Activists, union challenge Google bus pilot program

Activist poet Tony Robles in the reflection of a tech bus, during a protest
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

San Francisco activists and labor filed an appeal of the controversial commuter shuttle (aka, the Google buses) pilot program to the Board of Supervisors today, alleging it was pushed through without a proper environmental review. 

The appeal was filed by a coalition of the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, SEIU 1021, The League of Pissed Off Voters, and Sara Shortt of the Housing Rights Committee. 

The shuttles, mostly to Silicon Valley tech firms, pick up passengers in Muni bus stops. The use of public bus stops would incur a $271 fine for private autos, and often do, but the shuttles have largely received a free pass from the city. Last month, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved of a pilot plan hatched behind closed doors that allows use of 200 bus stops by the private shuttles, charging only $1 per stop, per day.

The appeal alleges that the program needed review under the California Environmental Quality Act, which asks for projects to be analyzed for, among other things, land use, housing, and public health impacts. 

“CEQA actually identifies displacement as an environmental impact,” attorney Richard Drury, who filed the appeal on behalf of the coalition, told us. “Almost no one knows that. Honestly I didn’t know that, until I started researching all of this.”

If the Board of Supervisors doesn’t back the appeal, there may be a court battle on the environmental impact of the shuttle stops, which increase rents and home prices nearby. 

Paul Rose, spokeserpson for the SFMTA, responded to the complaint in an email to the Guardian.

"We developed this pilot proposal to help ensure the most efficient transportation network possible by reducing Muni delays and further reducing congestion on our roadways," Rose wrote. "We are confident that the CEQA clearance is appropriate and will be upheld.”

In the meantime, Drury told us, the coalition is performing environmental research of its own. It has experts from the US Environmental Protection Agency and other organizations analyzing diesel outputs from the shuttles, as well as the impact of shuttles on displacement. 

“CEQA review needs to have a review before they start the pilot, not after,” Drury said. “They’re basically doing it backwards: let’s have 200 stops and 35,000 people in the service, and figure out what happens.”

Some studies conducted already show that affluence rises wherever the shuttle stops are placed. One by Chris Walker, a 29 year old in Mumbai, India, shows rising property values in and around the Google bus stops from 2011 to 2013.


This heatmap shows a rise in property values appreciated near shuttle stops.

“We see the Google Bus as a part of a larger effort to privatize public spaces and services, displacing both current residents and the public transportation system we rely on,” said Alysabeth Alexander, Vice President of SEIU Local 1021, in a statement. “San Francisco has a long history and tradition as a union town. With the tech takeover, San Francisco is becoming inhospitable to working class families. Our wages are stagnant, as the cost of everything is skyrocketing. This is a shame.”


Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:05 pm

while the endless appeals work their way through the system. And in the end the city will be bound by state law not to make a dime over costs - so the $1 charge per stop will stand. And SEIU and the Housing Rights Committee will have wasted more of their funder's cash while doing absolutely nothing to halt evictions or CO2 emissions.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

Oh, that's brilliant. Rather than carpool through private shuttles, let's let all the city employees drive their cars all the way to the South Bay. I'm sure it'll have NO effect on both traffic and the environment. I'm sure all the carbon monoxide emitted and overuse of fossil fuel will prove to be better for all. And that's not including the road rage because of the increase in traffic jams and pile ups.

Right, everyone driving is a much more Eco-friendly option.


Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

>"The use of public bus stops would incur a $271 fine for private autos, and often do"

Would love to see the statistics showing that private vehicles are regularly fined for stopping in bus stops.

Anecdotally, I frequently see taxis dropping off and particularly picking up people at bus stops (drivers target bus stops to get fares from frustrated bus riding hopefuls).

Anyway, would be great if you could share your research indicating that private citizens are frequently given $271 tickets for stopping in a bus stop.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 7:50 pm

Been doing so for years.

Number of tickets? Zero.

