What "Google bus" really means

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EDITORIAL In recent years, "Google bus" has become a term that encompasses more than just the shuttles that one corporation uses to transport its workers from San Francisco down to the Silicon Valley. It has taken on a symbolic meaning representing the technology sector's desire to shield itself from the infrastructure, values, and responsibilities that most citizens choose to share.

These are the very things that motivate many of us to live here, finding that community spirit in such a beautiful, world-class city. More than just the great restaurants and bars, its vistas and artistic offerings, San Francisco represents an experiment in modern urbanism and cultural development.

It is this collision and collusion of disparate yet public-spirited cultures that gave birth to the region's great economic and social movements, from gay rights and environmentalism to groundbreaking academic research and the creation of the Internet economy.

The antithesis of this idea of creative collaboration is to consider San Francisco just 49 square miles of valuable real estate, to be used and developed as the highest bidder sees fit, as some tech titans seem to believe. It's ironic that an industry based on creating online communities would place so little value on engaging with its physical community.

The proposed $1 per bus stop use, and $50 per docking that new exclusive Google ferry is paying, is a privatization of public space that barely covers the city's costs. The tech industry should be doing much more just to counteract its negative impacts on the city's economy, let alone actually being good corporate citizens of this region.

A new report called for by the Mayor's Office says Muni needs a $10 billion investment over the next 15 years just to maintain current service levels. A big chunk of that should come from the wealthy corporations in our community through a downtown transit assessment district and higher fees on Silicon Valley companies that are using us as a bedroom community.

San Francisco writer Rebecca Solnit has been developing a critique of the Google bus since her initial shot last February in the London Review of Books, answering a subsequent techie/enviro criticism published in Grist with a Jan. 7 article in Guernica called "Resisting Monoculture."

"And thus come the well-paid engineers to San Francisco, and thus go the longtime activists, idealists, artists, teachers, plumbers, all the less-well-paid people," she writes, citing surveys that the buses allow Silicon Valley workers to live in San Francisco when they otherwise wouldn't.

That's the issue. The only thing green about Google buses are the piles of money their riders and their bosses are keeping from the city we all share. Segregated buses have never been a good idea, but if these companies insist on them, that should come with a higher price tag.

 

Comments

as entitled to use them as anyone else.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 14, 2014 @ 6:29 pm

It's not the public roads- It's the Muni stops that they use to pick up their passengers. They stop for sometimes 5 - 10 minutes illegally at Muni stops which holds up the whole system for the law abiding, fare paying, resident commuters. That is the problem.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 3:51 pm

They've agreed to pay, they've agreed to avoid certain stops and to get out of the way of any MUNI buses.

Think about it: if a Muni bus comes every 10 minutes and stops for 30 seconds then the bus stop is empty 95% of the time. OK, if 2 lines use the stop then it is only empty 90% of the time.

Also, the amount that they pay is all that is allowed under state law. This editorial likes to point out that the amount isn't very much; for obvious reasons the SFBG doesn't want to talk about the fact that they legally can't pay more.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

is it? what you are saying shows exactly exactly how conditioned everyone is. it isnt the MONEY THAT MATTERS.

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:12 am

is it? moot you say? so money fixes everything right? WRONG. we are talking about CONDUCT..about respect, and acting in a way that benefits everyone...not a way that stomps on the daily life of natives.

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:14 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:43 am

yes it is!! one of them!

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:11 am

you obviously do not live in a neighborhood where there are THREE of these buses GOING IN AND OUT ALL F***** DAY, getting in the way of MUNI...of peoples driveways...HONKING THEIR HORNSand in general being a nuisance Three buses in one neighborhood? its called OVERKILL.

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:07 am

you obviously do not live in a neighborhood where there are THREE of these buses GOING IN AND OUT ALL F***** DAY, getting in the way of MUNI...of peoples driveways...HONKING THEIR HORNSand in general being a nuisance Three buses in one neighborhood? its called OVERKILL.

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:07 am

gee, thanks for mentioning the obvious...it is, in a way, MY POINT...have you heard of conducting oneself in a PEOPLE FRIENDLY manner when using these PUBLIC places???obviously you do not live in a neighborhood where there are THREE of these buses going in and out of the hood all day long, getting in the way of MUNI... of MUNI bus stops, of people trying to get in their own driveways, and having to actually hear these buses HONK at pedestrians and people who live in the neighborhood. one is enough. do you not SEE THE CONGESTION IN THIS CITY?? naw, never mind, just look down at your google devices, sheeple!!!

