”

The existing situation’s impressiveness makes it challenging to envision an alternative that would be as efficient and move through San Francisco’s dense neighborhoods less, they said.

For example, if the shuttles were forced to load and unload commuters at a central terminal in less dense and less residential parts of the city, experts said the network of private shuttles would not only be less efficient than they are now, they could also cause undue stress on the public transit system.

“Most people dislike more access times,” Deakin said. “It wouldn’t matter if it’s a beautiful terminal or if there’s some sort of Maginot Line where buses aren’t allowed to cross, you’d still have to get across town.”

Several complaints heard in the tech shuttle hearings and received by SFMTA have had to do with vehicles’ size and the noise they produce.

“Those large vehicles tend to be scary going down the street,” Deakin said. “Bikes and buses are not a good mix.”

“On technology side, we need to work with them on the buses, to make them smaller,” said Timothy Papandreou, director of Strategic Planning & Policy at SFTMA.

Papandreou was an early voice within the agency to push to regulate the private shuttles. He believes the pilot resolution passed in January is just the first step in regulating the shuttles.

“The physical fleet are too hulking and too big…people who bike find them really intimidating,” he added.

Papandreou said the tech shuttles should be more like urban buses with multiple doors to decrease the amount of time that they need to idle at Muni stops. If they were slightly smaller, they could significantly decrease the way their presence is felt in neighborhoods.

But Deakin says she thinks the companies won’t be receptive to the idea of smaller buses.

“Smaller vehicles would definitely cut down on noise,” said Deakin, who also explained that heavy vehicles have a greater impact on roads. “But smaller buses are not a great solution, they aren’t necessarily as comfortable.”

Deakin said that neighbors with noise complaints might be appeased if the shuttles’ routes were contained to major arteries and truck routes — an approach Papandreou says the SFMTA is researching.

“In Alamo Square we’ve banned tour buses at certain locations,” Papandreou said. “Weight is usually the key factor and their ability to turn in a street, if they’re too big to turn, we’d have to restrict them… there’s certain streets in the Mission, Noe Valley that are really, really narrow. As we’re updating our whole strategy, we’ll look at that…We can actually restrict certain areas, and they’ll get a fine if they go in them.”

For Shaheen, who is primarily interested in these shuttles’ ability to take cars off the street, their benefits should ideally be expanded to more people.

“I wonder, could these types of services be modeled so other people could access them and perhaps these other individuals wouldn’t need cars to commute?” Shaheen asked. “Could this be expanded to a much larger suite of individuals?”

Papandreou is skeptical about whether a public system could be modeled after the private one.

“My real question is about a two-tiered transit system, is that something we want to support? These shuttles are already packed, if they open up to more people, they’ll be a high premium to pay, and then there’s still a two-tiered system,” Papandreou said.

All the experts we talked to shared one common wish: in their ideal system, there would be more public options for every Bay Area commuter.

“Muni is a fantastic resource, we need to do what we can to improve it… but it’s the slowest major bus system in any major city,” Weinzimmer said. “If we could create a fantastic network that’s faster, the trade-off between private shuttles and public transit totally changes.”

“Ideally, we’d have a regional transit network so you don’t need these buses,” Papandreou said. “If that was run by a regional transit, this is moot. This conversation is over.”

Deakin cites Shanghai as a city that has a similar issue with large fleets of private company buses. She says it’s a bad transit model for San Francisco. In Shanghai, the rate of expansion outpaced the rate the city was able to build transit infrastructure, and private, company buses emerged to meet demand.

“In China, cities are totally clogged by company buses, and there’s lots of congestion,” Deakin said. “As Shanghai is expanding its buses, some companies are starting to think they don’t need all the private shuttles.”

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Timothy Papandreou’s name. 

100 Comments

  1. John

    Yes, I think some minor changes to the shuttles could increase their popularity, I agree with the views expressed here that they do more good than harm.

    It’s also not clear to me that the opposition to the shuttles extends beyond a fairly small but vociferous minority.

    • C. Russo

      John’s record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips— record skips—

    • My Take

      Tech companies should be required to pick up their riders at 7th & market because their “shuttle” behemoths do far more harm than good.

      San Francisco has become a charming tourist destination for 16 million people a year and the most walkable city in America 18 years in a row PRECISELY because it is stubbornly traditional, for instance not allowing block-sized cube-shaped apartment buildings like you see everywhere in Los Angeles, keeping the archaic overhead rail lines that every other city got rid of more than half a century ago, etc. etc,

      Tourists love to walk around in wonderfully preserved Victorian San Francisco, and they DON”T come here to watch modern, whale-sized buses meandering through pristine residential neighborhoods.

