Many tech giants in Silicon Valley have for some time used shuttle buses to get their employees to work, with Google, Apple, and Facebook just a few of the companies known to operate such a service.
Recently, however, some angry San Francisco residents have been targeting them in protests designed to bring attention to concerns that the huge wealth created by these firms is failing to find its way back into the local community, pushing property prices sky high and generally having an adverse affect on the area.
In a bid to calm the increasingly tense situation and allow the tech workers to clock in on time, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) on Tuesday voted unanimously in favor of a pilot program that’ll see the tech firms paying to use the public transit stops where it collects and drops off its employees.
However, the city’s director of transportation, Edward Reiskin, acknowledged that the move to start charging for the use of the stops wasn’t an attempt to address the wider concerns of disgruntled residents, saying, “These buses have become the physical manifestation of a lot of larger issues. We’re not purporting to solve all of those issues.”
The approved pilot program will run for 18 months from this July and allow the shuttle buses to use 200 public stops around the city. In exchange, the bus companies will pay a daily $1 fee for each stop, which should amount to around $1.5 million for city coffers, although apparently this will simply cover operating costs. In the debate that took place before the vote, several participants complained that the dollar fee was too low, and that a higher price would better reflect what those using public buses have to pay.
Up to now, the shuttle buses were using the stops free of charge and without permission, a situation which in some cases led to traffic congestion and in turn caused resentment among local residents, some of whom have long felt uneasy about the effect of the tech companies on the local community.
Whether the pilot program serves to end the protests remains to be seen, but more trouble flared prior to Tuesday’s vote when irate demonstrators once again blocked two buses ferrying Google and Apple employees to work.
Earlier this month it was reported that Google had hired a private boat firm in the Bay Area to take some of its workers to the office on a catamaran.