It's hard out there for a tech bus. Or so it would seem, with an exhaustive report from NBC Bay Area revealing that the top companies responsible for shuttling workers to and from tech giants such as Facebook, Google, and Apple are cited for hundreds of traffic violations per year. What's more, the channel observes that many of these violations put pedestrians, cyclists, and those who ride Muni in direct danger.
The report identifies 125 commuter-shuttle stops throughout SF proper, of which 100 also happen to be Muni stops. This repurposing of public infrastructure for private use can lead to the situation pictured above, wherein a shuttle bus occupying a public bus stop forced Muni to load/unload passengers in the middle of the street. Indeed, that very concern was one of the many issues raised in the debate over whether or not to legitimize the then illegal practice of tech buses taking over Muni stops.
But in many cases tech shuttles occupying Muni stops arre perfectly legal these days, and the violations uncovered are of a different sort entirely, with over 800 citations for things like blocking bus zones, obstructing traffic, and blocking bike lanes in 2015 and 2016 alone.
"I think the current program bends over backwards to accommodate these tech companies," Supervisor Jane Kim told NBC. "Residents keep asking who is the city for, who do you represent? Do you represent all of us, or do you just represent a very small category of employers?”
The NBC team created a map of shuttle bus traffic violations, embedded below, and observed the following:
Bauer Transportation is at the top of the list with 176 citations. It provides transportation for companies like videogame developer Electronic Arts. Loop Transportation ranks second with 146 citations. Loop drops off riders to companies that include Facebook, Google, and Apple.Compass (SFO Airporter) received 95 citations. Compass also buses workers to Apple, as well as Yahoo and Genentech. WeDriveU ranked fourth with 89 citations. It shuttles employees to Google.
In addition to whatever fines the companies operating the buses are forced to pay, these repeat offenses could have serious impacts on their business models. Just last month, The Examiner reported that "48 complaints about Bauer’s shuttles between August 2015 and January 2016" (in addition to alleged union intimidation tactics) played a part in SFMTA's decision to deny the company's permit to use Muni bus stops.
“Bauer’s continued violations of these requirements has contributed to unacceptable traffic congestion” as well as “impeded safe and efficient Muni operations by blocking access to Muni stops,” SFMTA officials explained to Bauer at the time.
Regardless of the shuttles' sometimes scofflaw nature, supporters have cause to celebrate: This past Thursday a San Francisco judge dismissed a case brought by shuttle opponents claiming the buses' use of Muni stops violated state law. As a result, the tech-shuttle status quo, and all the potential traffic hazards that come with it, appear to be here to stay.