Protesters blockade an Apple shuttle bus at the Valencia St. and 24th St. Muni stop. A protester ironically takes a photo with her iPhone. Photo by Courtney Quirin.

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.

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Courtney Quirin is a trained wildlife ecologist turned environmental journalist with a knack for photography and visual storytelling. Though her interests span many topics and disciplines, she's particularly keen on capturing multimedia stories pertaining to the global wildlife trade, human-wildlife relationships, food security, international development and the effects of global markets on local environments and cultural fabric. Courtney completed a MSc in Wildlife Management at the University of Otago, New Zealand, where she not only learned how to catch and tag fur seals (among many things) but also traveled to the highlands of Ethiopia to identify the nature and extent of farmer-primate conflict and its linkages to changes in political regime, land tenure, food security, and perceptions of risk. From New Zealand Courtney landed at The Ohio State University to investigate urban coyotes for her PhD, but just shy of 2 years deep into the degree, she realized that her true passions lie within investigative journalism. Since moving into the world of journalism, Courtney has been a contributor to Bay Nature Magazine, a ghostwriter for WildAid, and the science writer for While at Berkeley's J-School Courtney will focus on international environmental reporting through the lens of documentary filmmaking and TV.

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  1. One fact that is lost in this discussion is that the national economy remains in a deep recession/depression and is not generating enough good paying, entry level jobs for recent college graduates with room to move up the ladder.

    Since the Bay Area is one of the only regions with those type of jobs, the labor and housing markets are highly distorted, leading to real estate hyperinflation.

    Those who blame rent control are way off base. Rent control is not new and doesn’t apply to new construction, but this latest wave of rent and real estate hyperinflation is just a couple of years old.

  2. Mission Local, you had a good run with this “bus” bullshit, didn’t you? Are you all scrambling to come up with new sensationalist headlines to incite fear, create racial divide, and encourage violence in order to keep your “ad dollars” up?

    1. The ML student journalists aren’t seeing a big payday from ad revenue.

      You’ve got them mixed up with the corporate media..

      The bus story is as real as it gets. Why do you want it censored? We have freedom of the press in the USA.

      1. These students need to learn what Fair and Balanced journalism is all about. This would also be a good opportunity for them to learn how the world really works.

        Its not determined by protesting wonks, nor is it determined by political animals like Campos. Perhaps that by working together in a civilized fashion (sans comment sections) can be a better spend of time.


        Also, that Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig are all bullshit.

          1. Or it might be time for you, marcos and landline to move to a news site that advocates for mindless socialism.

          2. You will notice my response was framed in exactly the same form as the post I was responding to.

            Take it up with him, not me.

        1. He didn’t attack me, you did. You continuously state that you stay on-topic and don’t name call or use personal attack. I am only pointing out your hypocrisy.

          1. This was a decent website until you instigated flame wars with your name calling and excessive posting. You started off this thread by assuming the motivations of activists as “envious and bitter and resentful.” Personal attack and potentially libelous and name calling.

            You responded to Kaliman’s suggestion by attacking him, me and marcos. You write 40% of the comments and then feign surprise when you become the issue. Isn’t that what you want?

            I’m not attacking you. I’m just describing the fact that your comments are speculative, personal attacks, potentially libelous and excessive. Deal with it.

          2. Your obsession with me is a testament to the fact that I am bringing up important issues, am ensuring a greater diversity of viewpoints, and am encouraging debate and activity here.

            I cannot see a single post of yours in this thread that isn’t attacking me. Is that really the reputation you want to have here?

      2. Maybe they get graded by the number of posts their articles generate. Hope I’m helping 🙂

        1. I feel sure that ML wants to see more activity and eyeballs here, regardless of their revenue sources.

  3. Good to see some resolution to this issue. Now maybe the protesters will focus their energy where it belongs, i.e., getting the city to increase the construction of market rate housing.

    1. I think they prefer protesting. You know, fighting the good fight. Helps them validate their self worth and existence. Keep frisco colorful!

