Mayor Lee addresses Google bus controversy

Guardian photo and graphic

At a press conference on affordable housing today, the Guardian asked Mayor Ed Lee about San Francisco’s favorite pinata: tech buses. The monstrous private shuttles, which daily whisk tech workers away to Silicon Valley, currently use Muni bus stops without paying fines, like most private autos do. 

In Guardian News Editor Rebecca Bowe’s article in the print edition of the Bay Guardian this week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Paul Rose tells her that although there is a proposal in the works to regulate them, the SFMTA won’t profit a single dime from the plan. 

“We are developing these policies to better utilize the boarding zones for these shuttle providers," Rose said. "What we're trying to do is provide a more efficient transportation network."

But everyone in San Francisco who has ever ridden Muni knows that it struggles to run on time, and chronic underfunding is a perennial Muni problem. It even hurts the city’s bottom line, depressing our economy by over $50 million a year, according a report from the city earlier this May.

The report also highlights the cost to overhaul Muni between now and the year 2020: over $167 million would be needed to overhaul the system.

So why not make a few bucks from tech companies using Muni stops, who, according to the city, cause Muni delays? 

We asked Mayor Ed Lee that very question at a press conference today. You can listen to his answer in the audio embedded below, or read the transcript for yourself. 

San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Housing is one aspect of this, but transportation is another. The MTA’s plan to deal with tech buses is cost neutral. Is that a missed opportunity to get additional funding for Muni?"

Mayor Ed Lee: “Not a missed opportunity. That’s the essence of that 2030 task force, transportation task force, that we put together where they send a report to me, I’m in a process of reviewing all aspects of that. 

Muni officials themselves were directly involved in producing that very comprehensive review along with our Planning Department and many in fact all of the departments here had implemented them.

Transportation is not just about Muni, it’s about all the modes of how people get around the city. You can’t forget that, because that’s a really big part of the task force’s work.

How to get people walking. How to get them bicycling safer and more. How to get cars less, and the cars that do, get them through where they have to go without stalling and congesting. 

How do you invest in Muni? In its assets, in its transportation, in all of its aspects. How do you work with taxis and all the other car-sharing and automobile sharing companies. It’s not just about taxis, by the way. I hear from my taxi friends as I walk around City Hall, they don’t want to be left behind so we want to bring them in to see the new exciting use of Uber carshare and Lyft… all of those modes have to be paid attention to at the highest level, including investing in the assets of Muni.

I want Muni to be the choice.”

Earlier in the press conference Lee voiced his opposition to all of the hatred pointed at tech companies. 

“People, stop blaming tech, tech companies,” he said. “They want to work on a solution. I think it's unfortunate that some voices want to pit one economic sector they view as successful against the rest of our challenge. The reality is they’re only eight percent of our economy.” 

We tried to ask a follow up question, but at the end of his answer on Muni, the mayor’s spokesperson Christine Falvey told the Guardian “We’re going to go on a tour now, this is off topic.”


He made more sense than matlock. And he was less boing than you, with your constant bleating about "envy," "Aspen," "free market," and all your other memes. I dare say it was a breath of fresh air.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

Aspen argument or the Envy argument, I would immediately stop using them

Bit so far, nobody has, and as long as those points are winning, they will get repeated here.

But boring? You mean like you on the subject of cops, Latin America or endless government control of everything?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:39 pm

They've been refuted dozens of times. Never to your satisfaction of course, because you need to have the first word and the last word, and in the absence of any real ideas you just repeat a tired talking point. They're just tiresome, so people who don't have the time to troll all day don't always refute them. Like right now... I'm done here, so please, go ahead, have the last word. I won't even bother to look, let alone respond.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

"dozens" of them. Yet you cannot.

Good arguments are heard a lot because they work. That's also why, aside from you, we never hear arguments that hate on cops and Asians.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:11 am

post here.

Progressive share the randroid school of thinking skills though.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 1:48 am

"Guest", do you have a valid argument against a central shuttle terminus that doesn't involve the minor inconvenience it may/may not cause tech workers, or are criticisms and accusations of envy all you have to offer?

Posted by Josh on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:52 pm

The shuttle companies have a more efficient model now. Why should they junk it because you want them too?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 8:51 pm

That's the obvious problem with your dumb idea.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:09 am

I've already explained why a central terminus is a better idea than what they're doing now and the problems it would alleviate. The current model is only more efficient for the people who use it, who according to Mayor Lee, only amount to 8 percent of the local economy. If a central terminus solves more problems for the MAJORITY, why should efficiency for the minority trump that?

Posted by Josh on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 10:40 pm

And it didn't work there either.

You have a problem with freedom and choice?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:08 am

It's not a choice for the majority to be inconvenienced to serve the needs of the minority, is it? Here's another problem with shuttles:

The actual number is 84 percent from the MTA website. Only 16 percent of cars parked on the average day in the Northeast Mission are registered to zip 94110.

It doesn't make the shuttles any less viable to depart from a central terminus. The shuttles would still be going to their campuses and still departing from SF. The only difference between this and what they have been doing is that you change the pickup point from 200 places to one, and it would be connected to public transport, so it's not like it would be inaccessible.

Recapping, we have parking issues in the Mission caused by shuttles, higher rents for places with direct proximity to tech shuttle stops, MUNI buses and school buses getting blocked by shuttles, and cyclists complaining that they block the bike lanes and putting them in harm's way (I see this across from Safeway on Church and Market all the time). These are problems that affect the majority. These are also facts, and not feelings-based judgments related to envy.

If a central terminus solves these problems for the majority, please provide a valid argument against a central terminus that doesn't involve the minor inconvenience it would cause some tech workers (the minority) to get to the terminus point.

Posted by Josh on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 11:06 am

It will add 30-60 minutes to the commute, which makes the entire idea a non-starter.

Why are you so obsessed with trying to tell other people how they should get to work? I don't try and tell you how to.

You claim these shuttles are a problem, but we have lots of other types of buses, trucks and large vehicles and yet only now do people like you make a stink, and only about the buses who carry more successful people than you.

Total fail, sorry.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 11:23 am

So you can't provide a valid argument that would explain why a central terminus is a bad idea for the MAJORITY, and you've managed to once again attempt to inject envy into this discussion when I've provided reasons that are not feelings-based and have nothing to do with classism as to why a central terminus is a better idea for the MAJORITY. You have made it clear that you are only interested in what benefits the MINORITY, which would be the tech workers that take the shuttles who only amount to 8 percent of our local economy.

When you can't come up with a cogent argument, you revert to using envy as a defense. I really hope you don't work in the tech industry and take one of these shuttles, because the fact that you seem to think that the only people who should be concerned about this are those who are "less successful" than the shuttle riders is an indictment on your overblown sense of self-importance, and you really don't need to fan those flames right now.

Posted by Josh on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

Or are you spouting all this crap just for us here?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 4:59 pm

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