      • randolph mortimer

        Tourists come to San Francisco because they love the smell of urine and the thrill of getting mugged, or at least hassled and threatened by street people. Duh.

  2. Middle-aged

    Your quote from Pompandreou ends with, “… this is mute.” You either mean “moot”, or you need to mark that as “[sic]” to indicate that he’s the one who misspelled it or misspoke.

  3. “Ideally, we’d have a regional transit network so you don’t need these buses,” Really? I am amazed to insipidness of so called “experts”. They ignore factors that make all the difference, like mobs of stinking, crazy homeless people on the transit, that make sire I never use it. I’m sure the Tech busses have NONE of that….

    • two beers

      mobs of stinking, crazy homeless people

      gee, Kevin, tell us how you really feel.

      why are you so angry and hostile?

      • John

        “Mobs” may be hyperbole but the other day the driver of a number 33 bus made a homeless guy sit at the back of the bus because, according to the driver, “I can’t drive with that smell”.

        Everyone else in the back of the bus then moved to the front. Luckily it wasn’t that crowded.

        • What’s your point? Muni operators are even allowed to ask people who smell to get off the bus if they are interfering with the operator’s ability to safely drive the bus.

          • My Take

            I talked to a MUNI driver who actually got off his bus when a stinky guy got on, but only Republicans who comment here and don’t know anything about San Francisco will say that’s anything but an extremely rare event.

    • nutrisystem

      Caltrain has no stinky hobos. But getting to the station would be extra work for the precious darlings… they want to get picked up and dropped off near home.

      So we end up with a 2 caste transport system, just like we have a 2 caste system in primary education, etc.

      Caste systems are antithetical to strong, just societies.

      If the Big-Pharma-Surveillance-Advertising-Shiny-Toy Industry likes caste systems so much, maybe they’d be happier in India.

      • landline

        They will ship as many jobs to India as they can once their business plans allow for it. Why pay $100,000 per year for workers here when similarly skilled and educated Indian workers will do the same work for much less?

        • John

          landline, for once we agree on something.

          There is little point in overpaying US workers when the same or better quality and skills exist elsewhere for less money.

          • landline

            You won’t be so agreeable when the outsourcing of tech jobs affects the ability of your tenants to pay the rent.

          • John

            I can only respond to the business situation as it is now and insofar as I can reasonably predict for the future.

            So you are correct – the Bay Area could enter a deflationary phase where asset prices and the income that can derive from such assets decline in real or nominal terms.

            If, as and when that ever happens I may have to re-structure the portfolio. Indeed, I have been doing that to some extent since about 2007, seeking to less exposed to one location and one asset class.

            But when I look beyond my own investments and think about what is best for the nation, then I do not think that over-paying our workers relative to other nations is sustainable. We’ve already seen the effect of that on industry and we’re starting to see that in technology.

            We may be mostly a service economy in another decade or two, but I’ll worry about that then.

        • John Murphy

          Salaries in India are getting to be close to on par with the US.

      • John

        nutrisystem, would you abolish all classes on aircraft? Cruise ships? Should all hotel rooms cost the same?

        If I want to pay more for a better class of product or service, does that offend your sense of justice and fairness?

        • nutrisystem

          Caste systems have no place in the basic structures of a decent society.

          For example, there should be no caste system in public transport, education, health care, courts.

          If somebody wants to buy a diamond encrusted back-scratcher, I have no problem with that.

          • John

            OK, so you don’t like a class system in public services? Fair enough.

            But that implies that you are quite happy with a class system in a private service. And these shuttles are of course private services, as are the other examples of differential pricing that I cited.

          • Valenchia

            @nutrisystem: We don’t have a caste system and you know it. It is silly that you use that term.

      • Alai

        We already have a 2 caste transportation system… buses and cars.

      • Valenchia

        @nutrisystem: So you really think we would be a better society if everyone was forced to be equal in every way? Sorry but your totalitarian instincts are quite worrisome.
        It seems that you care little about other people and only care that no one has a better life than you.

    • My Take

      “mobs of stinking, crazy homeless people on the transit”

      ANOTHER typically stupid comment by a Republican who OBVIOUSLY neither lives in nor visits San Francisco.