      1. Yes, I wish these folks would instead direct their energy to helping Habitat for Humanity.

        Or helping at a homeless shelter.

          1. I am categorizing the failings of those who advocate a failed policy.

            That is entirely reasonable and appropriate in the context.

            You are the one being personal.

    2. There’s plenty of market rate housing under construction, just look at all of those cranes. Get back to me about how we need to build more market rate housing when all of that new housing comes online and prices continue to rise.

      1. But for those thousands of new market-rate housing being built, prices and rents would be even higher, and more of the folks who will buy them would instead by driving Ellis/TIC migration.

        You might think we need more BMR housing and maybe we do. But the money isn’t there for that, so we build what we can.

        Building sure beats whining or being a kneejerk NIMBY.

        1. Building only market rate causes prices to increase, Housing is an aberration pf classic supply and demand (for reasons I’ve previously noted).. Each new unit raises the market average price and median price, and like tulip bulbs and dotcoms, rapid expansion breeds speculation, and a classic bubble develops.

          If you really believe that the demand is organic, and prices keep skyrocketing because we’re not building fast enough, you would have no problem limiting sales to owner-occupancy. But, as private equity funds, hedge funds, foreign national in capital flight, and other speculators account for %25-%40 of the market, such a move would crater housing prices faster than you could shout HOUSING BUBBLE 2.0.

          1. You should join the dark side. You’d be good at making a few bucks! Get in, get out before housing bubble 2.0!

          2. Yes, John, it’s called “reverse elasticity.”

            It’s rarely talked about because it uncomfortably contradicts standard neo-classical economic theory, the magic of the “invisible hand,” and the holy, unquestionable, perfect and eternal source of all virtue that is capitalism . You certainly didn’t hear about it in Econ 1, but if you study econ at a higher level, it is an acknowledged factor.

            Post-Keynesians like Hyman Minsky and other heterodox economists discuss how reverse elasticity is a characteristic of bubble.economies, although they might use different terms to describe the same phenomenon..

            Even neo-classical economics — wrong as it is about so many things — acknowledges reverse elasticity can exist in luxury goods. It’s why brands like Prada and Gucci charge so much: the price creates its own demand.

          3. So your point, two beers, is that in addition to the economics that is taught in the leading universities and business schools around the world, there is also an Alice-in-Wonderland, topsy-turvy school of economics that just happens to fit with your extreme left-wing world view?

            That really is a remarkable coincidence. Up is down and black is white in your magic fairytale world where the normal laws of supply and demand are suspended, along with all logic and empirical data, evidently.

          4. Yes, John, most of what is taught as ‘economics” is from the dominant “neo-classical” school. and most of it is garbage. I’s not a hard science, and as a social science, it is spurious at best. It consists of silly and easily-disproved mathematical and graphical models that have repeatedly failed to accurately predict future economic events, and have been useless and down-right counter-productive when its recommended policies are implemented.

            On the other hand, there is a small but very vigorous school of “heterodox” economics which has a remarkably successful track record in predicting future events, and has a similarly successful track record when its recommended policies are implemented. Most, but not all, of the heterodox economists are indeed left of center. As has been noted, facts have a liberal bias.

            Greenspan, after missing the largest bubble in history,admitted his theory was flawed. However, Dean Baker, for example, described the bubble early and accurately. His theory wasn’t flawed, now, was it? But his theories aren’t favored by Wall St, so they aren’t taught in most econ programs.

            You cleave to theories which can’t perceive massive bubbles because those theories reinforce your worldview and self-interests, and you ignore those belittle those theories which accurately discern bubbles, because those theories reveal the errors in your understanding of economics and pose a political threat to your perceived self-interests.

          5. You know, two beers, if there really was a set of rules that predicted bubbles and the bursting of them, then there would be some very clever hedge fund managers who could make colossal profits.

            Now, there was that one guy (Jim Paulsen) who made a few billion by betting against mortgage bonds in 2008. Did he follow the Heterodox school of thought?

