A San Francisco program regulating corporate commuter shuttles was on Tuesday unanimously granted permanent approval by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board despite ongoing complaints from some residents about the impact on city streets.
First launched in 2014 as a pilot program, the regulations allow shuttles to use city bus stops and designated shuttle zones in return for a fee and an agreement to abide by city regulations.
Participating shuttle companies are required to keep larger vehicles off of smaller streets, maintain labor peace, phase in newer vehicles with lower greenhouse gas emissions, provide vehicle tracking data and participate in driver safety training. They can be fined for violations of the regulations.
The program has been hailed as a success by transportation officials and business groups, who argue that it helps keep commuters who would otherwise drive off of city streets and freeways.
The Bay Area Council, a regional business group, has argued that shuttles, which carry around 10,000 people everyday in the Bay Area, eliminate 2 million car trips a year and 2,000 metric tons of carbon from the air.
"Today's vote is a huge win for commuters, employers and the environment," Adrian Covert, Vice President of Policy for the Bay Area Council, said in a statement. "Commuter shuttles are an important and growing part of the region's overall transportation network."
The shuttles have generated controversy in San Francisco, however, where residents have complained that they block city bus stops, obstruct traffic on small streets, idle in residential areas and violate traffic rules.
In addition, some have argued the shuttles encourage gentrification by making it easier for tech workers to live in the city, many miles from jobs on the Peninsula.
In response to an appeal of the program filed last year, the city had agreed to conduct a study of moving to a "hub" system, which would reduce the number of spots available for the shuttles to use to a few central hubs and require riders to travel to those locations.
However, that option was dropped by city staff after a study found that it would reduce shuttle ridership by anywhere from 24 to 48 percent and increase the number of drivers on the road.
While many of the more than 30 speakers at Tuesday's hearing called for greater enforcement efforts against shuttles violating the program or other improvements, the majority came out in support of the program.