Stay in your vehicle and it's a non issue.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:06 pm

stop all the time.

No tickets, not many buses either.

Posted by guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 9:11 pm

I described it in another thread. I stopped for only a short time, and someone was in the vehicle in case a bus came. So the above is just not true. You just got lucky. And you may not be so lucky for very long, because MUNI buses now have cameras that can ticket you for such violations. So if one of the camera-equipped buses goes by, your buddy may get a fat ticket even if he immediately leaves the scene.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:27 pm

Why don't you retell the whole story Greg? You stopped at the bus stop so you could run in and get a cup of coffee. Also, while there was a person in the car, he wasn't in the driver's seat. There's a big difference between picking/dropping someone off and leaving your car there with no driver so you can get your coffee.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:45 pm

It was Chilean sea bass. Yes, I know. Bad bad bad. But that detail is as irrelevant as the gender of the other person and the seat they were in. The relevant point is that no, staying in the vehicle will not save you from a ticket. Especially not from the bus camera tickets. The camera does not care about what seat the person is sitting in, the person's gender, or whether the driver is picking up his disabled grandmother or just getting an overpriced latte. The camera only cares that there is a vehicle in the red zone at the exact moment the MUNI bus comes by, and that the vehicle's license plate is readable.

Except that Google buses seem to be exempt from paying.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

a bus means that their being in a bus stop is not deemed as a massive problem in terms of enforcement priority, and rightly so.

And a given google bus only uses the stop ten times a week. I see other types of vehicles use bus stops far more, but because they don't contain people more successful than you, it doesn't seem to bother you.

In any event, there is now a deal sand so the problem goes away.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 9:30 am

So writing "bad bad bad" makes it an oopsie? I know I speak for all my fellow endangered species when I say, Fuck you. You should be hit with a CEQA suit for your actions, triple damages for acting like it's okay.

Posted by Chilean Sea Bass on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 12:18 pm

You know what? Forget what I just said. You just go on right ahead and keep occupying the bus zone. When the parking gestapo slaps that ticket on your window, just tell them the sage advice you received here from another troll: they told me stay in the vehicle and I'll be fine. I'm sure the parking gestapo will rip that $271 ticket right up.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 11:31 pm

You keep changing the subject Greg. The original topic was that people who pull their cars into a bus stop to pick up or drop someone off will rarely get a ticket. YOU decided to bring up the fact that you got a ticket while parked in a bus zone. You omitted the fact that you got out of your car to go get coffee or whatever. And it is relevant that there wasn't someone in the driver's seat. You left someone in the car. Big deal. What if that person can't drive? How're they gonna move it?

If you were smart you would've asked them to run your errand while you sat in the driver's seat. But you didn't. It was YOUR fuck up, not anyone else's. Quit blaming other people for your stupidity and arrogance. I've had the same situation countless times. I dropped my passenger off and circled the block and picked them up when they were ready. No ticket. Huh...

As for the MUNI cameras. That is a completely separate issue. You didn't get a ticket from the camera, did you? If people get tickets because of the camera, then that's THEIR fault. Just like someone giving you a ticket because you parked there. YOUR fault.

And the advice is use the stop to drop someone off/pick someone up. Not to leave your car there while you get your coffee.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:43 am

If all you do is drop off and pick up, the odds of a ticket are negligible.

I haven't been "lucky". I've done this maybe a thousands times or more. Odds are I would have gotten a ticket if it's enforced, so clearly it isn't unless you are a twat like Greg who does his weekly shopping while parked in a bus stop.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:07 am

Therefore, none of these stories are definitive proof of who is right or wrong on this issue.

That said, since you are giving out anecdotal evidence, I will do the same. I live on Mission Street (and I walk and talk the Muni to work here in SF). Everyday, I see cars driving in the "bus" lanes, and not just to make a turn, including past SF police cars--not once have I seen a private car ticketed for this. Also, I regularly see cars stop at corners on Mission Street in the bus stop area, and while I do see Muni bus drivers honk at them, I have never once witnessed any private automobile driver get ticketed. I have also seen SF police cars drive by and never once as one stopped and ticketed a private vehicle stopped at a Muni bus stop that I have seen.

