The San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency’s board of directors on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to a deal negotiated between city leaders, tech companies and activists that extends the city’s disputed commuter shuttle bus program for 12 months.
The agreement was made under the condition that the shuttles’ impacts are studied and that the program regulating them will be revised accordingly.
With the transit authority’s sanction, the 790 shuttle buses that currently transport some 8,500 tech workers between San Francisco and Silicon Valley will be permitted to continue using the city’s Muni bus stops as shuttle boarding areas — which the negotiations capped at 125 citywide — for one year.
During this time, the program’s impacts on the environment, public infrastructure, traffic, and displacement will be assessed. District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who helped broker the deal in February, said that the city’s Budget & Legislative Analyst’s office will be commissioned to conduct this independent study — the program will be subject to a review in six months.
The deal, approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, was brokered in response to a coalition of activists and labor unions who opposed the permanent adoption of shuttle buses. The pilot program for regulating the buses ran from August 2014 to February 1 of this year.
If adopted without modifications, the program would have bypassed an environmental review and allowed the shuttles to continue operating in violation of the California Vehicle Code, which restricts public bus stops to common carriers, according to Sue Vaughan of the Coalition of Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit. The group, which has long opposed the shuttle bus program, dropped their appeal last week.
“[The deal] allows the program to continue without doing a full environmental review, which essentially would have killed it,” said Campos. “This allows us more time to look at issues that were raised.”
Vaughan agreed that the deal approved Tuesday will allow city and transit authorities to reexamine the program’s impacts and legality.
“This gives them time to get the program right,” said Vaughan. She said that the coalition’s ultimate goal is to get private shuttles out of public bus stops. “That curb space is really valuable and we will need it in order to improve our public transit system.”
Meanwhile, the state is considering making the loading and unloading of shuttle passengers at public bus stops and red zones permanently legal.
As part of the agreement, the coalition urged city and transit leaders to look into the creation of transit hubs, which would consolidate boarding areas but could inconvenience shuttle riders.
Campos said that the city will consider different options, but that he does not foresee the use of public bus stops to be discontinued entirely.
“There will be tweaks [to the program], but I think that the basic structure of the program will remain.”