Google Offers Ferry Service to Offset Bus Critics

Responding to protests in San Francisco by some over Google buses, the Silicon Valley Internet giant began offering an alternate way to commute to work this week — gliding on water.

On Monday, Google started offering ferry service on a trial basis to take Google employees from the port in San Francisco to Redwood City's port and back, carting up to 150 people aboard the "Triumphant" twice each workday morning and afternoon.

A Google spokeswoman told NBC Bay Area on Tuesday that the program is still in its "very early days."

"We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents and we're trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work," Google said in a statement.

Port of Redwood City Manager Michael J. Giaria said a private bus takes employees from the ferry to the Mountain View Googleplex about 10 miles away. On Monday, he said, there were about 40 Googlers who used the ferry.

Giara said Google has signed a contract through Feb. 7 in Redwood City, and that Google is paying a standard $95 daily docking fee and a $1.75-per-passenger fee. If the boat is full, that would be about $260 a day.

In San Francisco, the rates varied slightly. Port spokeswoman Renee Dunn Martin said the 30-day trial run rate is about $26.50 a day and Multi National Logistics USA is paying the port $4,000 to berth the ferry for a month when not in use at Pier 19. If Google wants to extend the ferry service past a month, the pork will "negotiate a higher rate."

The immediate reaction was mostly positive.

"If it gives people jobs, then yeah, it's OK," said Pearl Villanueva of San Francisco when asked about the service.

And on NBC Bay Area's Facebook page, Melissa Brzescinski wrote: "I think this is awesome!! Why don't more employers do this?? Great idea!"

Still, there were critics.

"If you have the money and the power, you can do anything you want," said Star Amerasu of San Francisco. "I think that really shows in San Francisco with Google and public transportation now they're taking over that. So, they’re doing buses and ferries and soon they’ll do planes and it’s just like everything is going to be taken over people people who have the power."

The search giant had drawn the ire of protestors who share some of Amerasu's opinions and who have been known to block Google buses shuttling Googlers from the city to Silicon Valley. Some critics blame rising rents in the Bay Area on the tech elite, who can afford to pay much more with big salaries. And they said that the high prices just happened to be right around the high-tech bus pick-up and drop-off locations.

MORE: Commuter Buses to Pay Fee to Use San Francisco Bus Stops

Adding to the resentment was the fact that the buses pick up passengers at stops designated for San Francisco's official public transportation without paying the city. However, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said on Monday that the city would start charging the tech buses for stopping at public bus stops.

The bus deal is between Google and other high-tech companies, where the latter will have to pay what equates to about a dollar per stop to use 200 specific Muni zones.That works out to be roughly $100,000 per company during the 18-month project. The estimation is to collect a total of $1.5 million to recoup the costs of the project.

The Google ferry should not be confused with the mysterious Google Barge that appeared on Treasure Island and will eventually become a retail space.


A new way to get to work for Google employees. A Google ferry is seen in this photo by NBC Bay Area reporter Kris Sanchez taken Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014.

NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. and Kris Sanchez contributed to this report.

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