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A couple of days ago I went to a panel discussion entitled A Story of Shuttles at SPUR, the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association. For those of you not living in SF (and the Bay Area), what's come to be known as "The Google Bus" is a whole fleet of privately run corporate limousine buses that are shuttling employees in the tech industry from hundreds of pick-up places near their homes in SF to their workplaces in Silicon Valley. The premise, according to company representatives at the panel, is that their predominantly young, under 35 workforce is "nauseated by the suburbs" and would rather commute up to 80 miles (round trip) to San Francisco every day than live near their workplace, and so the companies' job is to make that trip as comfortable as possible, to attract and retain their workforce.

According to the SFMTA, there are now almost 40 companies running these shuttles with over two hundred stops across the city. Google alone runs over 100 buses and 380 trips daily across the Bay Area, which has earned them the honor of being the poster child for the luxury liner phenomenon. However, the trend was first started about 7 years ago by some of the more established biotech companies in South San Francisco like Genentech. It wasn't really a big deal when there were just a handful, but the last two years has seen such a rapid explosion of these behemoths into our neighborhood streets that it feels a bit like an invasive species.

googlebus-stops

Most of these buses are anonymous entities that often make everything and everyone else dwarf in comparison and clog up the streets...

google-bus_01

but some of them are a bit more ostentatious in their destination...

yahoos_2

They load and unload in the public transit (MUNI) bus stops, and quite frequently just double-park right in an intersection.

google-bus_04
Two deep, about to unload "customers," cars honking and pulling dangerous maneuvers to get past.

They are pretty much everywhere now, even on Valencia St, which has been transformed into a bicycle highway and people friendly walking corridor in recent years, but as a cyclist during rush hour you now have to contend with these guys turning on and off at random intersections. I guess this is one way to get big corporate billboards into a neighborhood that prides itself on protecting its small local merchants from chain store invasions.

google-bus_05

There are some much touted benefits of reducing automobile trips on Bay Area roads, and I definitely appreciate and applaud the good intentions behind these buses, but as someone who has written quite a bit about sustainable urban design, these buses, while addressing one small transportation sliver of the whole livable city ecosystem, raise a whole range of other social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues that are basically being treated as externalities by the people who are enabling the flooding of these private "yachts on wheels" deep into city neighborhoods, without much public discussion.

SPUR's description of the panel had me excited because I thought it would delve into some of the broader ramifications of this transformation:

Those big buses are tough to miss. As employer shuttles sprout up across the Bay Area, what do they tell us about our region, its workers and its employers? What are the benefits and challenges that accompany their increasing presence? This forum will take a closer look at how and why some employers manage worker transportation.
Alas, it did not live up to its billing, and my hope is that this letter will spark further discussion and perhaps another panel where this issue can be addressed on a more meaningful level, perhaps inspiring more integrative solutions to the unsustainable way of life we've created for ourselves.

Dear SPUR,

Thank you so much for putting together the panel on the corporate limousine buses with the folks from Google, Genentech, RidePal, and SFMTA today. I appreciate you trying to address this new phenomenon that is so rapidly changing our city and our neighborhoods, giving us a chance to listen to Daniel McCoy, Brendon Harrington, Dominic Haigh, and Carli Paine's side of the story.

That said, I felt that the way this panel was set up and the treatment of the topic was pretty shallow and far from integrative thinking. Right off the bat, Ms. Paine, who I suppose was the lone representative of the public interest on the panel, proclaimed that the discussion would be limited to transportation issues exclusively, not about any social concerns that may be arising from what Mr. Haigh coined the "collaborative consumption for corporate commuter shuttles."

With all due respect, but for anyone who has seriously thought about livable cities and sustainable urban planning, having thousands of wealthy young professionals (and growing) escorted en masse into vibrant, often working class neighborhoods in supersized luxury coaches is more than a transportation issue. I say this partly as a concerned Guerrero Street resident who has seen the neighborhood I have lived in for over 15 years morph into a pricy boutique destination over the last couple of years — coinciding with the ascent of "The Google Bus" — but also as a core advisor of the International Ecocity Framework & Standards Initiative that outlines 15 diverse conditions that need to be addressed for any city to consider itself ecologically healthy.

IEFS-standards-system

5 of these 15 conditions fall into the socio-cultural category, from an equitable economy to community capacity building, and that is no coincidence. Pretty much anyone who has seriously thought about environmental issues in the last 10-20 years knows that solving the problems of climate change and resource depletion are as much, if not more, about social, economic and justice issues as they are about counting carbon or taking a few cars off the road without looking at the effects on people and the commons. There is a reason why the UN has put all its climate change and environmental policies within a sustainable development frame: you cannot solve environmental problems without addressing poverty, inequity, social injustice, and the well being of the most vulnerable among us.

In the context of The Google Bus, what does it say about these companies that they're so fixated on reaching 30, 40, or 50% customer rates (Yes, both Mr. McCoy and Mr. Harrington kept referring to their employees as "customers") while rents and housing prices in the neighborhoods that they're encouraging and actively recruiting their "customers" to live in have risen by the same percentages, if not more (I see small 2 bedroom apartments rent for $4000 a month on my street, and the 1100 sqft condo next door is currently on the market for $900,000 (update 5/6/13: the condo sold for $1.2 million), with literally hundreds of buyers lining up). Perhaps even more puzzling to me is that the city, who is supposed to be serving its residents and not "customers" from corporations headquartered in the suburbs (presumably because it is so much cheaper for them than to operate in the city), is bending over backwards to accommodate these private luxury liners on its public streets.

google-bus_02
Muni meets The Google Bus.

During the Q&A, we were basically told that there is nothing that can stop the rapid expansion of even more buses on more streets. The suggestion that maybe there could be only 10 pick-up and drop-off points was quickly dismissed by Mr. McCoy, who openly admitted that his only concern was with the growth of his private enterprise that would suffer if his "customers" did no longer have the convenience of door to door limo service. Furthermore, the suggestion that perhaps Google build a thriving ecovillage on their campus or invest in making Mountain View more livable pretty much got a non-response. The question whether these corporations should pay the city fees/taxes for road maintenance and using Muni stops wasn't asked, but it would be an interesting one.