  4. nutrisystem

    Great… Experts are examining the transportation science of this city-destroying bus plague.

    That’s like asking if propane or natural gas is better for incinerating bodies.

    • John

      What would destroy this city far more would be an extra 30,000 round-trip auto commutes every day.

      • nutrisystem

        Ah yes, the bus versus private car question… similar to the gas chamber versus machine gun question.

        There’s really no debate – the former is cleaner and more efficient at mass-destruction.

        • John

          nutrisystem, when a Nazi analogy is your first argument rather than your last resort, you know you’re in trouble.

          Taking a bus to work is not like exterminating Jews.

          • nutrisystem

            Reductio ad Hitlerium can be a helpful tool for understanding.

            And the destruction of a human ecosystem like San Francisco is no small matter.

          • John

            The destruction of a human ecosystem would be a big deal. But that is a wild exaggeration of what, if anything, is happening in SF.

            Yes, a few people may have to move who ideally would prefer not to. I’m not sure that equates to a species of life being wiped out so much as some inconvenience.

            And even there, you’d have to prove a necessary connection between commuter buses and such transitions, which you conveniently take for granted rather than credibly seek to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

            We all learn in life that we cannot abolish things we do not like. I suspect you will find people more receptive if you accept these shuttles and instead try and find ways they can work a little more smoothly. That’s the consensus view on moving forward as I see it.

          • nutrisystem

            Translation of John’s ten thousand posts (to save everyone the trouble of reading them):

            Bla, bla, bla, I make more money on my rental properties now with the tech invasion, bla bla. money is all I care about, bla.

          • John

            So, no counter-argument then, nutrisystem? Just a lame personal attack in lieu of a substantial argument?

          • Valenchia

            @nutrisystem: translation, I am jealous of others so I will claim there is a caste system and otherwise just whine.

        • nutrisystem

          Please don’t use the “at” symbol inappropriately.

          I hate people who go in for stupid fads.

        • randolph mortimer

          Yes, I agree with nutrisystem, can we just slaughter all the tech workers and white people in the Mission already and end this tedious debate?

  5. Bob

    It is nice to see a more positive spin on tech buses and the benefits they bring to the community.

  6. John Murphy

    “Caltrain is completely at capacity at peak hours, so is Muni,” Weinzimmer said. “It’s a miracle that people rely on it as much as they do.”

    Nobody takes Caltrain. it’s too crowded.

    • Nobody excel for the crowd? It’s actually not that bad, you should see BART or MUNI during the rush – standing room only.

    • nutrisystem

      Caltrain is nowhere near capacity except for a few express trains at morning and evening rush hour (and before Giants games).

      The beauty of trains is that it’s easy to add capacity by adding more carriages to a given train. The ones Caltrain uses cost less than $1 million each. 100 such carriages could be bought for the cost of a typical freeway interchange improvement, dramatically improving service.

      But if the influential members of society live in a separate world with its own transport system, they won’t apply pressure to improve Caltrain, Muni, Bart, etc… because they don’t even SEE the problems. And that, in a nutshell, is what’s problematic about caste systems: they prevent self-corrections in society.

      • John

        By the same argument, nutrisystem, would you argue to remove all private modes of transportation such as cabs, cars, private boats and planes?

        Would you further remove all classes of fare on, say, planes? And replace them with a single unified “peoples’ class”?

        • nutrisystem

          I think I can best sum it up in this (somewhat metaphorical) way: Private cars are OK, but private roads aren’t.

          Once a class of people rides on “private roads” to the point that they become isolated from the broader society, they are no longer really members of that society… They don’t directly experience what works and doesn’t work, and thus become incapable of being effective managers.

          Isolation of privileged classes into luxury bubbles is doubly problematic because they are, in fact, the society’s managers, but they are poorly positioned to understand the issues they manage.

          • John

            I see your distinction between private roads and public roads much more than I see the distinction between private and public vehicles using our roads.

            We don’t have many private roads in the US. Probably just a few toll roads and they aren’t exclusive to any class of road user. It’s just that you have to pay to use them.

            But more generally, it is very common in the US for those with wealth, or for those who simply regard it as important, to largely isolate themselves from the hoi polloi.

            They can be chauffeur-driven, stay in high-rise serviced apartments or hotels, take private planes, eat and drink in private clubs, and so on.

            You may not like that but I’m not sure you can do much about it. Even in the communist nations, some people still enjoyed all those perks. It was just it was the government officials enjoying it rather than celebrities and the rich.

