Wired measures tech bus trips in a day

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A Google Bus during a protest.
Photo by Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

The vaunted Google Bus pilot program is now in legal limbo as local activists appeal the deal to regulate the shiny behomoths, on environmental grounds. As we wait and see what the next step will be, one technology journalist decided to figure out for himself what the SFMTA says the pilot program aims to do: track the number of tech buses running around San Francisco.

Well, to be fair, Kevin Poulsen, investigations editor at Wired magazine, only tracked the buses flying by his home. But the process doesn't seem too tough to replicate.

As he writes in his Wired post: 

"Last week, it occurred to me that I might start monitoring the local Wi-Fi environment to determine how often the Apple Bus really comes by. My wife guessed 10 times a day. I’d have said 20."

So essentially, he used the Apple bus' Wi-Fi, provided for their employees, to track movements of the bus. He didn't make any bets on it, but if he had, it seems his wife would've lost. 

"After a week of reverse-wardriving, it appears the Apple Bus passes my house an average of 36 times a day, and is uncannily punctual, especially in the a.m., when the first bus reliably pops up on my Wi-Fi radar between 6:23:33 and 6:23:56 every morning.

The second bus passes four or five minutes later, the third 25-minutes after that, another at 6:58, give or take a minute. By 10 a.m. as many as 15 more Apple buses have passed. After that they become infrequent, and die out entirely a few minutes after 2:00 p.m., before they return in force at 5:00 p.m. — presumably taking Apple workers home. The last bus registers at about 10:15 at night."

macadresses

The wifi trail shows how many times particular tech buses drove by this Wired journalist's house.

Why care about tracking them in the first place? It's about the impact of livability in the surrounding area, an idea that so far hasn't been factored in to the $1 per stop, per day argument made by Mayor Ed Lee and the city.  Poulsen writes:

These buses are huge, intimidating, Greyhound-sized affairs, many of them double-deckers, that feel outsized on a relatively quiet street of single-family homes. I haven’t stockpiled much umbrage over them, but some of my neighbors who’ve lived here longer hate the buses. There’s something disconcerting about having your street turn into a major artery in the transportation infrastructure of a company 45 miles away, without so much as a mailer (“Hi! We’re Apple. We’ll be using your street for a while.”).

When the outrage over the $1 per stop, per day number spiked recently, a Google spokesperson said in a release, "San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don’t pay more to use city bus stops. So we’ll continue to work with The City on these fees, and in the meantime will fund Muni passes for low-income students for the next two years.”

Until the SFMTA figures out ways to mitigate the impact of these buses, let's hope more tech-inclined people track their impacts on the city. You can see the original Wired story here

Comments

charge for using the city streets. The city streets are, of course, free to use for any vehicle that is not specifically banned on size, weight or safety grounds.

So the fact that an Apple or Google bus goes past your house is not any argument for them to pay a fee to do so. The whole point of public streets is that private vehicles can use them.

Moreover there are many vehicles are are as big or bigger, and as heavy or heavier, e.g. tourist buses and trucks.

I have not seen a shred of evidence that a bus using a muni bus stop just ten times a week incurs an actual cost of more than $10 a week.

This is supposed to be a SFMTA trial. So let's have a trial and then we can all examine the results at the end. It seems you do not want a trial - you just want to declare a guilty verdict without any evidence.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

Would be nice of them to provide the City and the public with route and schedule information to begin with, so we don't need to play spies.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 3:15 pm

They only have to pay to use the stops.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 3:41 pm

The City needs to know the routes of these vehicles as they City can regulate the roads used by commercial vehicles just as tour buses are prohibited from certain streets.

Of course, this Mayor and this Board of Supervisors would probably enact legislation requiring commuter buses to use residential streets because this government has a persistent hatred for existing San Franciscans.

Posted by marcos on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 5:45 am

It's so nice of the weakly Guardian to tell us important news from investigative writers who are doing the work one might expect of this paper. Kudos to Kevin Poulsen and Wired for this report!

Posted by MPetrelis on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

I get picked up from Glen Park (lucky, I know, but I am headed to the Bayview after all) and find it incredibly annoying that my ride is stuck on the Monterrey exit ramp while the line of Google, Yahoo, Netflix, and Genentech buses all proceed to the passenger pick up/drop off white zone at the same time. Sometimes three at a time. That takes up the ENTIRE street. Then I get to watch the parade of employees get off the bus while the driver checks, checks again, and one more time to make sure all his riders are off the bus. Not to mention the lovely people who take their sweet time getting their bikes out from the bike carriers. Oh, and don't get stuck in the actual loading zone if they pull up next to you and there is no escape! I am curious if pulling up to the loading zones still counts for the $1 fee or if not stopping at the actual bus stop where they do so in the morning makes them exempt from the fee. Little rant out.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 4:15 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

would be if the shuttles didn't help ease your commute.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:14 pm

"The vaunted Google Bus pilot program is now in legal limbo as local activists appeal the deal to regulate the shiny behomoths, on environmental grounds."