Basically, the Googles and Facebooks of the world are going to keep using San Francisco as a recruiting tool to attract the brightest and most expensive minds in the world but will invest nothing in any kind of public infrastructure to support civic life beyond their own corporate interest. The message here seems to be, tough luck for the old-time residents, the artistic and cultural backbone of the Mission, who are the very reason all the young and hip tech wizards want to move here in the first place; don't worry about all the traffic every morning and evening, backed up behind growing fleets of diesel-spewing behemoths loading and unloading throngs of headset-clad twenty somethings staring into their gadgets, you'll soon be priced out of the neighborhood anyway.

yahoos_1
New kids on the block, waiting for The Bus.

I can understand the very narrow and self-serving motivations of these corporations — they are, after all, primarily in the business of making money. I don't even question their good intentions in terms of wanting to reduce their carbon footprint. I just don't think they're quite as smart as they think they are, as their thinking seems to be painfully linear rather than rooted in a deeper whole systems analysis. And even their single-minded focus on transportation is not really yielding the kind of success their powerpoints claim, seeing that last year the Bay Area was one of the worst three congested urban areas in the U.S., on par with L.A.

I have a much harder time though understanding why the city is so single-handedly fixated on transportation stats instead of looking at sustainability from a broader cultural and socio-economic perspective, and why SPUR would fail to get anyone with a deeper knowledge of urban development on this panel. It feels like nothing was resolved at all, and the conclusion of the event was that this is just the way things are and how they're going to be in the future, just more of it with better apps.

Not to sound too NIMBY about it, but for me as a long-time Mission resident with a starving artist income, that means not only more tinted-window buses double parked outside my house, but more expensive restaurants, more boutique shops I can't afford, and never being able to move again if I want to continue to live in my city. As far as the highly touted reductions in CO2 from the corporate commuter buses, has anyone at Google ever done an analysis of the type of carbon footprint that comes with the expendable income of someone who can afford a million dollars for a tiny condo? Imagine all the stuff people with a million bucks can and will buy, and the fossil fuels burned to manufacture and ship it. That's the kind of question I would like to hear addressed on a panel like this.

My hope would be that this discussion could be continued and broadened, talking about the broader social, environmental, and economic effects, a discussion about the meaning of the commons and shared civic responsibilities, the class division between the lavish luxury buses and scrappy old muni buses, the effects of the buses on Caltrain and other public transit, and other things of a more meaningful holistic nature. For example, why not invite someone like author and San Francisco native Rebecca Solnit, who has written a very eloquent critique about the socio-cultural and economic ramifications of The Google Bus? Or perhaps BART Board Director Tom Radulovich who could offer some very valuable livable city insights?

Just some thoughts from a concerned citizen and resident.

Sincerely, Sven Eberlein

originally posted at A World of Words
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Comment Preferences

  •  1%er buses now, wow... (22+ / 0-)

    what about the eco aspects. depending on what it is that makes these buses "luxury" must be eating up mileage and so forth?

    "It is in the shelter of each other that people live." Irish Proverb

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:31:05 AM PDT

    •  very good question (21+ / 0-)

      that wasn't addressed. They only cited studies about how many million auto trips they saved. But you're right, there's so much more energy that goes into making and operating these buses. Also, a lot of the trips are with empty buses, I always see them driving around empty after they've dropped off everybody.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:38:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  a complex issue (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ferg, Simplify, tardis10, dksbook, greengemini

      but simplistically presented.  

      I'm thinking of my daughter and her partner of many years.  She is a native of the City, born there in 1967 while I was living there, a UC Berkeley grad and a denizen of the Mission for nearly twenty years,  doing her part to make it somewhere the diarist wants to live. Starving artist/writer street cred galore.  A Kossak, as well as a special ed educator who was utterly disgusted with school district administrative politicking and bureaucracy.

      She's bootstrapped her way into free-lance work in Silicon Valley selling her writing/editing/teaching skills to geeks.  Good thing, seeing as how she is coming up on that big 5 oh in a few years.  She rides those "limos" some days because hubby works for one of the giants down there; other days they drive,  sometimes separately, down the yuppie freeway, the 280 freeway down the spine of the peninsula, splendidly isolated from much of the hoi polloi traffic and I'll bet those buses use it as well.  She's got a 15 yr old beater BMW that hubby keeps running, her first car.

      Just to put one human face on those aboard.  She earned that seat on the bus.  She's not living large,  just finally getting to live a little.  Her old Digger  anarcho-communalist builder gabacho Dad is mighty proud of her.

      I also completely see the diarist's POV, although he comes off whiny and maybe a little envious in trying to present his case.  Too bad BART never made the loop around the bottom of the Bay; that would have been the icing on the cake that is BART and the whole MUNI system.  I love SanFran too much to complain about anything there.  I'm amazed and delighted that the whole unsustainable antpile continues to function at a fever pitch while waiting for the Big One.  What's a few more buses?

      I get my urban fix every year or so with a week on San Francisco streets.  I don't bring my car.

      don't always believe what you think

      by claude on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:24:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for sharing your daughter's (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        melo, kimoconnor, where4art, claude

        personal story. It's good to move beyond the monolithic stereotypes, so we can get into the deeper nuances of the issue. Since the SPUR panel did not allow that kind of deeper analysis and processing of the many facets of this phenomenon, I felt like I had to take it there, just to open the actual dialog which is what is happening in this diary and on my blog.

        I probably could have waited a few days before writing my letter to SPUR, which probably would have made me sound less of what you call "whiny" but to me was more about being emotionally engaged. But I felt like the discussion needed some emotion, because everyone was treating this as a bunch of business decisions when real people are getting pushed out of the community and losing their homes, as you can read in this thread below. Can't we feel a little bit personally affected by this?

        It's not exclusively these companies' fault, but I think the bus issue presents us with a chance to talk about what's happening in the city and beyond, as far as growing wealth inequity and the effect it has on our society and communities.

        As far as envy, that's completely off the mark. If you knew me and the things I care about in life, you'd be laughing for even entertaining that thought.

        Ecology is the new Economy

        by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:45:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, I don't think this diary sounds (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          claude, citisven, shaharazade

          whiny at all, and I think you did a great job documenting this phenomenon—it fleshes out the summary of the whole situation that I got from you on the walk to the Tea Garden recently!

          I also take issue with the assertion that you're "maybe a little envious"—what? I don't see anything in this piece that supports that. As a 30-year resident of the City—but not the Mission, so I haven't been affected by the Google Bus scene the way you have—I really appreciate this first-hand account of the way that facilitating a huge influx of residents with 6-figure incomes is affecting the traditionally working-class Mission neighborhood. And of course, the drastic inflation of the cost of housing is radiating throughout the City; rents in my Inner Sunset neighborhood have risen so astronomically in the last few years that if I were to lose my rent-controlled apartment (now more than 100% under market, thanks to the Google Bus –enabled pressure on rents), I'd have to leave the City, too. This situation is just insane.

