Muni approves pilot program to regulate tech buses

San Francisco has approved a plan to regulate so-called 'Google buses' that have been using Muni bus stops to pick up employees.
January 21, 2014 8:00:02 PM PST
San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency has voted to approve a plan to regulate so-called 'Google buses' that have been using Muni bus stops to pick up employees. It's creating huge controversy and even demonstrations in the city.

Tuesday morning, demonstrators blocked two commuter buses heading to Google and Facebook headquarters in the Silicon Valley.

For years private shuttles have used public muni bus stops to pick up and drop off employees,causing friction with Muni riders. Now the city plans to charge the shuttles $1 per day per stop, but that has only incensed the critics.

"$1, come on, that's criminal," protester Roberto Hernandez said.

But Muni's director says under state law they can only charge enough to cover the costs of implementing the new regulations, pegged at $1.5 million for an 18 month pilot program.

"It's paying for enforcement, establishing a permit program, signage, decals," Ed Reiskin said.

But the dozen or so companies could voluntarily pay more and the protesters feel they should. For them, the tech buses and well paid workers have become symbols of the city's growing class divide and San Francisco's affordability crisis.

But at the packed Muni hearing Tuesday, it was clear Google employees feel the anger is misguided.

"Not everyone at Google is a billionaire, like many people, 10 years after the fact I'm still paying off my student loans," one Google employee said at the hearing.

"It's not a luxury, it's just a thing on wheels that gets us to work," another said.

In the end, Muni's commissioners voted to approve the 18 month pilot program that will allow the shuttle buses access to about 200 of Muni's 2,500 bus stops. It's expected to begin in July.


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