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Google's Memo Urges Employees to Attend SFMTA Meeting

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC Bay Area
    Passengers are seen boarding a so-called "Google bus" in this file image.

    The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency will vote on Tuesday on how it should share its bus stops with Google shuttles and Google plans to have its employees there with talking points, according to a report.

    The Google bus controversy stems from an idea that the tech boom has led to inequality in San Francisco and an elitist mentality where tech workers are separate from the city's other populations. Apparently aware of the importance of the meeting, Google sent out an email to its employees who use the shuttles last week and urged them to attend the public hearing and gave six talking points to use during public comments, according to TechCrunch. From the piece:

    Transportation Team XXXXX@google.com Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 11:35 AM Bcc: XXXX@google.com

    IF YOU DON’T RIDE THE SHUTTLE TO/FROM SF, YOU CAN STOP READING NOW. Dear Shuttle Riders,
    This Tuesday (1/21), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board will meet to vote on the proposed shuttle regulations we told you about last week. The hearing will take place on January 21 at 1pm PT at San Francisco City Hall (room 400). While we recognized that many of you won’t be able to make it during the workday, we encourage any interested Googlers who live in San Francisco to speak in favor of the proposal (please RSVP here if you are planning to attend). While you are not required to state where you work, you may confirm that Google is your employer if you are so inclined.
    If you do choose to speak in favor of the proposal we thought you might appreciate some guidance on what to say. Feel free to add your own style and opinion.
    *I am so proud to live in San Francisco and be a part of this community
    *I support local and small businesses in my neighborhood on a regular basis
    *My shuttle empowers my colleagues and I to reduce our carbon emissions by removing cars from the road
    *If the shuttle program didn’t exist, I would continue to live in San Francisco and drive to work on the peninsula
    *I am a shuttle rider, SF resident, and I volunteer at…..
    *Because of the above, I urge the Board to adopt this pilot as a reasonable step in the right direction
    You can read the full press release announcing the proposal here, and we’ll keep you updated in the coming weeks as the proposal moves towards approval. Feel free to email us at transport@google.com with any questions.
    Thanks, XXXX, on behalf of the Transportation Team
    If the SFMTA votes to approve the pilot 18-month Shuttle Partners Program, that would mean about 200 new legal commuter shuttle stops and charging the commuter buses $1 per stop, which doesn't result in any profit for the agency. The program would be paid for by the $1.5 million raised from tech companies whose employees live in the city, at about $100,000 per company
    A group protesting the buses and their use on city stop, Heart of the City, has suggested the buses pay a $271 fine each time they used the stops which would add up to around $1 billion. A tax would require voter approval, according to the SFMTA.
    There has been some doubt about the authenticity of the memo leaked to TechCrunch, with the New York Times doubting that Google would make such an amateur move as to coach or strong-arm its employees. We have to agree that it's unlike the "cleverest people" to be so obvious, especially when all this information could have been shared quietly and without an electronic/paper trail. But sometimes even clever people make mistakes.
    Update 7:25 p.m.: The SFMTA board of directors voted 5-0 Tuesday to approve the $1 per stop pilot program despite protests at the meeting. The program will start in July and the fee will apply to local hospitals and universities.