          I hope SPUR takes the time to review your presentation (more than just a "letter," in my opinion!) with the care it deserves. I think that they, of all people, would be the ones to take a serious interest in what you have to say.

          (P.S. Sorry I'm so late to this diary! I've had a helluva week, and I'm finally catching up on a few things.)

          •  Hello where4art (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            where4art

            sorry you had a rough week, I hope you're getting to enjoy a little time off this weekend. Thanks for the update from the Sunset rental market, I do think this is an issue that's important to everybody, including the folks in the tech industry. I'm not sure if anything concrete can or should be done about rising rents and income inequity beyond protecting existing rent control laws and continually raising the minimum wage, but I've lived on this planet long enough to be very skeptical whenever the well-off use trickle-down arguments to explain why this is good for everybody. And while I don't doubt the goodness of individual employees, I'm just a little bit suspicious of the big companies' corporate headquarters' concern for the commons when they're stashing away billions of $$ in Bermuda tax shelters.

            Ecology is the new Economy

            by citisven on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:53:02 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  like I said, complex issue (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven

        I apologize if my tone was offensive; I have no doubt that you mean well.

        The buses are but a symptom,  and addressing only them is a band-aid,  when the fundamental issues and solutions will have to examine and change just how we organize society and politics.  Something as basic as , Gasp!,  urban planning could have seen this coming and been dealing with it decades ago.

        BART-around-the-Bay would have eliminated the need for the buses, especially if the other supporting PubTrans infrastructure was better supported.  The governance system doesn't function correctly,  because of the corrosive influence of money.  The right decisions don't get made a quarter century ago because of it.  And we wind up reduced to slapping Band-Aides on whatever symptom becomes too big to ignore.

        Frustrating.

        don't always believe what you think

        by claude on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 02:40:57 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  no worries, claude (0+ / 0-)

          it's kind of a heated subject which only means that people on all sides care about it and because we're all kind of stuck in a system that often makes us choose between bad and worse decisions. You're totally right about the urban planning aspect, we really missed the boat (or the train) in this country on so many levels a long time ago, and we're paying the price now by having to fight over which band aid will prevent more damage rather than operating within a design that naturally encourages basic tenets of sustainability, like access by proximity.

          I wrote about Freiburg, Germany a little while ago, where the planners made a very unpopular decision right after WW2 to rebuild the destroyed urban core in its dense medieval layout. It was during the rise of the automobile and the head of planning was accused of being backwards and old-fashioned. Today, Freiburg is one of the greenest cities in Europe, not necessarily because Freiburgers are that much smarter or more environmentally conscious than others, but because the basic design of their city is built on ecocity principles.

          So yes, if we'd had been forward-thinking enough to extend BART around the bay (connected to light rail in individual towns) but even more importantly, to not build sprawling suburbs that a) are completely unsustainable in a post-carbon world and b) young people don't want to live in anymore, we wouldn't be arguing over Google Buses now.

          However, the argument about Google Buses also gives us the opportunity to perhaps address some of the larger structural issues that while difficult shouldn't be impossible to change, if we really put our minds and money behind it. But if we're just happy applauding these buses for being the perfect solution, we won't even have a chance to ever make the kind of meaningful structural changes that could carry us more smoothly through the coming age of fewer fossil fuels.

          Ecology is the new Economy

          by citisven on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:52:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent diary, Citisven. I bet the Board of (10+ / 0-)

    Supervisors would like to keep this off their radar.

    •  why would they want to hide this? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, citisven, Simplify

      The Board of Supervisors wants to encourage tech growth in San Francisco. For example the tax benefits in mid-market for Twitter. Rising property values and rents are generally seen as good things.

      •  I get the incentives for Twitter (10+ / 0-)

        because they're actually located in SF. But I don't see what the benefits are of helping out all the tech companies who locate themselves in the suburbs to avoid city taxes in the first place. They say it's because of their very stringent goal of reducing car trips, but it's obviously not working. My street has never been as busy and congested as it has been in the last 2 years. I think by making it so easy for employees to commute such long distances they ultimately just encouraging people to live far from their workplace, which I think is the real crux of the problem.

        I was thinking one solution would be for Google to open an SF campus, perhaps right next to Twitter. That way they would eliminate the need for those buses and also become invested in the community they profess to love so much.

        Ecology is the new Economy

        by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:48:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  google has a SF office (11+ / 0-)

          It is swamped with people on Fridays when they can work at home (here in SF) to go for free lunch or something......

          Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

          by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:58:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The tech companies are not locating in the burbs (0+ / 0-)

          "to avoid city taxes."  That's a rather SF-centric view that's, I'm sorry, laughable.  The tech companies are located in a particular part of the burbs, Silicon Valley, because that's where the critical mass of people with the right skills are.  That's where the venture capital is, that's where Stanford is, that's where all the software geeks are.  The twentysomethings in SF who work there tend to be more social-media and graphic/video design oriented than tech-heavy.

          Google's first office was in Palo Alto, which makes complete sense when you note the founders came from Stanford.  Same with Yahoo.  Lots of these tech firms are started by people who left other firms in the 5-10 mile radius around Stanford.  And it isn't just Stanford.  There's the Venture Capital Corridor along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park, and those people with the money want to be able to check up on their investments. There's the hundreds of start ups featuring people from established firms trying the Next New Thing.

          And have you checked real estate prices down here?  Gentrification?  Sven, Noe Valley is just Palo Alto North. Most of the homes around here blew past peak pricing at the end of 2012.  Palo Alto blew past it last summer.

          The idea that "all the tech companies ... locate themselves in the suburbs to avoid city taxes in the first place" is not just wrong, it demonstrates a mind-boggling ignorance of the history of Silicon Valley.  Your diary itself is excellent, and the concerns of these monster buses dominating neighborhood streets in SF is an important topic that ought to lead to deeper discussion than you found at SPUR.

          But I have to jump in at this notion of yours that Google and Facebook are 40 miles south to avoid SF city taxes.  They aren't avoiding taxes. They're located exactly where they need to be to attract the people they want to find them.

