Nearly 400 commuter shuttles travel through San Francisco every day, but are they paying their fair share? That’s the question posed by critics who argue companies that operate these “Tech Buses” should pay more for their use of public bus stops and damaging city streets. Investigative reporter Bigad Shaban reports on a story that first aired May 3, 2018…(more)
: washingtonpost – excerpt
Commuters tire of the \shuttle bus shuffle that crawls through San Francisco streets. Crowded Muni is painfully slow and standing room only is hardly a ride worth taking when other modes offer clean, comfortable seats.
Transit ridership fell in 31 of 35 major metropolitan areas in the U.S. last year, including each of the seven cities that serve the majority of riders, with losses largely stemming from buses, but punctuated by reliability issues on systems like Metro, according to an annual overview of public transit usage.
The analysis by the New York-based TransitCenter advocacy group, using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Transit Database, raises alarm about the state of “legacy” public transit systems in the Northeast and Midwest and rising vehicle ownership and car-based commuting in cities nationwide.
Researchers concluded that factors such as lower fuel costs, increased teleworking, higher car ownership and the rise of alternatives such as Uber and Lyft are pulling people off trains and buses at record levels…
“Transit systems should deliver quality service to low-income people. But low-income people do not owe us a transit system.”…
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfexaminer – excerpt
The City is on the cusp of approving new regulations that will officially bar private transit service Chariot — and similar jitney services, should they arise — from directly competing with existing Muni routes.
Late last year, The City approved its first-ever comprehensive regulations of jitneys, which chiefly govern San Francisco’s only remaining private mass-transit service, Chariot… (more)
By Robyn Purchia : sfexaminer – excerpt
Accommodating these diesel monsters is not helping clean the air.
SFMTA directors have argued that electric vehicle technology is not ready, instead authorizing the purchase of hundreds of new trolleys and planning to expand The City’s diesel hybrid fleet.
With our Bay breezes and environmental ethos, San Francisco typically boasts better air quality than other cities, but that doesn’t mean San Franciscans are breathing easy. In a letter to the state last year, the San Francisco Municipal Transporation Agency stated 70 percent of San Franciscans are exposed to significant diesel exhaust levels, a primary cause of lung disease and asthma.
While city officials struggle to control congestion from Uber and Lyft rides, they’ve fallen asleep at the wheel in tackling a source of these fumes: Muni buses…. (more)
Don’t ignore the construction dust.
Shuttle bus brigade takes how many cars off the street and moves how many people at a time? According to one neighbor, only 3 or 4 people are on some of these behemoths. How practical of a solution is this?
Friday June 16, 10 AM
Room 416 City Hall – Public Hearing on Shuttle zone changes
Letter regarding shuttle bus program with Hearing sent to Ed, who is working on the shuttle bus problem on 24th Street in Noe Valley:
Thanks for sending (list of complaints). I’ve passed along your notes from the last couple weeks to the appropriate shuttle operators. A few things I wanted to note:
- We’ve recently communicated with a few companies that are missing a sticker or two on their vehicles as you have noted, and we have provided them with replacements for those stickers. We’re creating an official process in the new Salesforce portal that is being built for the program for shuttle operators to request replacement stickers and to indicate the reason why they need new stickers (i.e. new paint job, replaced bumper, etc)
- We’re speaking with our engineers about policies around shuttles staging in the Valencia turn lane
- Shuttle zone changes are going to public hearing next Friday 6/16 at 10am in City Hall Room 416. We look forward to seeing you there and I’d be happy to talk to you about the proposal before then as well.Thanks,Alex
Op-ed By Mari Eliza – published in The Potrero View
Lingering controversy over “tech buses” – shuttles conveying high technology workers here, there, and everywhere – is related to who gets to ride them and how far a would-be passenger has to walk to catch a public or private bus. The free ride and exclusive social element sets the tech buses apart, and causes animosity between tech shuttle riders and everyone else.
Muni riders are having their bus stops cut, and seats removed. Shuttles appear to be free, clean and comfortable. They also seem to be closer to a door-to-door service, while Muni is forcing its riders to take longer walks by eliminating stops.
It could be an illusion, but it’s certainly a perception. A new privileged class system is rearing its ugly head. The wealth and privilege associated with tech buses adds to feelings of social inequality. Shuttles have become the catalyst for anger that needs an object to lash out against because they’re so visible and appear to be unregulated, ignoring laws and getting away with it.
Neighborhoods want to kick the shuttles out. Developers want to eject low rent tenants. Both sides are lining up to protect their turf.
Report by Edward Mason with comments
Summary of the February 21, 2017 MTA Board meeting
Making the Commuter Bus program Permanent
Three representatives from the Teamster’s Union declared the program a win-win for all: jobs, profits all around; “labor harmony;” and the streamlining of the shuttle operation, including coordination with residents.