I think my personal experience is just as valid as yours. It seems to me, the city does NOT regularly ticket private automobile drivers who stop at Muni stops--at least on Mission Street.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:15 am

and probably should be except in the most egregious of circumstances

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:28 am

Don't worry about a thing, Greg. As the troll said, as long as you stay in your vehicle you'll be juuusst fine.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 11:59 am

illegal parking. If you are in control of the vehicle and can move it in a moment, most cops will just tell you to move on.

Interestingly, a cop told me that putting on your hazard lights can help you avoid a ticket. At the margin, some cops will see that as an acknowledgment of the temporary inconvenience and obstacle, and give you a pass.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:11 pm

That's the point. Most bus stops are empty 95% of the time, even on Market Street. Stopping in one is wrong but in the hierarchy of every day life it isn't worth a police officer's time.

My complaint is that the SFBG constantly lies by saying that private cars are often ticketed. Most of us know that they are just making it up but it is still worthwhile to point out that they make stuff up.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

The other vehicles that use bus stops illegally do so all the time.

And the google buses remove cars from the streets.

So google shuttles are the most innocent of all vehicles that use Muni stops. Yet SFBG singles them out the most for ideological reasons.

SFBG is so biased and hateful it beggars belief.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

Actually you just proved who was right and it wasn't you Greg. You just contradicted yourself. You started out by saying people do get tickets for stopping at bus stops. You called multiple posters lucky for not getting tickets. Now even you say that your OWN anecdotal evidence shows that the doesn't regularly ticket private automobile drivers who stop at MUNI stops. Duuuuurrrr.....

And since you just admitted that the city doesn't regularly ticket cars at MUNI stops, you want them to single out the Google buses for tickets because you don't like them.

This is why you can never win an argument Greg. You end up shooting yourself in the foot every time you open your mouth.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:16 pm

being above-average in terms of intelligence and education. The problem is that it is grossly misapplied in his case because he is blinded by his prejudice. That's a major reason why smart people say stupid things.

Any remaining credibility is lost by his rants about cops, Asians and his stated willingness to lie to a justice to further his political ideology.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

That should be obvious, from the fact that I responded to him.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

These cameras are intended for auto-- or semi-auto-- ticketting of drivers using bus lanes--and, I believe, bus stops; so one might not see the tickets being issued.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:37 pm

crucially they do not show the driver's face, because the camera is forward facing.

So a driver can easily get off a ticket simply by claiming that he is innocent until proven guilty, and that there is no proof that he is driving.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:50 pm

The tickets being issued are not moving violations like the red-light cameras issue. Unless you are a stupid troll you wouldn't argue that the DPT has to get a photo of a driver's face to issue a parking ticket.

Posted by lillipublicans on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 1:05 pm

you who was driving.

You don't drive, do you?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

You can fight a parking ticket by claiming that you weren't driving the car? Tell the truth, you are actually 13 years old and have never driven a car in your life.

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

The MTA contends that pilot projects are exempt, can't remember if it is categorical or statutory, from environmental review if their intent is to collect data. That's how they did the Market, Folsom and 8th Street "double wide" bike lanes.

Posted by marcos on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:02 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:07 am

Regarding Joe Rodriguez's statement:

"Some studies conducted already show that affluence rises wherever the shuttle stops are placed. One by Chris Walker, a 29 year old in Mumbai, India, shows skyrocketing property values in and around the Google bus stops from 2011 to 2013."

If you read Walker's notes he states that the rising prices started long before the advent of tech shuttles and that it is very difficult to distinguish between correlation and causation in regard to the buses. Walker makes statements illustrating both sides of the argument and it is easy enough to just cherry pick the ones that you like. Joe Rodriguez makes the impression that Walker came to a firm conclusion, which is obviously not true.

