Those Tech Buses You Love to Hate Now Have to Pay to Use Muni Stops

Categories: Transportation

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Muni being crowded out by a corporate shuttle.
Now that they've become a target for Occupy protesters and a symbol of rapacious, tech-fueled gentrification in San Francisco, corporate shuttles are going to have to pay to use public bus stops.

After months of hearing commuters grouse about the oversized, WiFi-equipped coaches -- which not only clog traffic, but also force Muni riders to board public buses in the middle of the street -- Mayor Ed Lee has launched a pilot program to charge companies like Bauer's and Compass Transportation for the hundreds of stops they commandeer each day.

That's certainly a nice gesture to taxpayers and public transit users. But it will hardly satisfy the Mission District protesters who recently called for Google et al. to disgorge $1 billion.

It turns out there's a rub: California Proposition 218 -- which voters passed in 1996 -- prevents municipal agencies from charging fees to companies and then funneling the cash back into city coffers. That's technically a tax, and per Prop. 218, the city can't institute a tax without garnering voter approval.

Which means the SFMTA can't create a fee structure that goes beyond administering the cost of the program. Any revenues it recoups from bus stop rental will just go back to funding the pilot program, which is more or less like water circulating within a fountain.

That doesn't mean the rental fees are meaningless. The proposed program will restrict the number of bus stops that tech charters use -- to 200, out of the 2,500 in the Muni system. It will force shuttles to cede space to Muni, install identification placards, and share location data to allow SFMTA to track participating buses, in the event of a commuter complaint.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who recently introduced a proposal to tax sugary beverages, stoutly defends the shuttle fees program. "It's not a fee for the sake of a fee," he argues. "It will fund the MTA's management of a better shuttle system."

In other words, the city can't impose a tax on the charters to fund sunshine and playgrounds and homeless shelters, but it can at least burden them with rules. In Wiener's view, Google buses aren't the same as soda -- you can't slurp money from one as you can from the other. (Also, Wiener notes, municipalities' ability to glean money from vehicles is severely limited).

Whatever the case, if San Franciscans had hoped to bleed Google for all it's worth, they may be sorely disappointed.

Joe Eskenazi contributed to this report.




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19 comments
Michael Harms
Michael Harms

Google treats it's employees like every company should and best believe they will do something positive against the bad press and blogs that don't see the companies mission as a whole. Maybe you ought to check Into contributions in Tech, Science etc. basically the advancement of our society. Lastly their social network has Data Liberation. Can't say that about Crackbooks.

Michael Harms
Michael Harms

Oh geeez everyone is so fuel up. This is a big win for.....no one

Janeen M. Vance Irving
Janeen M. Vance Irving

Yes, let's complain about transit for companies that contribute to our economy with perks for their employees. I see this at MacArthur station every morning while I get on the FREE Emery-go-Round. Less cars, bikes on back for GBuses and Yahoo buses. So awful. Move to Detroit. See how you like it.

Bryan Kish
Bryan Kish

35000 less cars or ppl using the city transit everyday .. What's the problem.

Justin Gray
Justin Gray

What is the big deal with google busses? Great that they're paying to use muni stops, but lets not lose sight of the fact that ANY bus ANYWHERE is better than one more douchey BMW on the road.

John Lilly
John Lilly

What's wrong with riding one of the other public transit systems already in place? CalTrain, BART, MUNI, AC Transit, etc. Too sheltered to mingle with the common folk?

Tuffy Tuffington
Tuffy Tuffington

They should have just stuck a meter maid at every bus stop and issued tickets.

Miguel Chavez
Miguel Chavez

Yaaaaayyyyyyy they r contributing!!!! 1 fucking dollar!!!!! I pay more for Muni....

Andrea Cwynar
Andrea Cwynar

As they should, now if all of the buses could learn how to actually pull into the bus stops....that would be great.

Rachel
Rachel

I'm puzzled by the assertion that these buses "clog traffic". In the absence of hard data, it's just as as reasonable to assume they alleviate traffic as that they add to it.

sfnative
sfnative

What a myopic attitude.

Why on earth should San Francisco, which cannot expand because of geography, have to accommodate thousands of people who work in Mountainview and Silicon Valley, which could expand but refuse to develop housing for the employees of these companies headquartered there (and thus bringing in millions of dollars to those cities)? The buses enable people to take advantage of this ridiculous situation. If the workers could live closer to their jobs, then there wouldn't be this issue of 35000 cars on the freeways vs. the bus.

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