One after the other, the commuter buses patrons presented their case: reduction of dependence on cars; ease of travel, with consequent savings to their personal time; the avoidance of 40 minutes on Muni and/or a full CalTrain. Some argued that they ride the commuter bus because there is no shuttle to work from the CalTrain Station. (According to a former Apple employee who helped design its commuter system, that company does pick up at the shuttles.) Almost to a man they parroted the bromide that the program removes 10,000 autos and benefits the environment. Each insisted that they only wanted to live in San Francisco and did not want to own a car. One woman, who rode the buses during the course of two pregnancies, cited the importance of frequent stops.
A representative from the Bay Area Council made his contribution. He cited three years working with the MTA and ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Government). He trumpeted the reduction of vehicle mileage, the easing of congestion and the removal of 2 million car trips annually. All this was good for the environment, with the result that the best option is a permanent program.
Others asked for increased commuter bus loading zones. During the presentation, Director Ramos asked speakers to indicate if they rode Muni. Some said they had a Clipper Card. (No one indicated they rode Uber/Lyft to the commuter stop, a fact which has been observed.). Surprisingly some commented they would purchase an auto and drive if the commuter bus was not available. (Surprising because many in this age group do not know how to drive and distain the burden of car ownership — one of several reasons for the success of Uber/Lyft).
In summary, the “for sustaining commuter bus program arguments were convenience, fewer auto miles, good for the environment, and time savings for personal or family time, i.e., personal benefits. (Not mentioned: the huge tax deduction that the company takes for the business expense of transporting its work force. This deduction reduces their contribution in the form of corporate taxes to the general welfare. (Individuals generally can not deduct their commute, so we all indirectly support this corporate write-off)).
One argument against the corporate bus operation is the low mileage-per-gallon in the city vs. the freeway, especially with the extensive use of deadheading. (This argument supports the use of HUBs.) The ignoring of ADA, the omission of an EIR, and the displacement of lower income populations are other frequently raised problems. (More ammunition for a BART HUB.) Also on the legal side, red zone stops violate state code 22500 and cause Muni to fall short of its 85% on-time goal prescribed in the City Charter; and enforced Muni street-boardings violate ADA rules. In view of all the busses’ many violations, the MTA issues too few citations. Noise and vibration impact on houses. Smaller buses could substitute for many if not all of the behemoths. One detractor even contented that if the buses disappeared the 10,000 additional autos represented by the population of riders would have a minor impact on the 300,000 auto commute time total on Highway 101.
Finally, buses should benefit all parties (citizens, not select workers). In the end, the support should be for a Public Regional Express Bus system. Presently the program represents an illegal give-away of bus stop space. Prop 26 fee structure should be reviewed, State Assembly Bill 61 to legalize red zone failed.
DIRECTORS’ comments / questions included:
- Shift to smaller buses on more streets? Companies determine the size and mix of buses.
- Increase penalty, emissions standards
- Director Ramos commented one thousand emails received and New Development in SF funding Mass Transit changes (I assume new market rate development for South Bay workers. However, the Transportation Sustainability Fee derived from new development is deeply discounted to less than 25% of the Nexus Study true transportation expansion cost. Growth is not funding Growth). With a growing economy, MTA must“accommodate the need of Industry.” (Does this mean at all costs and with little or no regard for the collateral damage inflicted upon the neighborhoods?) He applauded the industry for being willing to work with this voluntary program. He conceded that the arrangement was far from perfect and would evolve, including MORE STOPS TO REDUCE DWELL TIME, such as additional loading zones that remove parking.
- Form a web page for better violation/complaint reporting
Underlying the argument for the corporate bus operation is a presumption of the inherent right of the individual to enjoy a simultaneous commute-and-work experience, a benefit that suits both the employee and the employer. Of the many individuals who said that, deprived of that right, they would purchase an auto and drive, not one displayed any trepidation about the environmental consequences of that action.
I will share the Public Records Request correspondence received supporting the Commuter Bus Program. Mostly repeated cookie cutter statements. Mostly like upstart businesses “mustering the troops” to lobby the legislators.
The geography (steep hills) and geometry (narrow /awkward streets) undermine the practical use in this city of motor coaches, i.e., 40’plus vehicles designed primarily for travel on freeways. None of the supporters mentioned any of the intractable and multiple problems associated with them, including staging (idling for a time point departure); the obstruction of intersections; noisy, late night operation; and the conflict with MUNI.
Assuming 20% of the future employee expansions of Facebook (6,000) and Apple Spaceship (8,000) will most likely result in additional buses in San Francisco. Plan Bay Area 2040 is up for review. Will the employment centers build work force housing? Work site congestion mitigation transfers congestion to the employees’ neighborhood. San Francisco is not alone, as Private Commuter Buses roam the South Bay Cities traveling from San Jose to Sunnyvale, or Mountain View.
By Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez : sfweekly – excerpt
The City released a hotly anticipated, deeply controversial (to transportation nerds, anyway) report on “tech shuttles” last week, but it may have included a major snafu.
The report, which lays outs the dangers and benefits of moving Silicon Valley commuter shuttles off of San Francisco streets and into hubs, follows The City touting its accomplishments in ticketing law-breaking shuttle drivers…(more)
PHOTOS TELL THE TRUTH ABOUT COMPLIANCE
Commuter Shuttle Hub Study November 15, 2016
Links to documents from the November 15, 2016 SFMTA Board Meeting:
Many people noted the Out of Compliance Bus featured on the cover of the report and commented on it. It seems that SFMTA staff is less familiar with the regulations than the public is. For some reason all the photos chosen for the report show the tech buses in Muni stops.
Two photos by Ozzie Rohm of 24th Street in Noe Valley during morning rush hour illustrate why the neighbors want relief from the onslaught on tech shuttles.
The Nov 15, 2016 MTA Board agenda item 11 addressing the HUB analysis and the Six Month Update contained 77 pages. Only two minutes of public comment was allowed!
Supervisor Wiener request a meeting at the The Board of Supervisors (BOS) Land Use Committee. There is not a date set yet. We will watch the BOS meeting agendas for updates.
MTA CAC (Citizens Advisory Council) has scheduled a Commuter Bus HUB presentation for Thursday. Dec 1, 5:30pm at 1 South Van Ness, 7th Floor.
SFCTA CAC (SF County Transportation Authority Citizen Advisory Committee) has a presentation scheduled for Wednesday November 30, 6 PM at 1455 Market Street, 22nd Floor. Will follow-up to determine if this may change due to the holidays.
Many thanks for everyone who wrote letters, emails and personally made public comment.
Notes from the front lines:
Friday, Oct 21, 2016 at the MTA Board Policy and Governance Committee meeting, MTA Staff revealed the midyear review of the Commuter Bus Program would be presented to the MTA Board on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 which usually begins at 1PM.
This midyear review was negotiated with the Board of Supervisors when the current one year program began on April 1, 2016. Staff indicated the presentation would include general statistics, (constant) complaints, and overall program summary. Staff indicated this is a living document (which I interpret as subject to constant change.)
No mention was made of the HUB System which as part of the BOS agreement. Also, no mention of the current resident housing displacement study caused by the Tech workers.
So, mark your calendar for Tuesday, November 15, 2016 at 1PM and weigh in with public comment. The staff report/presentation should be available Friday, November 11, 2016 at 1PM (72 hours before the meeting).
Lastly, contact me if you are able to attend.
The SFMTA can just pay the anti-displacement mapping project for their report on the displacement. They have already done the work and their work product is a living document.
Notified by an alert neighborhood network member just before 6PM on Thursday, September 15, 2016 of the accident at 24th and Castro. I do not know the accident time but most likely about 5:30PMish.
SFO 475, placard 06-5092, a double deck bus, was in the middle of the intersection with the vehicle to the right. The large Commuter Bus was negotiating a right turn from westbound 24th to uphill northbound Castro.
The following northbound Muni buses were delayed before 24th Street:
coach 5621 run 133
coach 5614 run 134
coach 5516 run 65
The following Commuter Buses were lined up westbound 24th Street:
Corinthian 247 12-0053
Loop 36 07-5106
WeDriveU 2357 05-5013
WeDriveU 10 05-5017
WeDriveU 262 05-5015
Storer 905 10-5007
WeDriveU 2613, 05-5055 was parked on northbound Castro immediately south of 24th Street in the middle of the street. I can only assume this bus attempted to circumvent the 24th Street backup and operated on residential streets to get into this position.
When I arrived just after 6PM there was no traffic control at the intersection. Traffic eastbound 24th was flowing but autos stuck between the Corporate Buses were attempting to drive around them. Only observed one Police Sargent about 6:15PM when the flat bed tow truck arrived. He then departed.
The wide turning buses at this intersection cause “intersection stalemate”. Bus turning in either direction cause autos to pull to the right, back up, or freeze in place unexpectedly facing an oncoming bus in their lane. The new crosswalks installed last year are severely damaged by the buses turning up the steep Castro Street Hill.
With over 30 buses an hour, the traffic flow is negatively impacted on both streets.
Muni line 24 was delayed by three buses or at least half an hour. About 6:45PM I called 311 and the outbound (return southbound) line 24 bus was five minutes 25 minutes and 29 minutes. So I opted for a 48 bus for a short grocery shopping trip.
I assume this incident has been documented, as I did not observe the police making a report. This may be considered a minor incident, but the vehicle was towed and created considerable disruption to Muni, with the neighborhood sharing in the daily pain of the very large Commuter Buses.
Two photos show the subject bus and the other photo shows the 24th Street backup.