            Ultimately, a good part of why people want money is to insulate themselves from a lot of life’s nasties. Like, say, Muni.

          • nutrisystem

            I didn’t mean private road literally.

            A $30,000 per year kindergarten is a “private road” to me.

            Class isolation can be OK in conjunction with real democracy – because in that case the isolated class isn’t running the society.

            But in the current American system of legalized bribery and pervasive propaganda, democracy is a mirage, and the isolated class IS running the society. And they aren’t doing a very good job.

          • John

            In Europe, where there is an extensive provision of free public healthcare (to take that as an example) I do not believe that any nation there bans the option of private healthcare, for those who prefer to pay for healthcare anyway.

            In other words, even when a free and adequate universal public option exists, so does “privilege”, if you want to call it that.

            And the usual argument employed is that if a certain segment of the community wants to pay privately for a service, then that reduces the cost to the rest of that community for treating that portion of the community.

            In other words, those who pay for healthcare help pay for the free healthcare that the rest get. Those who pay for private school relieve the pressure off public schools.

            Likewise, the tech shuttles take the strain off Muni and CalTrain, while also stressing the streets and freeways less than the replacement cars would.

            So it’s possible for privilege to exist and benefit everyone. Except, of course, those who are so consumed with envy that they just cannot tolerate anyone enjoying something that they don’t have.

          • John #2

            I’m not even sure I can count the number of erroneous assertions in this post. Do you mean the Europe where they tax the hell out of the rich (and everyone else), the Europe where countries limit doctor’s salaries yet everyone gets the same quality of care, the Europe where there is an extensive and ultra efficient public rail/transit system in every corner of nearly every country, all paid for with said taxes, or do you mean someplace else? Do you know of another Europe that I don’t?

      • Alai

        Caltrain trains are limited by the lengths of the stations. Can’t realistically make them longer. Running more of them is an option, but another issue is the time it takes for them to load and unload at every stop they make, and speed up and slow down (unlike BART, they’re not designed for rapid boarding), and they’re fairly slow. As a result increasing the number of trains is difficult to impossible– they start delaying each other.

        There are efforts to fix this which are happening, all too slowly, as part of the CA high speed rail project. Mainly electrification, which allows them to move and accelerate faster (and thus allows more trains as well), as well as the replacement of the cars with ones that aid quick boarding and alighting.

        • nutrisystem

          Caltrains don’t use the full platform lengths, so they can be somewhat longer. And much longer with relatively inexpensive station mods.

          Loading speed scales with # of cars, and is not currently problematic.

          Frequency can be significantly higher with modern signal/control systems.

          In short, improvements to Caltrain are feasible, and a relatively inexpensive way of shuttling more people between SF and Gilroy.

          • Mom on a bike

            Wow, here come the armchair transit experts. To sum up why you’re wrong, think back to the last dot-com boom. Now compare Caltrain service then to now. Is it much better? There are a few more express trains. That’s it.

            Plenty of people are ‘applying pressure’ to get Caltrain to hurry up and join our century. Given that Caltrain doesn’t even have a dedicated source of funding, the short answer is ‘good luck with that.’

          • marcos

            Perhaps the reason why CalTrain service has not improved since the dot.com boom is that a key political constituency has been removed from demanding better service because the City has subsidized their opting out. What this shows is that the transportation activist model of showing up with good ideas doesn’t cut it.

            This is not all about transit policy, it is the politics of transit. Most transit activists are decidedly retrograde when it comes to just transit politics and economics. They’ve supported the TOD that has larded the City up on tens of thousands of new residents with no way to get to work efficiently except by a private service. Now they say it is okay to opt out and deprive CalTrain of political support. I bet they would be satisfied with laying down a few stripes of paint and running BRT down El Camino, and call it a day.

      • Robert

        No new carriages can be added to the current Caltrain trains as their length would exceed the length of the boarding platforms.

        They can’t add more trains during peak hours until after electrification in 2019 as their current signalling system that prevents collisions has reached capacity.

        So basically there is no way to increase Caltrain capacity for another five years.

  7. marcos

    How will CalTrain ever be able to get the cars off of the road for the hundreds of thousands of commuters who don’t work for the giants if the giants keep their employees from the constituency that demands rapid, reliable regional public transit?

