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Tech Bus Opponents in S.F. go to Court to Halt Buses using CEQA

Having lost their CEQA appeal with the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, the "tech bus" opponents are taking their case to the court, arguing that environmental impacts from the large, luxury private buses using public bus stops must be addressed.
May 4, 2014, 7am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The Board of Supervisors had voted 8-2 on April 1 to reject the appeal of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTAapproval of the 18-month pilot bus program filed by the coalition of tenant and labor activists who view the buses as both a symbol and cause of city gentrification that results in escalating housing costs. Without the buses, workers in Silicon Valley might live closer to work or elsewhere, they reason.

"The City contends that the pilot is exempt from environmental review [a requirement of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)] because its intent is data collection," writes The Examiner's Joshua Sabatini.

The lawsuit, which was filed Thursday (May 1) in San Francisco Superior Court, asks a judge to prevent the commuter shuttle program from going forward as conceived. It argues California Vehicle Code only allows public buses to pull into red zones or Muni bus stops. The lawsuit also alleges that an environmental review must take place to address impacts ranging from displacement of tenants to pollution.

Sabatini adds that "(p)laintiffs' attorney Richard Drury said they will also consider filing a preliminary injunction to ask a judge to prevent the pilot from launching until the lawsuit is settled." It is unclear if the injunction would shut down the existing operation of tech buses, or if the pilot program, set to begin July 1, would have to wait until it underwent the rigorous CEQA process.

"Under the terms of (the pilot program), employers and shuttle operators will pay to use 200 of Muni’s 2,500 bus stops, addressing concerns that the shuttles are using taxpayer-funded transportation facilities and right-of-ways without compensating the public for the extra strain on the system," as we noted here in January.

The benefits of the shuttle bus program, according to the city's January press release, include "eliminating at least 45 million vehicle miles traveled and 761,000 metric tons of carbon every year from the region’s roads and air.”

Full Story:
Published on Friday, May 2, 2014 in The San Francisco Examiner
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