So. Local activists are claiming that mass transportation is spoiling the environment now? And that they should never-ever-ever be inconvenienced in their lives? Very progressive.

Posted by herpnderp on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 4:35 pm

willing to see the results of a trial.

So screw them. The Google buses will continue to use the stops without paying anything and SFPD will be told to give them a pass.

Works for me.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 4:49 pm

The "activists" fighting them are like those marooned Japanese soldiers from WWII who refused to give up and surrender - and about as effective.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:13 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:31 pm

A winning slogan if there ever was one.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:39 pm

planet and our air quality.

But as with SFBG's ceaseless support for the Hetch Hetchy dam, SFBG will always sacrifice the environment in favor of class warfare.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a friend who had been doing a little research
on this. And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I discovered it
for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!!

But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this topic here on your site.

Posted by bark shock collar reviews on Jun. 25, 2014 @ 2:54 pm

Sounded whiny. But the Glen Park on/off area is tiny and the area is already super congested. Why not drop off at Balboa station? Much more space and doesn't block cars/people. And does the loading zone get the same use fee?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 5:52 pm

Thanks , I've just been looking for info about this subject for a long time
and yours is the best I've came upon so far. But, what concerning the bottom line?

Are you sure concerning the supply?

"After a week of reverse-wardriving, it appears the Apple Bus passes my house an average of 36 times a day, and is uncannily punctual, especially in the a.m., when the first bus reliably pops up on my Wi-Fi radar between 6:23:33 and 6:23:56 every morning."

That's the crux of it right there. The writer seems amazed that these buses are "uncannily punctual" and "reliable". If regular mass transit were more punctual and reliable (along with safer and cleaner, more people would take it.

And before you anti-Google bus whiners start blaming the Google buses for why Muni sucks, Muni sucked long before you got here. And until it's completely revamped from the top down, it'll suck long after you leave.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 6:04 pm
Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

Non-Workers of the world UNITE!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 6:52 pm

Progressives generally are not members of the working class, they like to talk about being members, in the same way Marx did.

Posted by guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 7:56 pm

all the newcomer progressives, I wish they would find a way to "mitigate the impact" of their behavior.

Posted by guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 7:59 pm

Similar to Greyhound depot downtown. Find an area where the Tech buses can pick up and drop off their techies and so end the blight of seeing these mammoths barging through traffic and causing disturbances and jams as they do in the Mission. Ideally this depot could be located near the Freeway so helping keep the juggernauts out of sight.
As for the techies, they can well afford to use Muni to get to an allotted terminus and the gains in fares $70+ per monthly pass would be much better to our transport system.
Finally it would be easier for the City to lease a large lot to the shuttle companies at a true market value instead of the insulting $1 per stop travesty. (I for one have seen these shuttles idle at Muni stops thereby delaying Muni buses).
In addition,the bus size alone shows the brash arrogance of the Tech companies and their contempt for SF's environment. These buses are designed for freeways not city roads. Why, they're even larger than interstate tour buses!

Posted by Guest on Mar. 11, 2014 @ 10:25 pm

If you're going to do that, you might as well take CalTrain or SamTrans.

We need more transit options, not fewer.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 6:42 am

Newsflash to wired guy and his neighbors. You dont own the streets, and nobody needs to reach out to you to let you know that they plan to drive by your house.

Get over yourself.If you want control over who can come and go on the street in front of your house, then move to a gated community.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 9:20 am

to micromanage everyone else while contributing nothing.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 11:05 am

Park and Ride transit hubs may be the answer to keeping tech buses off city streets, and solve the parking problem for commuters and people who want to park and switch transit modes in the city closer to their destination. Instead of driving across the city, the tech buses could pick up their people at the parking hubs off the freeways

It appears that tech bus riders feel they can rely on tech buses to get them to work on time because, unlike Muni buses, tech buses keep a tight schedule without rushing people or forcing them to stand on crowded buses. Maybe Muni should take a closer look at how they operate. They may learn something.

There are parking lots at BART stops in Berkeley and Castro Valley, and there is plenty of room for shuttle buses to line up off the street without stopping traffic. SF could build something similar.

We hear from SFMTA and city officials that we can’t afford any parking garages because the land to too valuable. Shouldn’t the voters decide what we want to pay for? Maybe we would rather pay for parking garages than TEP projects and street calming.