      •  I meant they wouldn't like to see it as a problem, (0+ / 0-)

        so not dealing with it and letting it just continue would be their approach.

    •  they're trying to keep it low profile (12+ / 0-)

      and I think that was okay while there were just a few of these buses. But it's gotten to the point where we really need to have a public discussion. Of course, as always I thought that this was so obvious that someone somewhere must have already started that discussion, but as far as I can tell, it's pretty much just been about the SFMTA receiving individual complaints and passing it on the companies who then try to move their stops to a different street corner. They basically only do something when there's a specific complaint, and only about that specific location, but there really hasn't been any broader kind of discussion about what this all means and where we as the city's residents want this to go. So like the good activist I am, I just started one. ;-)

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:42:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've seen these things... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, citisven

        ...a couple of times.  I live in Berkeley, so I guess they are more sparse here.  I wondered what they were.  Thanks, Sven, for bringing attention to just one more terrible business practice.

        "The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all." Chris Hedges

        by dharmasyd on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:18:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  "trying to keep it low profile" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven

        Ugh! If they're ashamed, maybe they shouldn't do it. Exxon's trying to keep a low profile on its tar sands spill in Arkansas, too. Same greed, different place.

        "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

        by cotterperson on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:22:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  The buses aren't just in SF btw (0+ / 0-)

        They pick up employees all over the place.  I think it's a problem in SF because of the density of traffic in the first place and how many of the buses are cruising neighborhood streets.  In a lower-density suburban-sprawl pattern, the buses are pretty much a positive all around, and are clearly keeping people out of their cars when existing bus service is too thin with too few routes. But too many of those behemoths at the same time, taking over narrow city streets becomes very noticeable.

  •  Welcome to America ... (9+ / 0-)

    What else can I say? It has been like this in Washington DC area since I came here in the 1980-ies.

    you cannot solve environmental problems without addressing poverty, inequity, social injustice, and the well being of the most vulnerable among us
    ... apparently they can ...(not solve any problem) ... that's the problem.

    I admire your engagement and letter.

  •  How much pollution and gasoline are saved by (9+ / 0-)

    this service? Probably a lot.  To bad San Francisco can't impose an income tax (it's prohibited by CA law) but even so these people are spending most of their incomes in the city. Much of the rest of the hand wringing is trying to pin  larger societal problems onto a small subset of  workers. I'm sure gentrification is not fueled entirely by Google workers even if they seem to be an easy target.

    I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box. The TSA would put Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad on the no-fly list.

    by OHdog on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:38:31 AM PDT

    •  more would be saved (8+ / 0-)

      if the office was where the employees live in the first place.
      And as for the Mission district in the city itself (I do not think you live here, but this is a now popular area) has changed a lot in the past couple of years, and the young rich folks commuting have done a lot to make this part of the city unaffordable to the majority of us.

      Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

      by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:01:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Gentrification is always a problem as cities only (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tardis10, cotterperson, FG

        see a rise in property values and don't care about lower income  families. Intentional mixed use housing has rarely been an American value for city planners even if its implementation leads to more stable neighborhoods.

        I'd tip you but they cut off my tip box. The TSA would put Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad on the no-fly list.

        by OHdog on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:09:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  nobody said that (9+ / 0-)

      gentrification is fueled entirely by tech workers. I think it's a bit like the Keystone XL pipeline. In and of itself it didn't cause climate change and keeping it from being built is only a very small part of the solution, but if you never say "stop" to anything because there are always others who are doing worse, we may as well give it all up and drown in our own muck. The thing is, I know Google and all these companies want to be part of the solution, so why not actually discuss the issue from a broader perspective so we can work on better long-term solutions together.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:05:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  You do manage to sound rather NIMBY about it. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven

    There are specific issues that need to be addressed (e.g. bus stops) but overall it's a typical response of many neighborhood residents to gentrification.

  •  Reasons why city buses smaller than tour buses (11+ / 0-)

    I don't object to the bus services themselves, but the companies (and the city) should use common sense.  

    City buses are usually 96 inches wide, while these tour buses are 102 inches wide, and much taller. That difference in width matters on a city street.

  •  Although a standard service with fewer stops (5+ / 0-)

    and pickups would seem to be more reasonable, it sounds as if the transportation service itself (which is why their orientation was "Customers" instead of tech company employees") is doing it's standard business drive: grow exponentially, darn the impacts beyond their individual profits.

    So, it's really up to the tech corporations to reign this in, which would force their employees to consider the need for commuter parking lots, etc. - i.e., some form of transport that gets them farther away from their residence, perhaps, but which would be less clogging to the local traffic routes.

    The notion that businesses cater to these folks is an inevitable component of marketing to the highest-paying customers who seek your product mentality, and unfortunately has hit locales everywhere in the USA.  It would require a loud and visible percentage of locals in your district to push back on their planning boards, representatives, etc. to keep that in check, I feel - because, that's fully against the accepted norm, as you imply.  I wish the capitalist world viewed what was of value beyond making more money and controlling everything in one's reach for private desires, with few effective restraints in place for town planning to curb such things in many cases.

    "So, please stay where you are. Don't move and don't panic. Don't take off your shoes! Jobs is on the way."

    by wader on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:48:40 AM PDT

  •  No matter how many arguments I get on this (8+ / 0-)

    I always come back to the fact the corporations simply did and are not locating where their employee (or customers, how strange) base lives. This is the first part of this issue.

    And as another long term (since 1990) Mission resident, I now fear I may lose my rental home to greed.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

    by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 10:56:41 AM PDT

    •  which comes back to that age old question (7+ / 0-)

      whether there are other values and factors besides money that should determine who gets to live in a city and who doesn't. I think in theory most people would agree that for a city to thrive it's vitally important to have residents of all economic and social backgrounds living in it, but in practice very few people are actually willing to stand up and fight for the kind of agreements that make it possible.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:23:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is possibly a secondary issue of dual-career (4+ / 0-)

      couples. It is not always easy to get jobs in the same city at a convenient commute for both.

      The other issue is that many of these workers won't stay with one company forever. They may have moved into SF proper for a job located there and then gotten recruited away.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:09:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that has been an issue since both parents (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven

        had to work, and is an issue anywhere you live I suppose.

        And I agree that people don 't stay in one place etc. But if the workforce for these tech companies is primarily young, single and well paid staff who likes living here, why did they locate in places that are impossible to commute from the city?

