SF Supes Adopt Deal for Commuter Shuttle Program

A tech shuttle on 24th and Valencia St. during one of the protests in which demonstrators blocked buses.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted today to dismiss an appeal calling for an environmental review of the city’s commuter shuttle program.

Instead, the Board approved several major modifications to the program including limiting the number of shuttle stops and establishing a six-month review of the program’s impacts on the environment, traffic, and housing. Opponents of the shuttle program and the tech companies agreed on these changes last week.

The negotiations resulted in capping the number of shuttle stops throughout the city at the current 125 locations and tasked city and transit leaders with finding ways to end traffic congestion and infrastructural impacts. One proposal is a hub system that consolidates boarding areas instead of using individual Muni bus stops.

“The point was…to allow it to continue in a more efficient way,” said District 9 Supervisor David Campos.

The parties also agreed to extend the program for another year. It will be reviewed over a six-month period to address environmental impacts and to look into a possible correlation between increased displacement and shuttle bus stops. The program’s revisions also call for rerouting the large shuttles off of small neighborhood streets and onto main roads.

The extension of the 18-month pilot, which expired on February 1 of this year, means that the Transit Agency, tech companies, and city leaders will have more time to address complaints before the program becomes permanent.

Opponents looked on this as a win considering that in November 2015, the Transit Board approved to adopt the pilot program permanently, without any modifications. The move inspired a lawsuit from advocates, which lead to negotiations and to Monday’s deal.

The pilot was implemented in August 2014 to manage some 790 shuttle buses from 15 shuttle operators that currently transport thousands of workers between San Francisco and Silicon Valley every day.

This is the best possible situation we could be in,” said Ariana Casanova, the political coordinator of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the group that filed the appeal. Casanova added that reviewing and adjusting the program will be an ongoing task that will extend well beyond the six-month review.

“I don’t see this as a done deal,” she said. “I see it as an ongoing, evolving issue that will require more attention.”

Casanova said two of the major issues with the program that remain are the corporate shuttles’ use of Muni bus stops and their effect on gentrification.

“The program itself is facilitating displacement,” said Leslie Dreyer, an organizer with the Housing Rights Committee. “They are talking about the issue in terms of transportation, we are talking about it as a housing problem.”

Data collected by the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project showed a 69 percent increase in evictions in areas surrounding shuttle stops from 2011 to 2013.

Tony Robles, a housing advocate with Senior and Disability Action, said that safety and housing concerns brought on by the shuttle buses affect the population that he serves.

“The selling of our neighborhoods to these buses is quite obnoxious — we have already bent over forwards and backwards for the tech industry,” he said.

Campos said that the ongoing discussion “will eventually lead us to call for the budget and legislative analyst to conduct an independent investigation to understand the impacts of the shuttles on housing here in San Francisco.”

The appellants agreed that the deal struck with city leaders and the tech companies was the best possible scenario for the time being.

“We got most of what we wanted,” said Sue Vaughan, a representative of the group that filed the appeal.  Vaughan explained the appeal was an effort to prevent the expiring pilot’s automatic adaptation as permanent. “What we got is a year timeline on the existence of the program, with a six-month review in place.”

Prior to the pilot program, the corporate shuttles operated largely unregulated in San Francisco’s neighborhoods. Paul Rose, a spokesperson for the city’s transit agency, once likened their conduct to the “wild wild west.” The Transit Board will vote on the proposed revisions to the program on March 1.

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