SFMTA Holds Public Hearing on Tech Buses That Use Muni Stops

The City is planning to make high-tech companies, from Apple to Google, pony up some cash to pay for publicly funded bus stops

Every morning around 8:30, Google employee Gaurav Dosi leaves his apartment in the Mission, walks to 18th and Dolores, and then he waits.

“It’s great! I take the bus every morning,” said of the tech company’s shuttle bus that runs every 20 to 30 minutes. “It’s just convenient to take to work and I can use the shuttle with Wi-Fi to start working on the bus, itself, so it’s super-efficient, as well.”

San Francisco's commuter shuttle program to use Muni stops for so-called tech buses was the subject of a public hearing Friday in the wake of a lawsuit by transportation activists trying to block commuter shuttles from using publicly funded stops.

The 18-month pilot program is set to begin Aug. 1. The start date was pushed back a month because there were too many hearings to hold, according to the SFMTA.

For Jeri Lynn Cohen, who has lived in the Mission since 1996, the tech buses have changed the face of her neighborhood. While she said she doesn’t like it, she added that she would be fine with the private shuttles using public stops as long as the tech companies foot the bill.

"I think it takes more cars off the street, parking isn’t as traumatic as it used to be, but I do think they should pay for it,” Cohen said. “I think they have the money.”

The suit was filed in May by a coalition including Service Employees International Union Local 1021 over concerns that the shuttles -- used by companies like Google, Apple and Genentech -- have attracted more highly paid workers to the city, driving up housing costs.

The suit came after a January decision by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which approved an 18-month pilot program to allow the tech shuttles to use a select number of Muni stops for a per-stop daily fee of $1.

The move, which would bring a total of $1.6 million to pay for the program, was in response to years of complaints from residents and city officials about these shuttles' illegal use of public-transit infrastructure.

The pilot program, however, merely sparked more controversy, as housing-rights activists and others began criticizing the shuttles as symbols of Yuppie gentrification.

No action will be taken by the SFMTA at Friday's hearing, though the board will hear feedback on the stops, which were selected through requests from shuttle companies and input from community meetings and a crowdsourcing map. The board of directors meets again on July 15.

The pilot, which is moving forward despite the lawsuit, had a July 1 launch date, but was moved to Aug. 1 because all the necessary hearings would not fit in the board of directors' summer schedule, Program Manager Carli Paine of the SFMTA told the San Francisco Examiner. 

The pilot program is moving forward with 111 stops, which include 100 Muni zones, 10 new white zones for shuttles and one extension of an existing white zone, designed for shuttle loading only, to separate Muni and shuttle activity at high-volume stops. An additional 10 to 15 stops will go before a similar SFMTA hearing July 11.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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