    Thousands of shuttle riders would not live in San Francisco and commute to points south if there were not shuttles. Balance those 10,000 trips with the gridlock on the freeways and it is clear that these shuttles prolong transit paralysis rather than solve it.

    • John

      So your argument is that every single one of the shuttle riders would move to MV rather than, say, drive?

      I’d be fascinated to see your evidence for that.

      BART beyond Milbrae would help a lot.

      • marcos

        Not only are you an annoying troll, you are an annoying troll with significantly impaired reading comprehension.

        • John

          marcos, I asked you to substantiate your claim that “thousands of shuttle riders would not live in SF” without shuttles.

          Sorry, but you cannot duck a question that skewers your central point just by dismissing it as trolling.

          • marcos

            No, you rephrased what I said in terms of reductio ad absurdum and asked if I was saying that.

          • John

            OK, marcos, so you never wrote that “Thousands of shuttle riders would not live in San Francisco and commute to points south if there were not shuttles”.

            You’re sticking to that claim even though we can all read those exact words in your 2:20 post?

            Gee, I must have imagined it.

          • Mom on a bike

            Marcos calling John a troll…now, that’s funny.

          • marcos

            Mom on bike matching John’s reading comprehension word for word. One troll washes the other. I bet you’re an armchair transit activist too!

    • David

      I’m a tech shuttle rider and I still want reliable public transit. What should I do to help? Caltrain has budget issues, and my understanding is that petitioning Sacramento for a dedicated revenue stream hasn’t worked. Beyond that, it’s incredibly difficult to get anything done in the Bay Area due to NIMBYism. Why do you think BART goes across the majority of the Bay Area except for the peninsula?

      • NFS

        In answer to your question, Santa Clara, San Mateo, and Marin Counties opted out of the system in the early 1960s. Such a pity; we would not be having this discussion and the Bay Area would have a world (sort of) class public transport system rather than the patchwork of short sighted, non-connected systems that it has now.

      • marcos

        David, what I’d like to see is for the big four companies to pony up chump change, $150-200m each to invest in CalTrain to run at 5 minute headways instead of the projected 10 min, meaning fast tracking electrification and doubling the rolling stock buy for wifi enabled cars and adding passing track for express trains. Then they need to work with the first and last mile local providers to get people to and from the CalTrain efficiently.

        This kind of public spirited investment would go a long way to demonstrate that the tech giants are in it with all of us. I bet that government would bend over backwards to allow these firms to write off such donations from their taxes. These are big problems in search of big solutions which the big bucks make with big data can solve.

        I used to do the commute to point south by car when there were no software jobs anywhere near San Francisco in the early 1990s. But for the past 15 years, I’ve been able to find good engineering work a short bike ride from our North Mission home.

        • David

          AFAIK Caltrain electrification is already funded through HSR. Having a dedicated source of funding would be nice though. I still think it would be a lot better to extend BART instead, but it’s impractical because BART rail gauge is non-standard and there probably isn’t enough space to run additional HSR tracks through the peninsula.

          • marcos

            We’ve been dealt two bad infrastructural hands and need to make do the best with what we’ve got.

            Electrification is only cleared environmentally for 10 minute headways. We need for CalTrain to run at BART headways. That means buying twice as much rolling stock or doubling the speed. It would be possible to purchase electric traction rolling stock that is more appealing than the current CalTrain cars, more BART like.

            Thanks for a reasonable conversation, so rare in these parts. But you did ask, and after watching transportation policy for 15 years, that’s my best and final answer under these constraints:

    • Valenchia

      @marcos: So you seem to think that everyone should be made to suffer so that your preferred solution can be enacted.

      I really don’t understand why people are so uncomfortable with their being a range of mass transit options available and instead insist that everyone must travel the same way.

  8. Brian Katcher

    Separate but equal is not okay. San Franciscans deserve a first class public transportation system. We (including the tech community) can afford it; we can’t afford not to have it.

    • John

      Separate but equal implies the same thing, but you are trying to compare a private service with a public service.

      • Brian Katcher

        “Separate but equal” was was the justification for racial segregation during the mid-twentieth century. It was bad but took a long time to overcome. I’m saying that large private transpiration systems like the Google Bus are not okay, because they promote social discrimination.

        There is a large body of medical literature on the adverse health effects of social discrimination, usually as manifested as racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, etc. The private tech buses are too new to have been studied, but I suspect that they’re not good for those of us who don’t have access them. Health augment aside, it just isn’t right.

