When the SFMTA’s new pilot program to regulate tech shuttles starts in August, few will notice much change as the pilot program will shift the location of some stops but will keep close to the same number of stops operating in the Mission.
According to a map of proposed stops released by SFMTA, the program will remove six existing tech shuttle stops from the neighborhood, but it will add five new ones in slightly different locations.
Under the private-public collaboration, the proposed 18-month program will charge commuter shuttles including those from Google, Apple, Yahoo and Facebook $1 for every stop for as many as 84 Muni bus stops citywide.
In the Mission, the tech shuttle stops at Mission and 15th Street, Dolores and 16th, Potrero and 18th, Valencia and 20th, Valencia and 26th, Valencia and 24th and Church and 24th will no longer be used as of August 1. However, new stops are being added to existing public Muni stops at 16th Street and Mission, 18th and Mission, Caesar Chavez and Valencia, Caesar Chavez and Mission and Caesar Chavez and Alabama.
Because the tech shuttles have been largely unregulated up until now, our map above gives an approximate picture of the situation now and what it will look like after the pilot program gets started. According to Kirsten Holland, a spokesperson for the SFMTA, the agency did not have complete information on where the shuttles are currently operating.
But in a rough comparison of maps from Stamen Design and Dotspotting, there are currently 14 tech shuttle stops scattered throughout the Mission. Once the pilot program goes into effect, there will be 13.
“We need consistency,” said Carli Paine, an SFMTA project planner in charge of the pilot program, who spoke earlier this month at a public hearing. “The purpose of this pilot is to really test out, ‘Can we accommodate these shuttle operations—and can we do that with minimal impact on the existing network?’”
According to Holland, the proposed shuttle stops were selected for the new pilot network based on feedback from 18 shuttle providers and community input by way of an interactive map. The SFMTA also conducted field observations to better understand the conflicts where Muni buses and tech shuttles were occurring.
“I think that’s great for everybody,” said an Apple employee of the pilot program as he boarded the 8 a.m. commuter shuttle on Mission near 15th Street. “I live about a 10-minute walk away, so it’d be easier to get to work for me.”
“As long as the supply can meet the demand, that’s fine,” said another as he also took the commuter shuttle on Mission near 15th Street.
Under the private-public collaboration, the program will charge the private shuttles $1 for every stop per day at 84 Muni bus stops citywide. According to city officials, state law prohibits the city from charging more. But a group of tenant activists and labor leaders filed a lawsuit earlier this month opposing the program, explaining that it violates state traffic code and environmental law.
For many, the shuttles have become symbols of a tech takeover in the Mission, one associated with high rents and high eviction rates. Some 69 percent of no-fault evictions occur within a four-block radius of the shuttle stops, according to an Anti-Eviction Mapping Project study, and eviction rates have been highest in the Mission.
Ultimately, the shuttle stop-sharing program is an attempt to resolve community tensions and incorporate the tech employee shuttles into the broader city system, according to Paine.
Holland said that this will make it easier to accommodate the shuttles, ensuring that there is enough room for shuttles and Muni buses without blocking crosswalks or bike lanes. The proposed pilot program will also take away—permanently or for certain hours of the day—33 parking spots in various neighborhoods across the city. However, no parking spots will be taken away in the Mission.
While many have been critical of the shuttles, some laud the effort to decrease traffic congestion and reduce car dependency on city streets. The shuttles eliminate at least 761,000 metric tons of carbon every year from Bay Area roads and air, according to an SFMTA press release.
“I don’t know how I feel about the issue,” said Stephanie Moquin, who waited at a bus stop on 16th Street, which will soon be shared with a tech shuttle. “But I think it’s good that they’re taking more cars off the road.”
“Traffic congestion is a citywide problem and these buses are an important tool to reduce it,” said Adrian Covert, a policy manager at the Bay Area Council and Mission resident, who spoke at a June 20th public hearing on the proposed shuttle stops.
On SFMTA’s interactive web tool in which users were able to contribute their feedback on the proposed stops, one resident wrote, “I use a wheelchair, and can never get through on the sidewalk [on Valencia and 24th Street] because shuttle riders block the space. I’m forced to push myself a block further away just to get past this block. If the shuttles were gone from this corner, I’d be able to use the public sidewalk again.”
See SFMTA’s map of new shuttle stops around the city below:
Proposed Shuttle Network 140611, courtesy SFMTA