SF GoogleBus Appeals Hearing Recap

(Or, some other super sexy title).

SF politics- so interesting.

So, a few months ago the city transit board decided to respond to protests regarding the Google buses (all Silicon Valley employee shuttle buses- intercity, not intracity shuttles) by creating a pilot program. This program would charge the companies $1 per stop, per day. The stops were red-zoned, illegal spots, where usually Joe Blows get charged $271 for double-parking, stopping, or otherwise parking. The shuttles stop there for upwards to 15 minutes. The pilot program would collect data, so that later on we can regulate and enforce a better program. GPS’es on buses would make sure that they are stopping in certain stops. Those stops though- are similar to the ones they’re at now, in congested, high trafficked areas, etc.

There was an appeal to stop the pilot program, and this hearing was to hear the appeal, and from the public. Note, this is the first and only public feedback on any shuttle matter. Local districts heavily impacted by shuttles- the Mission, Noe and Bernal Heights- have not had any hearings. There have been talks between the local transit and the companies, but again, no public hearings. It’s caused unrest and simmering, and this has been the first “airing of grievances.”

The appeal is stating that there should be an Environmental Impact Review. The SF MTA (public transit board) states that there’s an exception here. It’s important to note that EIR’s aren’t just about birds and flowers and air quality but about how frequently and heavily used bus routes will be impacted, whether costs are involved to enforce, and damage to infrastructure (wear on roads & sidewalks, bike lanes, handicapped access, etc.) Safety, current programs, etc.. Various SF Supervisors asked questions- including, do we have a baseline? Is there any law somewhat similar to this? It’s a state vs. city law issue, and they city lawyers couldn’t find relevant case law.

via http://www.juliacarriewong.com

So just to repeat: intercity shuttles have been illegally double-parking. They’re called on it, and the city responds by proposing a legal pilot program with minimal fees. There is some talk about the illegal-now-legal issue. No statewide precedents on making an illegal activity a baseline.

Let’s talk fees. The legislative aide asserted that SF lost 1M a day, upwards to 200M a year, in possible collected revenues from the illegal parking. SF MTA states that the cost of their pilot program will be 1.5 M for 1-1/2 years. Just to frame this money, the SF MTA budget is 18M. Why were fees not collected? “Because it wasn’t a priority.”

A supervisor, Campos I believe, asked for a continuation. It was voted down. They took a vote on the appeal to the pilot, and voted that down. While some supervisors- Kim, Cohen, Campus and Avalos had lots of objections, only two, Campos and Avalos, voted for the appeal.

Apologies for typos and inaccuracies- transit policy/city politics is a hobby not a vocation!

More reading:
Google Bus Saga Continues: San Francisco Upholds Plan to Charge Shuttles Not entirely accurate, a bit biased towards Silicon Valley companies.
SF supervisors reject challenge of Google bus pilot program Biased the other direction, perhaps not as easy to interpret for out-of-towners.
Supervisors deny appeal of SF commuter shuttle fee program The most balanced report – from SF Examiner (of all things)