        Is it all about taxes, higher profits? Is it that the execs want to live there vs. the city? I'd like to understand why they located there in the first place to better understand this issue better.

        Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

        by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:28:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  B/c when they located there they were much smaller (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dksbook

          and it was a non-issue. And then everyone had to locate close to everyone else.

        •  I think part of the issue was that getting space (4+ / 0-)

          in SF proper has always been challenging and expensive. You can't really make yourself a big complex in the city.

          Stanford et al has really been the center of innovation, and the venture capitalists down on Page Mill road. People located to be near the VCs to get started, located near where they went to school or already lived. That is how Silicon Valley got started and became such a center. SF is just kind of conveniently nearby, not really the source of any of it.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 02:08:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Techies commuting from SF to SV is relatively new (0+ / 0-)

          Don't forget SV has made itself over from silicon chips to software, and it's the software people who are more likely to want to live in a "real" city rather than a suburb.  But look at the kinds of companies that want to locate in SF and you'll see they're more social media, video, graphics.  The software and device companies are staying in Silicon Valley because that's where you have to be to play.

          And not everyone working for these firms is a twentysomething City resident.  And not all the twentysomethings live in SF, either.

    •  The tech companies came first, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven

      and in the beginning, most employees lived on the Peninsula.  But when young college grads started working tech, they wanted to live in the City, not Shallow Alto or Mt. View.  What 22 year old wouldn't prefer life in SF as opposed to life down south?  I guess some software engineers who sleep and shower at work and work in their pj's and keep an  efficiency in Sunnyvale might not want to actually live in SF, but I know some of them actually live in SF when they decide to leave work for the weekend...

  •  Why Doesn't the Bay Area (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kimoconnor, citisven, slksfca, FG, dksbook

    Have public transit that could be used to go between San Francisco and Mountain View and points in between? I agree that private fleets of buses are not ideal. I am wondering why the city and its suburbs have not built workable alternatives. I have a feeling that if such transit corridors had been developed, Google would never have had to do this in the first place.

    BART has 300,000 daily riders. So, there is a good precedence for this kind of service. People use it!

    "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

    by bink on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:09:38 AM PDT

    •  I Do Admit (7+ / 0-)

      That the Bay Area office of the company where I work does use these buses. They aren't luxurious, really. It's just a bus. And they don't go door-to-door. Each bus has a handful of stops on a route.

      They are always full, not because my coworkers are nauseated by the suburbs -- but because they can't afford to live in them.

      All the same, this is an uncomfortable phenomenon for me, because I feel like ...

      If the demand for mass transportation is so great, why doesn't the regional government, you know, open up some freaking bus lines that carry people on these high demand routes. That way, anyone could take the bus. If the environmental impact is so positive for these workers, imagine the positive impact if this service was even more widely available.

      As far as I can tell, San Francisco and other area governments just aren't interested in serving folks this way.

      So, private buses ...

      "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

      by bink on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:14:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  there actually is mass transit (7+ / 0-)

        Caltrain goes all the way down the peninsula and BART to Milbrae. Before the buses, that's how people managed to get down there and many still do. I have a friend who works at Stanford who takes her bike to Caltrain every day, no problem. But it takes a little longer, and Caltrain doesn't have wifi. I feel like the wifi issue could be solved easily, with a little bit of cooperation between the private sector and Caltrain. But no matter what, you'll never have a public transit system that can compete with the comfort, speed and convenience of a door-to-door private service shuttle, especially if comfort, speed and convenience are your most important values. So it comes down to promoting other values, like getting in shape from walking and taking your bike, supporting public infrastructure even if it takes a little longer, and being willing to just slow down a little bit. But that is obviously an uphill battle, especially now that the buses are already on the road and everyone is just accepting it as the new normal.

        Ecology is the new Economy

        by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:30:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Is It Possible (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kimoconnor, citisven, GAS, slksfca

          To impose a fee on this service, restrict hours of operation, and use the money for improving public transport in some way?

          "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

          by bink on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:31:59 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  it probably would be (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            slksfca, where4art

            if that's where the public conversation went. But as far as I know, the public conversation hasn't even really begun. I personally think it would be a great gesture of these companies who are obviously trying to do the right thing to pass on some of the savings they get from keeping their employees so happy and not having to build parking structures to some public transit or other civic projects.

            Ecology is the new Economy

            by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:52:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  the cost to add wifi to Caltrain (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          citisven, tardis10

          has got to be less than running the buses.

          Getting wifi on all our thru-traffic transit options is valuable.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:17:53 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I used to commute on public transit to Palo (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Simplify, dksbook

          Alto from SF. Caltrain is fine but it doesn't run very often. And it took me 20 min to get to Caltrain and another 15 min to get from Caltrain to my work. So public transit options are rather limited mostly b/c it's such a long commute (40 miles).

        •  The tech bus service is not (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          citisven

          door-to-door.  In fact, it is extremely inconvenient for the cheaper parts of the city, like the Outer Sunset.

          •  true (0+ / 0-)

            I should have qualified the door-to-door claim to the eastern part of the city, or at least The Mission, where there are many stops. Which raises the question, if employees who live in the Outer Sunset can deal with the inconvenience of just a few drop-offs, why can't employees in the eastern part of the city? The answer to that, I guess would be that Outer Sunset residents have higher driving rates and thus the solution is to add new drop off spots there rather than reducing them in The Mission. And according to the reps at the panel, that's exactly what they're planning: more buses with more stops in more neighborhoods.

            Ecology is the new Economy

            by citisven on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:06:29 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  it does (7+ / 0-)

      and people use it (CalTrain between SF and San Jose). The big companies have shuttle buses from train stations to their offices. Too bad the googlers aren't pushing more people to ride the train.

      "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war" - John Adams

      by esquimaux on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:17:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, elfling, slksfca

        I did not know that. I wonder if it would be feasible for my company to run a shuttle from our office to the nearest Caltrain stop. I just looked up the directions online -- it's an hour's walk from our office to the nearest Caltrain stop.

        "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

        by bink on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:20:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I find is strange that so many of these companies (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          bink, citisven, slksfca

          cared not for the poor locations of their campuses, it is a big plus to work close to a transit stop here in the city.

          Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

          by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:23:14 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I Agree (5+ / 0-)

            In the case of the company where I work, it is the mindset that they have, where the "suburbs = desireability" for both workplace and living.

            There are a couple of problems with this:

            Our wages are not high enough for us to buy a house near the facilities that they build -- in this case, in so-called Silicon Valley. And there is very little in the way of rental property in that region. So, most folks can't live anywhere near the office.

