From Google Buses to Google Youth Muni Passes

Turns out all those protests against the ubiquitous Google (and other tech) luxury buses that often crowd out S.F. Muni (public) buses have contributed to a show of good will to public transit in the form of a $6.8 million gift to fund youth passes.
March 1, 2014, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
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"The donation, the largest ever from a nongovernment entity to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (Muni), will fund an existing pilot program that allows low- and middle-income San Francisco kids ages 5 to 17 to ride Muni for free. It costs about $3 million a year," write John Coté and Marisa Lagos.

"The donation is part of a deal Mayor Ed Lee struck with the tech company after protests erupted over Google's private commuter buses for its employees," writes Eric Van Susteren of the Silicon Valley Business Journal. 

Google bus on Mission route at 18th & Valencia

Steve Rhodes via Flickr

The surprise contribution comes after an agreement was reached that required the "infamous tech shuttles" to pay SFMTA to "use 200 of Muni’s 2,500 bus stops," as we posted in January. Not bad for MUNI - getting Google to gift them after being required to pay them.

The Google buses have become a symbol of San Francisco's gentrification - now the city with the highest median rent in the United States. And the young, talented, well-paid "techies" commuting to Silicon Valley aboard the large buses, whether rightly or wrongly, are targeted as the cause by many in San Francisco.

Protesters have blockaded the corporate shuttles - including Google's buses - on several occasions in recent months both in San Francisco and Oakland, once smashing a window and slashing tires.

The donation is bearing fruit for Google. "City leaders and community members who support the free Muni program said they are happy to see Google getting involved but hope it's just the first step in an ongoing dialogue with those most affected by the tech boom," write Coté and Lagos.

"San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don't pay more to use city bus stops," a Google representative said in a statement. "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."

No word yet on whether the passes will be embedded with the Google or Chrome logo.

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Published on Friday, February 28, 2014 in San Francisco Chronicle
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