San Francisco to charge tech companies for buses


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If a new plan is approved, major technology companies such as Google and Apple will begin paying the city government of San Francisco to allow their commuter shuttle buses to stop at public bus stops, a practice that is currently against city laws.

The plan, announced Monday by Mayor Ed Lee, will charge businesses approximately $100,000 to use the city’s bus stops for their private buses used to take city residents to their high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley.

“San Francisco needs a reliable, safe and affordable world-class transportation system,” Lee said. “This agreement will help the city realize the benefits that come with commuter shuttles, such as keeping thousand of cars off our roads and preventing gridlock, while ensuring companies pay their fair share and don’t delay our public transportation system.”

Companies have used the bus stops in the past, an offense that is finable in San Francisco, but has largely gone on without penalty. That has upset citizens who believe the companies are unfairly using public infrastructure that could be delaying Muni buses and their passengers.

This frustration came to a head last month when a number of citizens protested and stopped Google and Apple shuttles.

Genentech, Google, Apple, Facebook, Bauer’s Intelligent Transportation, and the Bay Area Council have all announced approval for the project that will be run by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

The pilot program includes:

  • Charging a daily fee based on the number of stops a shuttle provider or employer makes to fully cover SFMTA’s cost of administering and enforcing the program and includes private investment to improve select stops. Fees are estimated to raise tens of thousands of dollars monthly to the largest transportation providers;
  • Approval of 200 bus stops (out of more than 2,500 total in the Muni system) to be used by providers;
  • Private shuttle providers will pay to use Muni bus zones, based on a per stop, per day, cost recovery schedule. Due to Proposition 218, SFMTA cannot create a fee structure that goes beyond the cost to provide such a service or policy;
  • Providers would operate in accordance to agreed-upon guidelines, such as yielding to Muni and pulling to the front of the zone making more room for other vehicles, and avoiding steep and narrow streets;
  • The agency would enforce these rules to ensure only participating companies are using shared zones. It will be illegal to use all other bus zones;
  •  Each commuter shuttle will be issued a unique identification placard so enforcement personnel can easily identify vehicles; and
  •  Providers would share data with SFMTA to ensure location information is available for complaint follow-up, enforcement and to support the agency’s transportation system management.

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California, States