            The other problem is the cultural divide between people working in the cubes and people working in the offices. They are a bit older, of the automobile generation, and they think that a suburban house near a shopping mall is an achievement.

            The working folks on the other hand, find cars to be an expensive hassle, can't afford a single-family home, and are more geared emotionally and intellectually toward cooperative and community living that is not available in the suburbs.

            I have no idea how to start to change the minds of our top tier of decision makers. They are in heaven out there at that end of a busy expressway, isolated by expensive and ecologically unsound lawns, in their sprawling office park. They love it.

            "I'll believe that corporations are people when I see Rick Perry execute one."

            by bink on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:30:15 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Often it's logistically difficult (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ferg, citisven

            unless there are facilities standing open with a lot of space.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:22:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  companies are building new campuses in the city (5+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              citisven, Simplify, FG, dksbook, kimoconnor

              Twitter is one example, and that's mid-Market.

              But all the older companies are based in the Peninsula. It's only fairly recent (Millenials) that tech was located in the City itself instead of in the peninsula. So part of the problem is inertia.

              •  You gotta be near your capital too (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                dksbook, citisven

                The venture capitalists are all down on the peninsula, and there's actually some study IIRC that shows that's been very important for success of the startups, to have access not just to their money but to their advice, mentoring, etc.

                Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                by elfling on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 02:32:17 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  It's BAD that they're nice new buses? (0+ / 0-)

    Why do you condemn these buses because they're "luxurious"? Would you rather that they were old, noisy, inefficient, pollution-belching buses from the past? Too bad that some employees have a perk that means you occasionally have to maneuver by a big bus (shudder), but what are the alternatives? The employees could live in the city and drive to work - would you prefer a lot more cars sharing your street? They might take mass transit, but since that's so slow probably not. They could all try living on the Peninsula or in Silicon Valley, but housing prices and rents there are already on a par with SF. Fact, Bro - they gotta live somewhere. Are you suggesting that providing well-paying jobs is a bad thing?

    You sound like a nasty mean-spirited nimby: "those people are better off than me and causing me some minor inconvenience  so I don't want them in my city". Consider that "those people" are providing a livelihood to the grocer on the corner and the theaters, clubs, restaurants, cafes and shops in their neighborhood. Maybe you would like SF to be entirely populated by people on welfare or in minimum-wage jobs. Yeah, that'll really improve your quality of life!

    Have you started a campaign to ban garbage trucks and delivery vehicles in  SF? They're  even bigger than the "google-buses", a lot noisier, more polluting, and even harder to maneuver a bike around. Oh wait, they don't benefit people who you resent because they're better off than you, so those vehicles can be as big and bad as they want without your finding it a problem.

    Some people are always going have things that you don't - possibly because they have skills and talents that you lack. Get over it.

    Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

    by vulcangrrl on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:10:37 AM PDT

    •  oh come on (8+ / 0-)

      Citisven is one of the least nasty, mean spirited people I know.

      This is an issue that goes way past NIMBY arguments. I do not know where you live, but this is a multifaceted issue. It goes way beyond the buses themselves!

      Your post is uncalled for in my opinion, you can disagree, but this is over the top.

      Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

      by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:21:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Have you ever read your sig line? n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, kimoconnor

      "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

      by tardis10 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:24:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I fail to see how an amenity that (0+ / 0-)

        benefits the EMPLOYEES is undemocratic or plutocratic or whatever point you're trying to make.

        I would believe that Citisven is not a NIMBY, except for the fact he defines the problem as: these buses (and those awful people with well-paying jobs) are in HIS neighborhood and he doesn't like that. That's the classic definition of a NIMBY. All that business about "sustainability" is just window-dressing - the "sustainable" solution is for everyone to walk or bike to work, but that's totally unrealistic. ANd it's screamingly obvious that Citisven has no solution to propose, except that these buses and the people on them must not be where he is.

        Aren't you the least bit concerned that he seems to believe he has the right to decide who should live in his neighborhood? If people whose jobs he disapproves of don't belong there this week, why not people with religions or accents he doesn't like next week?

        Oh, and BTW: Everyone who has rented in SF for more than five years is priced out of moving. It's been that way since rent control was instituted decades ago, and it's ludicrous to blame it on Google or its buses.

        Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

        by vulcangrrl on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:04:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  it would benefit the employees more (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elfling, citisven, tardis10, GAS, dksbook, where4art

          if they could get to their office and home in less time, whatever way they commute.

          Friends I know who have or do ride these buses are not fans of the hours spent each day commuting. They would be much happier if the office were here in SF vs. an hour or two each way via bus.

          Are you now going to get into how you hate rent control? Please, spare us. And remember you can disagree without attacking the poster.

          Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

          by kimoconnor on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:14:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  To me it feels like you're projecting (6+ / 0-)

          your own nastiness onto me. Nowhere in my post did I ask anyone to leave the city or decide who gets to live in my neighborhood. All I'm asking is to have a public discussion to figure out long term solutions that work for all stakeholders in the city, and yes, that does include people on welfare or in minimum-wage jobs.

          I think that discussion is actually happening quite beautifully in this thread, with all sides of the issue being discussed respectfully.

          Really, we should go have a beer some time, I'm much less nasty in person.

          Ecology is the new Economy

          by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:40:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  We obviously did not read the same diary. (5+ / 0-)

          But that is of little matter. Your callow leap that the diarist is a NIMBY & simply jealous of others' perks & financial success was unsupported.
          The issue(s) the diarist is trying to grapple with is, basically,how to keep SF from becoming Disneyland. (with all the issues of race,class,privilege that entails) It is a problem that has been around for a long time.(certainly present in the 1980's when I lived & bought a house in SF) Do you believe these busses contribute to making SF more so or less? If more,& presuming you do not think this is a good thing, how to change that? Tax policy? More efficient light rail? Regulation regarding bus sizes?Micro-apartments? Little ideas or large ones,all needed.  
          As others have mentioned,this is a conundrum in many major cities as income disparity hits home with a spiraling speed. If you can't see that inter-connectedness,then it will be even harder to fix the problem.

          BTW,vacancy control is the only thing keeping many people who aren't making 6figures in SF. Oh!
           