            These days I make more money from securities trading than real estate, so I am always interested in lines of thought and angles, particularly those not used by others as that is where the edge can be.

            All that said, a theory that says that increased supply of anything increases the price of it has a large burden of proof to overcome over it’s more logical and intuitive competition.

            Your point seems to be that if I want my RE investments to appreciate, I should support the massive building of competing units. That really is hard to get my head around.

          6. Neo-classical economics assumes that market information is symmetrical and accurate, and that all actors in the market behave rationally. Without these assumptions, the marginalist conclusions of the theory collapse.

            Market information is in fact highly asymmetrically distributed, misinformation is widely disseminated, and actors frequently behave irrationally.

            That’s why the first word out of a neo-classical economist’s mouth is “Assume…” because their theories never stand up in the real world.

            The neo-classical economist’s favorite phrase is “ceteris parebus,” “all things being equal,” because their theories only work in imaginary models.

            It’s pseudo-scientific garbage. Students would be better served learning phrenology.

          7. Here you go, from the well-known communist rag, “Business Insider.”


            It’s a come-to-Jesus moment for Arthur Laffer, of Laffer Curve fame.

            Textbook neo-classical theory says that QE2 should have caused higher interest rates and inflation, because money was seemingly flooding the economy.

            In fact, and despite the local real estate bubble, we are actually still in disinflation (the polite word for :deflation”). Heterodox econ predicted this and explains why it is so.

            Laffer (like Greenspan! admits he was wrong.

            I think he a lousy economist, a joke, actually, but I will grant that he has integrity if he is able to admit that his theories are wrong, but he still hedges his bets.

            Of course he was wrong: the entire framework of his theories is bogus.

          8. “Your point seems to be that if I want my RE investments to appreciate, I should support the massive building of competing units. That really is hard to get my head around.”

            But, you do support the building boom. Are you telling me you support this out of altruism, and not because you understand how it will raise the value of your property? Mother Teresa, is that you?

          9. I can describe what I think would be good for housing affordability in SF. And that is a massive building program of new homes (along with easing or abolishing rent control and various zoning restrictions).

            But I can also seriously doubt that that will ever happen, in which case it is surely my duty to try and profit from that situation.

          10. That may be true but such a profession leads to an awareness of what drives housing costs and, as such, I am in a good position to know what might make homes more affordable in SF, if only because that is the outcome I most fear on a personal level.

            Put another way, I think the net effect of all housing activists and advocates and non-profits and politicians is to make homes here more expensive.

          11. Per two beers: “Market information is in fact highly asymmetrically distributed, misinformation is widely disseminated, and actors frequently behave irrationally.”

            Per John: “Put another way, I think the net effect of all housing activists and advocates and non-profits and politicians is to make homes here more expensive.”

            You guys are talking among similar lines here.

          12. Yes, I had thought the same thing. If building new homes doesn’t make homes cheaper, then surely socialist policies designed to reduce housing costs can make those homes more expensive?

            The heterodox argument cuts both ways.

            Rent control is the perfect example. It has led directly both to 30,000 units being held off the market and to a massive conversion of rental units to owner-occupation.

            How are tenants helped by this except for a few lucky ones who sit tight for decades and who get lucky enough not to be Ellis’ed?

      2. It’s still not enough to meet the demand, and, unfortunately, I don’t think that’s going to be possible over the next few years. It will most likely take a decade or more of sustained housing construction; a tech bubble burst or two (or something else that would slow down the constant influx of new residents) wouldn’t hurt, either, although that would have its own set of problems.

        1. Or we could simply continue with the current policies and let prices balance the supply and demand.

          Those new knowledge workers can be housed in SF even with no new homes IF an equivalent number of current residents continue to do what they have been doing and move to Oakland or other parts of the Bay Area.

          Only about 20% of people in the Bay Area need to live in SF. We’re just quibbling over which 20% that is,

  4. Do I think companies that use muni stops on a regular basis should pay some impact fee for use of city streets, etc? Yes.

