The corporate shuttle services that run Google, Facebook and other tech company employees up and down the peninsula in their WiFi-enabled coaches have started getting increased scrutiny from City Hall.
The buses, which range in size from large vans to double-decker buses, have been visible for a while, and a map released by Stamen Design last month illuminated the privatized transit network. The problem is that many of the private shuttles stop at existing Muni stops, which is not only illegal, but it can clog up our already sluggish public transportation.
Supervisor Avalos, always a champion for public over private, wants to change that to make the private shuttles work for everybody by regulating the system through a permitting process. "I appreciate how private shuttles help reduce congestion and greenhouse gas emissions," Avalos said in a statement, "But their rapid growth makes it clear that we need sensible city policy to prevent this from growing into an unregulated Wild West era of shuttles competing with Muni for curb space."
Avalos also expressed concerns about some of the larger double-decker buses motoring up and down some of San Francisco's steepest streets and driving up housing costs near popular shuttle stops. (A recent rent increase at SFist's Western Branch Office a few blocks from the Haight & Divis stop that services Facebook, Yahoo and Google shuttles would seem to indicate this is definitely the case.)
According to a survey by the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, 80 percent of people riding the shuttles said they would be driving to work or otherwise wouldn't be able to live in San Francisco if they couldn't get the company-sponsored rides to work. On the other hand, if rents do shoot up around hubs like 24th and Valencia, where six of the biggest tech companies make pickups daily, there will probably be a lot of other people who won't be able to live in San Francisco either.
As for clogging up Muni stops, the Transportation Authority's study suggests that is never much of a problem. SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose explained that Muni, the Transportation Authority, and the Planning Department have been working together with employers to ensure the shuttles are running smoothly and will present recommendations for new policies sometime next spring.
Anecdotal evidence would also suggest that the Muni-Shuttle clash is less of an issue than it is made out to be. As one Muni rider put it to the Chronicle, the public transit commuters complaining about shuttles are "probably just jealous" that their rides to work are so dreary.