        But my main point is that we as a City should improve on our already good (in some places) public transit system.

        • John

          Yes, Brian, I am familiar with the phrase. However, it’s a stretch to argue that any private transportation is creating a situation equivalent to segregation in the south.

          It’s routine for some people to choose to spend more money for greater speed and comfort, while others prefer to save money by sacrificing speed and comfort. I’m not in the business of denying people choice. Are you?

        • pete

          Sounds a whole lot like envy to me…

          • John

            I wonder if the same people get angry when they see a nice car, a mink coat, an expensive piece of jewelry or any other manifestation of success and prosperity.

            When i see something expensive or desirable, I feel aspiration and admiration. I don’t feel envious and resentful.

            What is it about some people that causes negative feelings when they see success? Is that healthy? Seems doubtful.

          • Brian

            The evidence on the social determinants of health is summarized in a report from the World Health Organization:
            http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/98438/e81384.pdf
            It contains an entire chapter on transit.

    • marcos

      Equal access to transportation is a fundamental cornerstone of civil rights legal theory.

      • John

        Equal access to PUBLIC transportation is a civil right. Equal access to private transportation is not, otherwise you could hop onto Larry Ellison’s jet or yacht, and you cannot.

  9. Dave

    Transit experts? The same people who refuse to slow traffic on South Van Ness Ave even with all of the accidents and three deaths?

  10. Kaliman

    Tech shuttle depots/terminals in the outskirts of San Francisco and in the Peninsula near a BART stations will help solve the problem.

    – Not expensive to build.
    – Land available near the airport parking/Bart
    – Make the terminal comfy – Free wifi, gourmet coffes/drinks, nice chairs, etc.
    – Connections to Bart, Samtrans, etc.

    The tech buses rolling in the City will remain flashpoints for the inequalities they represent. So, get them off the streets so we can move on and address other issues.

    • John

      You’d still need shuttles to take commuters from their homes to this transfer point. They could maybe be smaller but, if people have to take Muni, CalTrain or BART just to get to your shuttle base, then they will either take transit all the way or they will drive. Convenience is the key.

      I’m not sure shuttles could be legislatively banned from city streets, except on the same basis as other vehicles for size and weight. If you ban some shuttles and allow others based on employer, that would look discriminatory to a lot of people.

    • Bob

      Shuttle buses are not the problem, they are the solution. UCSF, the Academy of Art, SFO and many other SF institutions use them. A separate depot for tech buses outside the city would defeat their purpose completely. Viva el tech bus.

      • John

        I have no idea how those who oppose these shuttles think that they could be banned, other than on size/weight grounds, which of course would have to apply to all vehicles.

        Put another way, I do not think the city could bar a google shuttle and not bar a UCSF shuttle, without appearing discriminatory as well as capricious.

        Any vehicle is allowed to traverse city streets as long as they obey the traffic rules and are under the weight/size limits.

        • marcos

          Nobody is saying the buses should be banned. They should be made to pay the statutory fine for every illegal stop they make in a bus zone just like any of us would if we parked in a bus zone.

  11. Greg

    “Papandreou said the tech shuttles should be more like urban buses with multiple doors to decrease the amount of time that they need to idle at Muni stops.”

    Is this guy serious? The bus pictured in the article is a double decker Van Hool with two passenger doors.

  12. John

    “The private buses’ strategy of having several bus stops in San Francisco is a pretty smart idea,” Deakin said of the fleet’s design. “It just has all these negative externalities for everyone else.”

    &

    “Smaller vehicles would definitely cut down on noise,” said Deakin, who also explained that heavy vehicles have a greater impact on roads. “But smaller buses are not a great solution, they aren’t necessarily as comfortable.”

    And there we have it. God forbid the people on these buses should ride in anything less than a giant, ultra-luxury, air-conditioned, wi-fi equipped mode of transportation that picks them up at their doorstep. To hell with the rest of the people living here and what impact it might have on them.

    • John #2

      I just want to say that the above as posted by John #2. I didn’t see there was already a “John” posting. From the looks of his posts I doubt he’d want “credit” for my opinions.

    • Evil P

      All I ask is that the freakin’ Google bus to STOP BLOCKING MY DRIVEWAY. If you are going to hog up the MUNI bus stop, please pull all the way into it and do not block anyone’s driveway or garage door. And get the ass end of it completely off the roadway. Blocking traffic in both directions. Nice. Are Google Bus drivers that out of it??