Here is the link to the study that Joe Rodriguez misrepresents. You can see for yourself:!San_Francisco_Private_Shuttles

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:14 pm

MTA's job to worry about housing affordability.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:08 am

Who's job is it then? It's under nobodies purview.

Isn't it better to have some oversight over infrastructure development-- to weigh pro's and con's? I don't necessarily want to ban google buses, or some other knee-jerk reaction, I just want public oversight in the planning process.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:13 pm

and of course parts of DPW as well.

But this isn't a planning issue. The issue is what it costs the city to let the google shuttles pick up and set down passengers.

You cannot claim it causes congestion because it removes cars from the streets.

You cannot claim they pollute for the same reason.

And any knock-on effect on housing affordability is highly speculative, contentious, debateable and impossible to quantify anyway.

That's why I cannot come up with a better number than a buck a stop, and the city transit experts appear to agree with that.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

Fabricated schmabricated. Who cares about facts. It's all about hype, hysteria and political advantage-taking.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:34 pm

Are permitted to pick up and drop off fares at bus stops.

Posted by Anonymous on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 8:57 pm

Maybe that is because they pick up all city residents and anyone that needs a taxi. Unlike the Google buses that only picks up their workers yet takes over a citizen's bus stop to do so. Taxi serve the City's needs and these buses serve Silly Con Valley's needs.

Posted by Guest Richard on Feb. 26, 2014 @ 7:34 am

No they aren't.

Posted by Travis Bickle on Feb. 28, 2014 @ 12:39 pm

when Rob Anderson filed the EIR suit over the bike plan?

The SEIU's idea here is to extort more money because it's there. They could careless about policy or anyone living in the city other than members. They just want more money to be wasted on them and their make work jobs, as a former member I can safely state that as a fact.

Posted by guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 9:17 pm

were SEIU members. They're as big as whores as the corporations they claim to oppose and they know it too. Bankrupt hypocrite fucking liberals - they couldn't even get Volkswagen workers to vote to unionize in TN when the company didn't oppose their efforts. That's gotta hurt.

Out of the buses and into your cars!!

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 9:39 pm

Now there's a blast from the past! Is he still kickin' or has he already moved to Colma with his friends Arthur Evans and Joe Konopka?

PS... sorry to hear you lost your union job. But bitterness isn't going to help. In fact I hear that holding such grudges shortens your life. Maybe you should go take a Zen Buddhism workshop with the google-ites, or you might wind up like those not-too-old bitter curmudgeons named above.

Posted by Greg on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:34 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:42 pm
Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:09 am

San Francisco was a union town when there were unions there. What's left of them? SEIU and Transit Unions. Between them and the ineptitude among staffers at City Hall, SF has evolved into a large open dump. The city needs cleaning and sprucing up to reestablish itself as the jewel of the west it was in its prime. All of us in the bay area hope for that. Let the buses run. The workers that use them are coming home to SF and spending their time and money there. Be happy about that. Their being there primes the local economic pump and that can only help the locals.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 19, 2014 @ 10:23 pm

Nice information, There is obviously a lot. Your points are very valuable and knowledgeable. Thanks for sharing this great blog with us.

Posted by JackWitson on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 1:19 am

Awesome blog! Is your theme custom made or did
you download it from somewhere? A theme like yours with a few simple tweeks would really make my blog stand out.
Please let me know where you got your design. Kudos

Posted by Google on Jul. 08, 2014 @ 7:51 pm

Looks cool, I never knew you could post about it, good to know thanks! You show very latest and important things. This is very nice post! I will bookmark this blog.Let us know about myself

Posted by JackWitson on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 1:20 am

The city should also do an environmental review of all those free parking places that city workers get a municipal parking lots.

If city workers did not get all those free parking spots, they would be using public transportation and reducing carbon emissions.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 20, 2014 @ 7:24 am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.