SFMTA Approves Plan to Charge Tech Buses $1 to Use Muni Stops

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Hours after a group of anti-gentrification protesters blockaded two tech shuttles at 8th and Market Streets, the SFMTA Board of Directors rubber-stamped a new proposal to rectify the situation -- by charging the buses $1 to idle at Muni bus stops throughout the city.

The fee would serve as a salvo -- or, perhaps, a great equalizer -- for ordinary San Franciscans who complain about the new crop so luxury coaches, seen as an allegory for Silicon Valley's nouveau riche.

It would not, however, generate revenue for city coffers, owing to state Proposition 218, which prohibits local governments from taxing companies without voter approval.

"These buses have become the physical manifestation of a lot of larger issues," SFMTA Director Ed Reiskin said at the meeting, adding that the pilot program didn't purport to resolve all of them.

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Pay up, Google.
So, for all the feel-good rhetoric behind it, the fee is only for cost-recovery -- though the city would net an estimated $80K for medium operators and $100K for large operators, all that money would only be funneled back into the program.

And evidently, $1 per stop is no real hardship for Google, whose management evidently sent a memo to employees, urging them to attend the meeting and speak in favor of the proposal. The memo, which was leaked to TechCrunch this morning, contains several bubbly talking points about loving the community in San Francisco, and a couple that could be used to play hardball.

"If the shuttle program didn't exist, I would continue to live in San Francisco and drive to work on the peninsula," Google executives urged employees to say, conjuring an alternative universe in which all techies commute to their jobs in carbon-spewing BMWs and Maseratis. An impact report issued by the $1-a-stop pilot program estimated that the shuttles save about 11,000 metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions.

Several Google employees attended the meeting to speak in favor of the proposal, as did Supervisor Scott Wiener. But one detractor insisted that $1 is way too low -- a car caught blocking a Muni stop would incur a $271 ticket.

And, despite Reiskin's caveat, other speakers quickly jerked the discussion back to gentrification, affordable housing issues, and manifest destiny. During the 80-minute public comment period, one Mission resident characterized the buses as "Conquistador transportation." One even urged the bus blockaders to come out in greater numbers.

"These companies are filthy rich," the last speaker announced, "and we need to squeeze them for everything they have."

In the meantime, Google has taken to squiring its employees in a more expensive, but better insulated private ferry.




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