Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) joined forces with several tech giants Monday to announce they’ve hammered out initial details of a pilot program for private commuter buses to use the city’s designated Muni stops.
The pilot program comes after more than a year of collaborative work with Genentech, Google, Apple, Facebook, Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation and the Bay Area Council, and the recent protests by activists demanding that the tech companies financially address their impact on the local economy. These shuttles have been violating the Curb Priority Law, which prohibits vehicles other than Muni from using bus zones.
The 18-month pilot program will allow the vehicles to use 200 bus stops (out of 2,500 citywide) for a daily fee based on the number of stops the bus makes.
The buses would be required to abide by agreed-upon guidelines such as yielding to Muni and avoiding steep and narrow streets. The buses cannot use unapproved Muni stops and all of the companies must be approved before using any of the stops.
The fee will cover the cost of administering and enforcing the pilot program. By law, the SFMTA can’t charge any fees beyond the cost to operate the program. To aid in enforcement, each commuter shuttle will be issued an identification placard.
“The private commuter shuttle sector has been growing very rapidly over the last few years and our policies are now catching up,” said Tom Nolan, the chairman of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board of Directors, in a press release. “How we deal with shuttles now is not sustainable and this proposal gives the board an opportunity to vote on a policy that increases safety, reduces impacts on Muni, provides more information, improves the flow of traffic and reduces driving simultaneously.”
While more than 35,000 people board tech shuttles each day en route to South San Francisco and Silicon Valley, the buses replace up to 45 million vehicle miles and 761,000 metric tons of carbon each year, according to the press release.
Currently the city doesn’t track which shuttles operate at what bus stops. By requiring that shuttle providers share their stops and routes with the Municipal Transportation Agency, the pilot program will help track buses and make sure only the approved companies are using the approved stops, according to the mayor’s office. It will also allow for easier tracking of complaints.
“These are the types of continued partnerships that are vital to efficient transportation management in a dense, growing city like San Francisco,” said Ed Reiskin, the SFMTA Director of Transportation.
The Municipal Transportation Agency Board will review the pilot program at its meeting on January 21. Following input from shuttle providers and San Francisco residents as to what shuttle stops to include, the board plans to approve final plans in late spring.