    But this thing is such a lame and bureaucratic boondoggle. SFMTA has apparently been “in talks” with tech cos’ for over a year. When a fire is lit under their ass, this is what they come up with? Some stupid let’s register so we can track these busses and some vague fees thing? What are we in Russia?

    1. It’s a cynical bit of window dressing by the bought-and-paid-for Lee administration, which hopes this will be seen as “fair”.

      This move accomplishes nothing but the creation of a few more patronage jobs.

      The problem is not buses per se, but skyrocketing housing costs.

      1. Yeah, maybe we can get google to pay some sort of impact fee for every Ellis eviction or something.

        1. Or Google’s can-do engineers could create a stylish virtual reality headset for homeless folks that gives them the impression they are indoors.

      2. Can you prove any link between people taking a bus to work and the fact that you cannot afford the home you think you should be entitled to?

        Or do you just hate success?

          1. Your statement is. Exactly my point. I am discussing the issue and you are attacking me for doing so.

        1. Yes, I can prove it…

          AXIOM 1 ) computer-programmer males wish to mate, and thus gravitate towards habitats rich in mating-age females.

          AXIOM 2 ) the SF habitat contains more mating-age females than Mountain View habitat.

          COROLLARY A: FROM AXIOM 1 + AXIOM 2) -> computer programmer males gravitate towards SF versus Mt View.

          AXIOM 3 ) people are more likely to do something if it’s made easier for them.

          AXIOM 4) the luxury tech-bus availability makes it easier to live far away from work.

          COROLLARY B: FROM AXIOM 3 AND 4) -> tech bus availability makes it more likely that a person will live far from work.

          CORROLLARY C: FROM COROLLARY A and COROLARRY B ) -> tech-bus availability increases the number of computer programmer males who work in Mt View but choose to live in SF.

          AXIOM 5) Increased demand in a saturated housing market drives up housing costs.

          CONCLUSION: FROM COROLLARY C and AXIOM 5) -> tech bus availability drives up housing costs in San Francisco.

          1. Bravo nutri!

            I don’t get why there are some people out there who don’t see the correlation between the thousands of workers shuttled to SF and driving up housing costs.

            Study after study has proven this.

          2. Kaliman, I have seen no such studies. Those folks are living here already and that is why the buses run.

            Americans are free to both live and work where they wish. Why does that concern you?

          3. SPUR actually speaks of SF being a gene pool for creative twenty somethings to pair bond before flinging out to the suburbs to mate.

            The MTA conducted a survey of google bus riders to craft this policy. They did not ask riders whether they would live closer to work in the absence of shuttle service. Fortunately, UC Berkeley did a survey and asked that question. 40% of respondents would not live in SF without shuttles. Looks like our work is cut out for us.

          4. Attempts at social engineering always fail. Let people live wherever they wish, and provide the commuting options that provide the most choice and convenience.

  5. Excellent. So now this tempest in a teacup about commuter buses has been resolved, we can recognize this as the non-issue it always was.

    And what or who will those few dozen protesters spend their time getting envious and bitter and resentful about now?

    1. The protesters will have a toast for shaming the city into doing something about the scofflaw buses. Congrats, friends!

    2. Envious? Bitter? You’re ridiculous John. And there will still be protests until YOU techno selfish, entitled spoiled gentrifying children learn to respect our City and it’s Culture or go back to the Midwest where you came from. We love our home…we don’t live here because we think it’s ‘so cool to live in San Francisco’. We live here because we were born here for generations.

      1. “We live here because we were born here for generations.”

        Are you suggesting that half of SF vacate?

      2. Please girlfriend, pull the pretentious and entitled “we live here” pencil out of your ass. Thanks.

      3. Always surprised to see so many people with this anti-immigration sentiment in such a progressive town. Maybe you could form an SF chapter of the Minutemen to keep the undesirables off of your land?

    3. Geez John. Get a handle on yourself. You’ve commented on every article about this “tempest in a tea cup” issue.

        1. your crime is not having anything else to do beside mastering the art of argumentative talking. Sad.