          "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

          by tardis10 on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:47:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I have a better idea (4+ / 0-)

      why don't we have Google run SF Waste Management? We're at 80% waste diversion right now, with a zero waste mandate by 2020. Let's put all that skill and talent to work on a truly monumental task.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:01:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's Not Mince Words (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tardis10, citisven

    Even if the workplace was near, let's say, a convenient commuter rail, a good portion of the employees would still want the buses. Comfort that's above the level of public transportation plus they can hang out with their own rather than the rest of us commoners.

    This head movie makes my eyes rain.

    by The Lone Apple on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:16:48 AM PDT

    •  mass transit to the peninsula is inconvenient (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FG, dksbook

      Unless your office happens to be near CalTrain and you live near a CalTrain station.

      That's mostly Santa Clara's fault, because back in the 60's they opted out of BART. They didn't want the riff-raff from the City coming down to the suburbs.

      Those busses are solving a genuine problem.

  •  Is this really that bad? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven

    Given the state of most American cities, the fact that people would rather live in a city than the suburbs seems like a positive change.  Yes, for now these companies are using shuttles, but eventually they may  move their HQs back to the city, which is great not only for the cities, but for carbon emissions as well.  This could be a sign that urban sprawl is abating.

    As for the busses, they look like the typical bus to my eyes.  Isn't a big bus better than each person individually commuting to work?  If all these workers lived in the suburbs, they would undoubtedly be using more carbon.  

    "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

    by Subterranean on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:22:52 AM PDT

    •  Just saw the comment above mine (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, elfling

      ok, so the buses have wide arses.  It still seems like a net positive to me.  It's not like driving in San Fran was all flowers and bunnies before these buses showed up.

      "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

      by Subterranean on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:25:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  well, I think rather than looking at it (8+ / 0-)

        as all good or all bad, it's many shades of gray. I think the buses are better than everyone driving their car, but I also think it's worth talking about broader, systemic solutions that don't address this issue just in a transportation vacuum.

        Ecology is the new Economy

        by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:43:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But certainly this is a step in the right directio (0+ / 0-)

          People are moving back to urban areas and taking buses to work in the suburbs.  Is it shades of grey to complain about the size of the buses, or is it nitpicking?  

          "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

          by Subterranean on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 02:37:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  if you reread my letter (0+ / 0-)

            you'll see that the issue is beyond the buses or transportation.

            Ecology is the new Economy

            by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 04:57:58 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I guess we just disagree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              citisven

              I figure if a company is providing bus service to its employees so they can live in an urban area and avoid driving cars everywhere, that's great for the environment and great for urban development and culture.  So what if the bus has a fat arse.  If that's what it takes to get Americans to stop choosing 1 hour commutes to and from work everyday, then so be it.

              I'd even bet that many of these employees are progressives who are trying to do the right thing.

              "When I was an alien, cultures weren't opinions" ~ Kurt Cobain, Territorial Pissings

              by Subterranean on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 08:10:03 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think it's okay as an interim solution (0+ / 0-)

                and I'd be much more supportive of it if there was a long term plan by these companies that would try to remedy the larger issue that 80 mile round trip commutes are ultimately not sustainable if we're really trying to create an ecologically healthy planet, whether they're done by bus or car. So if Google and Apple said, "okay, we really want to get the best and brightest employees in the world, and the best and brightest want to live in San Francisco, so let's work on relocating parts of our operations to San Francisco and in the meantime run these buses," I'd be much more okay with it. They certainly could afford it, considering how much cash they're sitting on, but they're not doing it because they have to pay much more property tax in SF than in Silicon Valley, where they get total sweetheart deals. So really, they want to have all the benefits of SF but not pay the price for it. Have their cake and eat it too. Okay, cool, that's what corporations do, but then please don't tell me to bow down to their tremendous generosity and environmental concerns, and praise them for being good stewards for doing something that is just the cheapest and most expedient way of doing business for them.

                Ecology is the new Economy

                by citisven on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:21:26 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  There are offices in SF (0+ / 0-)

                  But they aren't moving their HQ there for the 20somethings.  They have many more employees who live in Silicon Valley and don't want to live in SF, and they want to remain close to the companies they partner with, the venture capital firms they invest with, and the grad students bringing them new ideas that will be the next startups.

                  Looking at this as "avoiding" SF taxes is, to this 25 year resident of Silicon Valley, curious.

  •  As always, a top-notch diary on a subject... (12+ / 0-)

    ...that was (before you wrote about it) obscure to most people. Thanks, citisven.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 11:45:02 AM PDT

  •  We have decided! (4+ / 0-)

    This attitude really ruffles my fur and feathers.  The Corporate CEOs or other Bosses make a decision on what they want to do.  Then, when the vox populae have questions, they send in the soft voiced P.R. opinion massagers to assuage all dissent.
    But it always comes down to the same thing.  We have decided, and we'll do whatever we can to make you comfortable with it, but the decision has already been made.  That's the way it is.

    "The war against Bradley Manning is a war against us all." Chris Hedges

    by dharmasyd on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:12:20 PM PDT

  •  Excellent statement, citisven. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven

    I'd never have been able to afford living in SF at any point I can imagine in my life (having had kids to raise since I was 23), but I'm still in favor of keeping the city as affordable as possible. Money shouldn't be the only or the primary way to determine where people can live.

    And the buses as you describe them seem to be symbolic of the same kinds of forces that divide people by access to money and other resources. Ugh.

    Some DKos series & groups worth your while: Black Kos, Native American Netroots, KosAbility, Monday Night Cancer Club. If you'd like to join the Motor City Kossacks, send me a Kosmail.

    by peregrine kate on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:17:41 PM PDT

    •  yup, it's not a new phenomenon (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      peregrine kate

      and I think the good thing is that unlike the big banks or oil companies who externalize the cost of their business with no qualms, a lot of the tech companies seem to at least be open to addressing these issues. The dialog is where it all begins.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:02:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  bravo! great diary about a favorite city. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, tardis10, where4art

    As a former resident (only 6 months 15 years ago) I recall that gentrification was a major issue for many SF neighborhoods at that time. The struggles of maintaining the culture of a legacy city never end. SF is fortunate to have you (and hopefully others) able to observe from the viewpoint of sustainability and scale.

    Good luck with bringing this issue forward!

    Macca's Meatless Monday

    by VL Baker on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:22:14 PM PDT

  •  Cry me a river (0+ / 0-)

    You don't like the buses?  Move to the suburbs.  Or to a city that doesn't have a thriving tech industry.