Posted by the Hun on Jan. 19, 2014 @ 10:11 am

Now do the math on how much these buses are _saving_ us by not having these people in cars or on publicly subsidized transit.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 9:49 am

You're assuming they'd all have chosen to live in San Francisco even without the buses. Given that the buses are considered a major perk, that's a bad assumption. If not for the buses, many techies would opt for housing further down the Peninsula instead (and hence drive far less distance).

Posted by Kagan MacTane on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:36 am

If not for the buses they would be living with their own kind in Palo Alto or wherever.

It just ain't right for them to be living here. This is our city.

Posted by Joe on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:53 am

What other subgroups of the population would you like to see that applying to?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

I have nothing against them "techies", I just want to live among my own kind, the way that the lord intended all people to live. Them techies would also be happier if they stayed in their own country, with their own customs.

How would you feel if they started dating your daughters? That's next, you know, and you will have only yourselves to blame.

Posted by Joe on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:36 pm

I was born and raised here, and raised a family that still lives here. I want Google Buses! I just don't want haters like you.

Posted by Richmondman on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

For your information, I've lived in SF for 12 years and have been a commuter to the south bay the entire time. So to repeat for the simple-minded: that means I'm an SF resident first and a tech worker second. And, for a majority of those commute years, I did it the old-fashioned way: I got in my car and hit the 101 *or* I took Caltrain, like everyone else, depending on my needs. The shuttles make my life easy now but there is no way I'd give up my home in SF if the bus service ceased to exist. I drove before and I'd do it again. Believe it. This time, there'd be the added bonus of proving idiots like you wrong.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

Now do the math on how much these buses are _saving_ us by not having these people in cars or on publicly subsidized transit.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 9:50 am

You can be of any race as long as you agree with them, they get all freaked out a personally attack anyone who isn't down with their agenda.

It's odd that they call bus stops "public spaces" I can't pull up a lawn chair and crack open a beer in one, or do anything I or a golden hobo can do in any other public space.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 10:14 am

streets are public spaces. And a google shuttle can use city streets just like the rest of us.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 10:26 am

"The only thing green about Google buses are the piles of money their riders and their bosses are keeping from the city we all share"

errr, how many tons of air pollution were not spewed into the air as a result of people bussing to work as opposed to driving their cars?

how about less demand for parking in SF?

can we at least have an honest debate about issues, instead of moronic, easily disproved assertions such as the quote above?

Posted by guestD on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:24 am

The tech industry is anything but green. It uses huge amount of energy and creates mountains of toxic waste, partly because it chooses to create devices that break or become obsolete in a couple years. And there's nothing green about having a workforce that lives 40 miles from the office, a wasteful situation that these companies enable by having massive luxury buses that spew air pollution greenhouse gases and take up tons of space on the roadways even though they are usually less than half full because this industry and its employees value convenience more than the environment. That's the reality, not your moronic assumption that it's a bus and therefore it's environmentally friendly, or that all these employees would all be driving their cars everyday. No, many wouldn't live here, while others would have to support real public transit, the infrastructure for which might be expanded with enough support from the rich.

Posted by steven on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

Dude...they make little devices that people use for about 3 years.

You work for a print publication that creates a ton more waste and has a useful life span of minutes.

And, last I looked, your publication isn't delivered by bicycle. Trucks drive it to those metal boxes that clutter our public streets.

Do you want to pontificate some more with your holier-than-thou perspective on the tech industry and the environment?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

Right-on! Tell it!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

And BTW, since those metal SFBG boxes that clutter our streets are commonly located in busy areas near bus stops I wonder how much the SFBG should pay for the use of bus stops during delivery. Or where do they park trucks downtown while making deliveries?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 6:49 pm

The "Google bus" represents the remarkable innovation that results from private enterprise. Ideally MUNI will hire them as consultants.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 11:53 am

There are rules for Google and everyone else is it to follow. Your a joke!

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

So funny all these loser rent control subsidized people are screaming to the tech bus to PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE. Yet these creeps wont pay their fair share for rent. They want to steal from those terrorized landlords.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 1:58 pm

Yeah, those poor "terrorized landlords," like those of Mid-Market businesses benefiting from the $15 million in corporate welfare that city taxpayers gave to Twitter and other businesses last year. At least middle income San Franciscans need rent control just to be able to stay here, what's Twitter's excuse? What, $34 billion in market capitalization just isn't enough, the rest of us have to subsidize it was well?

