Despite passionate protests and serious legal challenges, this week the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority approved a controversial trial program that will allow companies like Google to use private shuttles at public bus stops. This program is an embodiment of the class warfare attitude that has become a festering wound in America.
San Francisco is the front line in a new war on the lower classes, as skyrocketing rents and the increased cost of services in many hip urban areas is driving longtime residents to the outskirts. Many of these lower-income residents rely on public transit options to get to and from work. Meanwhile, young and affluent tech companies are being offered nicer private shuttles by companies like Google, which use public bus stops and delay public transit riders. Angry commuters have go so far as to attack the a Google bus, resulting in damage to the shuttle and the deployment of private security guards…again, at public bus stops.
While these private shuttles no doubt helped reduce traffic congestion, and are better for both people and the environment in the grand scheme of things, their interference with access to public transportation has many people up in arms. Though it likes to paint itself as a corporate benefactor, Google has offered to pay a pittance of just $1 per-stop fee for access to bus stops, which is half the cost an adult rider has to pay per ride. It’s little condolence for residents who have had their commutes significantly lengthened by these elitist shuttles.
The pilot program includes 200 bus stops, and while I can see Google’s side of things, it seems patently unfair to have private buses utilizing public bus stops and delaying public transit riders. If Google or other companies wants to use its own private shuttles, they should strike a deal with private companies who will let these employees gather for the shuttles on their property. It could be a mutually beneficial arrangement, and one that won’t incite so much public anger.
But for whatever reason, Google is pressing forward with its private shuttle plan, and I doubt things will get any better from here.