A significant number of tech employees responded to a recent anonymous SFMTA survey seeking to determine possible locations for new tech-shuttle hubs that would decrease the impact the much maligned shuttles have on neighborhoods and Muni bus stops. And many of these commuters are threatening to give up using the shuttles and just drive or carpool if they don't stop just steps from their doorsteps as they do now. Those of us who still have to suffer the occasional indignities of regular public transit, though, probably don't have sympathy for these concerns, and in a data dump from the survey provided to SFist Tuesday, we have the IP addresses of many of the respondents who probably, as tech employees, should have known the responses wouldn't be 100 percent anonymous in that regard.
The survey, which closed to public responses on Monday, asked for location suggestions for potential shuttle hubs as well as allowed for open-ended responses. In addition to logging this data, the survey also recorded the IP addresses, zip codes, and cities of residence for respondents (even the latitude and longitude of some). That information, correlated with a time-stamp of the survey completion, gives us a pretty good idea of who filled out the survey while sitting at their Facebook, Google, or Apple desks.
The idea of the hubs, that the 125 tech-shuttle stops should be done away with and in their place the city should create consolidated pickup/drop-off spots where all tech buses converge, is understandably controversial imagine buying an apartment or signing an expensive lease with the location of your company's shuttle stop as a deciding factor. The creation of the hubs, and the removal of your shuttle stop, would certainly impact your commute, even if only by a few minutes on each end.
And so, while many of the more than 1,000 survey respondents politely suggested locations for hubs, others took another approach. Let's dive in (emphases added).
Responses From Facebook HQ:
- "The hub model is just about as dumb as the Board of Stupidvisors (with the exception of Mark Farrell, he's the only rational one in the lot), the SFMTA, Ed Lee, and pretty much the entire bloated, ineffective SF City government. Moving to a hub model would replicate the EXACT same problem that we currently have with CalTrain - it's impossible to get to on public transportation from other parts of the city (*impossible=slow, unreliable, crowded, and you run the risk of getting assaulted by a crazy meth addict), thereby pushing people to drive their owns cars, putting more cars on the road, further worsening already terrible traffic, and helping NO ONE, not even the idealistic NIMBYs that are pushing for this, and ultimately pushing actual tax-paying residents out of the city. News flash, this won't actually solve the housing problem."
- "If there isn't a shuttle stop within a 5 minute walk I will resort to driving to work, which is completely contrary to all of the above goals."
- "Dolores park. Dolores is a major street and the park would be a good spot for a lot of people to wait at."
- Any hub should be within a 5 minute walk from [19th Ave and Kirkham]. Otherwise me and a ton of other people will all resort to driving, which is going to add a ton of pressure to our already congested roads. Please don't let the anti-progress 'progressive' people dictate who should live in this city."
- "I believe this hub plan is a terrible model and should not be implemented. It will create more congestion as people travel through the city to their hubs, more difficult parking around hubs, more risk, NOT reduce any of the stated issues."
- "We already have a Hub system - it's called Caltrain. If Caltrain was a working system, then there would have been no need or market for Commuter Shuttles in the first place."
(Interestingly, a significant number of surveys completed with a Facebook IP all use almost exactly the same language, and were completed within a few hours of each other — suggesting that someone in the Facebook office sent out a form response for employees to use.)
Responses From Apple HQ:
- "You should not do anything to make the shuttle system more difficult. If you do, people will just drive themselves which will snarl traffic even more.
- "I think the Hub proposal would significantly devalue property in San Francisco and should not be pursued."
Responses From the Googleplex:
- The hub system is an absolutely terrible idea. It completely defeats the purpose of the shuttle program and is clearly designed to try and get rid of it all together by making it less appealing. If a hub is not within walking distance for me, you know what I'll do? Drive."
- "This is a terrible idea. Hubs will only create more gridlock and will force current users of private shuttles to get back in their cars."
- "This form does not allow comments on whether this approach is a good one. If the hub[s] are close to current stops it will be fine, but obviously this approach will significantly increase travel time for the majority of shuttle commuters who are already spending 4 hours on the bus every day given the horrendous traffic situation on the 101. Many people will be incentivized to move out of SF unless there are several hubs close the current stops."
- "PLEASE PLEASE DON'T DO THIS. IT WILL RUIN MY COMMUTE."
So, obviously, commuters don't want their commutes to change. The only problem is that critics of the system from the get-go have pointed to the direct impacts shuttle stops have on rising rents and gentrification in some neighborhoods, and how the shuttles create a caste system in which employees at certain companies are exempt from having to ever use public transit, and are thereby disinvested as residents in its improvement and is it really going to ruin so many lives if people have to hop on a Muni bus or a bike to go a few blocks further to catch their shuttles? Those who couldn't afford shuttle-adjacent apartments already do this anyway, and the fact is, all these people chose to commute rather than locate themselves closer to their jobs. (Plus, we already know that even with the shuttle program as-is, many SF-based Facebook employees have been gunning to get the company to let them work in the city and stop all this commuting.)
Either way, we now have some first-person insight as to how employees at three major Silicon Valley tech companies feel on the issue. And while the companies avoided an environmental-impact appeal on the shuttle program earlier this year, an array of public comments at the time drove the SFMTA to pledge to look into creating hubs, and to studying the impacts shuttles have had on housing costs.
It's unclear when the SFMTA will be formally considering the issue based on the survey findings.