Posted by steven on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

anyway, and hope that someone else will subsidize you?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 5:55 pm

"the technology sector's desire to shield itself from the infrastructure, values, and responsibilities that most citizens choose to share."

Yes....Google is just SO oblivious to the concepts that we deem valuable and to the infrastructure that supports our lives.

That's why nobody uses it anymore. They just don't understand how people live nowadays.

Well, not everybody has stopped using it; the SFBG uses it to deliver advertisements to these pages, but nobody else uses it.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 15, 2014 @ 2:10 pm

Yes, we and many others use this corporation's services. How does that negate anything I wrote about its refusal to be a good corporate citizen and give back to the communities that support it? Its business is a business, one it makes enormous profits on, it's not some kind of public service that entitles them to use public spaces that are designated for public transit services.

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 2:11 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

Everyone pays taxes, the bare minimum required of citizens, both individual and corporate. But for communities to work, particularly in complex urban environments, those that have more need to do more.

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

Your willingness to engage in back and forth bickering on this just proves that you feel you are wrong. On top of that, its embarassing and small minded. I wish there was a real, intelligent, viable, progressive voice in this town.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 10:24 am
Posted by Guest on Jan. 17, 2014 @ 10:45 am

Commuter buses remove a powerful constituency from public rapid regional transit. That pushes back transit improvements by years, decades. Absent transit improvements, many more than the 33K daily boardings of commuter buses will be consigned to single occupancy vehicles. The carbon footprint of those hundreds of thousands of commuters needs to be balanced against the lessened carbon footprint of those 33K commuter bus boardings.

We need a whole lifecycle analysis of the impact of private, elite transit instead of just talking about the the parts that fit the gentrifying narrative. Such a narrative would prove a net loss for the region over time.

Posted by marcos on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 8:37 am

For a group of people who are outraged they can't smoke weed legally, they sure are up in everyone's business.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 9:13 am

ability to do drugs, engage in porn, have abortions and marry your dog.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 10:10 am

No, not everything, but corporate greed and exploitation and the fact that late capitalism is cooking the planet and coopting public spaces are a few of the realms where we think a little meddling is appropriate. We all have an obligation to be good stewards of the natural world and provide for future generations, obligations this get-rich-quick industry and the politicians it sponsors are blatantly ignoring.

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

anything. That is what public roads are for - to facilitate private use!

Otherwise why would we pay for them?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

Parking a private bus in a public bus stop, an illegal act subject to $271 fines, is most definitely coopting a public space.

Posted by steven on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 3:07 pm

Steven-
Are you willing to state that the SFBG delivery trucks do not stop in public bus stops in order to deliver the SFBG to the metal stands on the street?

Thanks in advance for your response.

Posted by Guest2 on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 4:24 pm

They stop briefly. They also now pay for that privilege. If you want to milk them for more you need to change state law. Please ask Ammiano to introduce that change and then get back to us on how it goes. Until then - shut the fuck up. You're a goddamn broken record.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

agreement with the city to use their bus stops?

Are you that casual with the truth?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

You want to tell everyone how to live based on your world view, but when people of another world view want to do it you get all worked up.

It was comical the other day that at the same time this web page had an article bemoaning passing the voters to build candlestick, while you whined that progressives passing voters with the energy scheme wasn't working out.

Stop couching your entitlement in idiotic rhetoric of whats best for all and admit that you just want. Your trying to have everything every way to suit the minute is just pathetic and sad, yet quite comical.

You are just as intellectually bereft as any corporate spokesperson. You remind me of the McLibel lawyers trying to claim that soda was good for people.

Posted by guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 6:53 pm

Sidewalks are also public spaces. Why is the city allowing privately owned bicycles to park for free instead of charging for the private use of this public resource and generated much needed revenue for Muni?

The manufacture of bicycles and their accessories (especially tires) is not a carbon-neutral act. Sidewalks should be reserved for the far more environmentally friendly pedestrians. The city should be agressively pursuing a policy to get those selfish individuals off of their machines and onto their feet.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 4:24 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

They got worked up over sit lie because bums should be able to squat out on "public space" for the duration.

Illegal immigration is immigration or undocumented,

Public space is reserved for the public, meaning city buses, and not me pulling up a BBQ and a six pack of beer. Public space is where a golden hobo can camp out all day with their mean assed pit bull, the general public can't use it to walk by though.

It's like Orwell never happened, the wholesale rape of language by progressives is amazing is it not?

Posted by guest on Jan. 16, 2014 @ 7:00 pm

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