    Also, in the absence of these buses, the streets would be way more crowded with cars.  It's hard to see how the slight inconvenience of buses (which are surely no worse than the city buses already on the streets) outweighs the benefits of a thriving economy and reduced drivership.

    The next Noah will work a short shift. - Charles Bowden

    by Scott in NAZ on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 12:58:41 PM PDT

  •  Fabulous letter Sven! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GAS, citisven

    and a great article as well.

  •  We're living the same life! (6+ / 0-)

    I too am a Mission dweller of many years--and I just got Ellis Acted out of my rent controlled apartment of 18 years.  Trying to find a new place to live has been a nightmare.

      I'm lucky to have more than a starving artist income, but I am 56 years old and disabled with late stage HIV/AIDS, don't drive, and need to stay near my doctors and support system to survive.  

    It's looking like my choices are boiling down to renting what amounts to a ghetto dormroom or moving into some kind of group living experiment.  I am barely staying healthy enough to continue working and really don't need any more stress in my life.

    The rise in rents in the last few months since I learned I had to move has been breathtaking, the prices jumping 10 to 20% a month.

    Thank you for putting your finger on one of the reasons this situation is accelerating out of control, even worse than it did during the dot.com era in the late '90's.

    "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." ~ Mark Twain

    by wonkydonkey on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 01:07:29 PM PDT

    •  so sorry to hear that, wonkydonky (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wonkydonkey, kimoconnor, where4art

      what a bummer, that really hurts. Would you want me to send you info if I hear about anything opening up? That often seems to be the only way these days to keep people in the neighborhood, by word of mouth among the community when something opens and the landlord/roommates aren't all about cashing in.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:06:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the offer! (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, melo, kimoconnor

        At this point I am not lacking for leads so much as the energy to pursue them, or courage to commit to something either too expensive for the long run, or of a much lower quality of life than I am used to.

        I am always pleasantly surprised at how helpful people in the community are here, and what a contrast that is to practically everywhere else in my life.  :^)

        "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it." ~ Mark Twain

        by wonkydonkey on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:14:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Why is the public transit so inadequate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Simplify, citisven, Fresno

    to the task?  That should really be the question.  For a company as large as Google, there's never going to be consensus among its employees about where they want to live.    What are the social factors at work causing such a bad hook-up between the Bay Area and downtown SF in the public transit network?  When a bus that has to go by the city streets and deal with traffic can get the job done faster than a train can, something is seriously wrong with the train.

    •  The issue isn't the speed of the train (0+ / 0-)

      It's that the more transfers you have to make in a commute, the less desirable it is.  For a hipster in the Mission, that would mean at least one bus ride to the train station, or a BART ride to Millbrae, switching to CalTrain.  Then the train to Menlo Park, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale... and, if your company sprang for it, a shuttle ride from the train station to the company itself, and don't forget most of these big companies have multiple buildings and not all of them are on the "main campus" either.

      The buses solve the problem by going from a collection point (and they pick those points based on where a critical mass of employees live) direct to the firms' office(s).  No transferring required unless you don't live near a collection point.  There's wifi onboard, and air-conditioning, and lots of other twentysomethings to network or flirt with.  What's not to love if you're working for one of those companies?

      But if Google and Facebook and Yahoo and LinkedIn and Apple and Netflix and Intel and ten other companies are all running luxury buses down little neighborhood city streets... there might be a problem for everyone else.

  •  Highly recommended!!!! (3+ / 0-)

    As a mom of two of those Google commuters and a resident of SF, I see both sides of this issue.  My boys are living and spending their $ in SF, leave the car at GoogleLand and travel nearly all the time by Google Bus to go to and from work and Muni and BART for the rest of their life.  They only take the car out of the Google parking lot if they are going away for the weekend.  So I appreciate all the cars that are NOT on the road when I have to drive in SF; but I hate the Muni stops being overrun at prime commute time.

    Tech workers who work on the Peninsula but live in SF add value to SF by spending most of their money here, including property and sales tax, which is good.  I don't like what their living here has done to the cost of housing, though.

    I have a proposal for Google: to take the edge off the disruption the big buses cause, Google should just provide free wifi to the City like they have in Mountain View.  It would be cheap goodwill and cheap advertising.

    Just a thought.

    •  Thanks for sharing, dksbrook (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dksbook, kimoconnor, where4art

      I think it's really important to hear everyone's story, and that even though we talk about The Google Bus as some sort of a monolithic thing, there are many different stories and personal situations woven into the fabric. I also have friends who commute on these buses, and I don't hate them or think less of them (although it's fun to give them a hard time in good sport every now and then:-). Everyone knows it's not a perfect situation, and only the most tone deaf (or libertarian) ones would say there's no problem whatsoever with so much wealth moving in so quickly.

      While the free wifi idea is pretty good, I don't think it really addresses the issue. I'd rather see them spend their money on opening an office in the city, or implementing a free shuttle service of smaller, lighter shuttles that would take workers (and perhaps the public?) to a more limited number of stops for the big long-distance shuttles.

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Fri Apr 12, 2013 at 05:21:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  they should make electric buses, and have more, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, shaharazade

    and smaller ones.

    bingo, problem solved. google can afford it, and it would be great PR for them too.

    hell, methane powers buses too, if electric are 'too expensive', (BS, but predictable criticism). then solarise the rooves of the parking bays where they rest and get maintained, may as well solarise the bus rooves to while we're at it!

    amazed no-one else suggested this.

    the idea's not all bad, but the execution hamhanded.

    thanks citisven, very good diary!

    why? just kos..... *just cause*

    by melo on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 01:42:48 AM PDT

    •  great idea, melo (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaharazade

      I'll add that to my list of things that could be done to improve the situation for everyone. And those employees that couldn't make the bus could just drive their Teslas to work. :-)

      Ecology is the new Economy

      by citisven on Sat Apr 13, 2013 at 03:24:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Google is doing electric (0+ / 0-)

      But electric buses for a 40 mile commute, minimum, is probably not going to work.  Not where battery tech is now.

      They have a fleet of electric cars that employees can sign out and use.  But when you get something large, like a bus, running all electric gets much tougher.  The issue for EVs is range, and since these buses go on the freeway, that hurts range even more (do you want to use the batteries to go fast or to go far).

      Their electric fleet indeed is set up with covered parking with solar panels above.

      I do know of at least one company working on an electric school bus solution, but again, school buses don't make (routinely) 40 mile one-way trips.

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