The shuttle buses and companies they serve, may want to invest in parking hub garages as part of their public works program. Instead of fighting parking, we could embrace it as a means of keeping a lot of shuttle buses off city streets.

If you feel like many of us do, that the public transit system should include more public parking at transit hubs, preferably near freeway exits, please send that information to your supervisor. The more they hear that the voters want MORE PARKING the easier it will be to get MORE PARKING. This is an election year. Tell them what you want for your vote.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 4:32 pm

If you called for an airport shuttle and they told you to make your own way to TransBay or some parking lot off 101, you would just drive instead.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

Remember when billionaire Don Fiisher sponsored Prop H, which would have overturned The City's Transit First policy and built more parking lots?

Remember how it got creamed at the ballot?

Of course you don't, you just moved here from suburbia and demand that long-time residents remake The City to your comfort and convenience.

Good luck!

Posted by GlenParkDaddy on Mar. 17, 2014 @ 7:00 am

Park and Ride transit hubs may be the answer to keeping tech buses off city streets, and solve the parking problem for commuters and people who want to park and switch transit modes in the city closer to their destination. Instead of driving across the city, the tech buses could pick up their people at the parking hubs off the freeways

It appears that tech bus riders feel they can rely on tech buses to get them to work on time because, unlike Muni buses, tech buses keep a tight schedule without rushing people or forcing them to stand on crowded buses. Maybe Muni should take a closer look at how they operate. They may learn something.

There are parking lots at BART stops in Berkeley and Castro Valley, and there is plenty of room for shuttle buses to line up off the street without stopping traffic. SF could build something similar.

We hear from SFMTA and city officials that we can’t afford any parking garages because the land to too valuable. Shouldn’t the voters decide what we want to pay for? Maybe we would rather pay for parking garages than TEP projects and street calming.

The shuttle buses and companies they serve, may want to invest in parking hub garages as part of their public works program. Instead of fighting parking, we could embrace it as a means of keeping a lot of shuttle buses off city streets.

If you feel like many of us do, that the public transit system should include more public parking at transit hubs, preferably near freeway exits, please send that information to your supervisor. The more they hear that the voters want MORE PARKING the easier it will be to get MORE PARKING. This is an election year. Tell them what you want for your vote.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 12, 2014 @ 4:38 pm

Your concern is its "disconcerting" that Apple is "using your streets" without notifying you.

Last I checked, those are OUR streets, not YOUR streets. YOU didn't pay all the taxes for YOUR private streets. WE are a community. I don't protest when YOU come to MY neighborhood.

If your neighbors - perhaps longer time residents than you - required you to post all of your comings and goings - from THEIR neighborhood - would you?

If THEY used YOUR cell phone's signal to track YOUR coming and going, and posted that on a neighborhood board, would YOU consider that an invasion of YOUR privacy? Last I heard, using an individual's wifi is highly illegal - when Google sniffed & recorded public unencrypted packets, they were litigated from here to eternity. Good luck with that lawsuit, Joe.

Apple pays taxes, just like you do. Into OUR coffers. Being a highly profitable company, they're paying federal and state taxes that end up maintaining OUR roads.

Except, oh, Apple pays very little in taxes. Like, 8 percent.

http://dealbook.nytimes.com/2013/06/04/calculating-apples-true-u-s-tax-r...

Although I think even if Apple was paying its fair share at 30% or so, you'd still think they were "invading" YOUR neighborhood.

Try thinking of OUR society, not YOURS and MINE, and WE will have a better, more profitable, more fun place to live.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 8:46 am

the city, you see some sight of success, prosperity, happiness and energy. It must be permanently depressing to see a vehicle and think only that it might contain someone who is doing well for themself. Or see a house being improved and feel a knot inside.

Oh to be an over-sensitive loser in a place and time where history is rendering you redundant. It's enough to make you want to - I don't know - count buses or something.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 13, 2014 @ 8:59 am

it's cute when college boys get to write for the paper while people with experience won't be hired by the corporation because they'd actually needa living wage.

seriously, you're a shitty parasite blocking the way for people way better than you to advance. the guardian lost so many people because they were so cheap ass they let good people go and now we have losers like you who are a joke and yet you get a job and no one else does. Your corporate bosses won't even pay people to do real work unless it's freelance bullshit.

I will be So so so so glad when your fucking "paper" dies at the hands of a corporate accountant and we are rid of the fecal material known as Steve Jones and Fitz the Kiddie Reporter WANNABE.

die soon!

Posted by Steve Jones' lack of ethics on Mar. 22, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

The SFBG is harmless and amusing. There is really no need to go off on it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 22, 2014 @ 8:36 pm

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