      This morning the damn Google bus was blocking my driveway and I had to wait with my turn signal on. I blocked traffic and got the horns honking all around me. Two traffic cops told the bus to move.

      BUT IT DIDN’T.

      I’m tired of being taken advantage of by this stupid ass bus. I have no problem with the buses until it personally inconveniences me because of stupidity.

      Today, I will make a complaint to the SFPD. Tech Bus people, it does not have to be this way. If you only would play by the freakin’ rules!!

      • John

        How long did you have to wait? 60 seconds? 90 seconds?

        Why not take a bus yourself?

        And why complain ONLY when a google bus does this and not when any other vehicle does this?

      • nutrisystem

        Evil, try standing on the horn for the duration of the blockage, rigid-arm, crazy look on your face, glasses slightly fogged and askew. Punctuate obnoxiously long honks with a few seconds of staccato honking. Even if it doesn’t work, it would be kind of funny.

  13. MistOfTheCity

    There is a very significant point that is not being made here. Street repair. We all know that one of the biggest peeves among every resident of every city is the buses/trains run on time and pothole repair. No one, not anyone is talking about the massive excess in weight and wear on our street all these extra tons are creating. And, Mr. Mayor, $1 per stop isn’t going to cover it AND NEITHER WILL ANY TAXPAYER IN THEIR RIGHT MIND. Forget about being re-elected. This will be your failing legacy besides allowing expensive development to be built unbridled.

    Everyone should watch this video from Mark Fiore http://goo.gl/wdOa0S

  14. JerkStore

    I think one of the biggest frustrations among San Franciscans not riding these shuttles is the fact that they are an end-around on a problem facing us by a company who is not located in the city, and is — at its core — a problem solving company. Facebook, Google, Yahoo, et.al. are not in the city and not paying city payroll taxes, yet they have corporate infrastructure in the city creating problems within a sphere of city services that is already faced with considerable problems. Given the incredibly vast resources available to those companies, and the rather obvious nature of our transit issues in San Francisco, how is it possible that these companies aren’t eager to work with San Francisco to solve transit issues rather than simply unload their own transit issues onto the backs of San Francisco citizens?

    • John

      Jerk, those corporations are Bay Area corporations and San Francisco actually imports more workers every day than it exports.

      So if you pursue your argument logically, SF is a net gainer from the fact that many Bay Areas choose to live and work in different cities and counties.

      IOW, SF collects payroll taxes from commuters who consume services elsewhere.

    • nutrisystem

      I think the Google Bus tale resonates with so many people because it captures, in miniature, the broader story of “bubbleization” of the elite and its effects on the society.

      The elite don’t try to fix public schools – it’s faster and easier for them to just make their own private schools.

      The elite don’t try to fix city parks – it’s faster and easier for them to join country clubs.

      The elite don’t try to fix public transportation – it’s faster and easier for them to just make their own transportation systems.

      And so on.

      The elite live in a bubble where everything works properly. While this is nice for them personally, it denies them vital experiential information. And since the elite are now (almost exclusively) positioned to affect corrective changes, this artificially rosy perspective prevents them from knowing what needs to be done.

      • John

        Private affluence; public squalor is not a new thing nor a local thing. It’s the system that generations of american voters have preferred because we are a nation of individualists and not a collectivist state like much of Europe.

        I do take the step you indicate because I have zero confidence that politicians can deliver to me the life I want in terms of transport, schools, recreation or anything else. In fact, if the city has a hand in something, it probably sucks.

        So I prefer to take independant steps and take responsibility for my own life rather than rely on others to hand it to me. There is something inherently American and courageous about being self-reliant.

        There is nothing to stop you joining the elite as well. But if you prefer to stay poor and whine about it enviously, you can do that too, because this is America.

  15. Michael

    I think it highlights the need for express buses on I-280. If you aren’t close to a caltrain station, then getting to locations on the Peninsula is pretty much impossible. Look South that is to Mexico and South America where the bus tends to be king and you will find luxury buses, such as the “frescão” in Rio de Janeiro that shuttles people nonstop from suburban districts with tour buses.

    If the MTA would sponsor public buses with WiFi, a comfortable seat, and nonstop service from SF to say Palo Alto on a tour bus for $5-$10 a ride, I bet it would be a hit and there would be less need for the private company shuttles. At least they could shuttle from coordinated stops, such as the Park & Ride lots near the I-280 exits from Palo Alto to San Jose.

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