The Downside of Removing Tech Buses from Neighborhoods

A new study has shown that moving tech shuttle stops from neighborhoods to conform to a new "hub plan" would result in a drop in bus ridership, with most former riders resorting to driving their own vehicles to their Silicon Valley workplaces.

2 minute read

November 29, 2016, 9:00 AM PST

By Irvin Dawid

Tech SHuttle

Chris Martin / Flickr

"Changing San Francisco’s corporate shuttle bus system from one with shared stops scattered across the city to one employing a smaller collection of hubs would drive thousands of tech commuters into their cars and choke streets and freeways, a report [PDF] concludes," reports Michael Cabanatuan, transportation reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The current shuttle system has come under fire from residents, who complain the buses clog city streets, and activists, who say the buses enable higher-paid workers to live in the city, resulting in increased housing prices and a rise in evictions.

Under the program, the corporate shuttle buses, which haul about 8,200 workers between San Francisco and jobs at tech and biotech firms on the Peninsula and in Silicon Valley, are allowed to stop at 125 locations and are restricted to larger streets.

According to the key findings of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency report, "Shuttle ridership would drop between 24 to 45 percent, and nearly all those prior shuttle riders would switch to driving, resulting in 1,780 to 3,300 more cars on the road each day." The result would be an increase in vehicle miles traveled, causing a setback for the city's emission reduction and Vision Zero goals.

In another commuter shuttle report released this month, the mid-program evaluation [PDF], the SFMTA found that shuttle ridership has increased 15 percent since the initial pilot began. The Bay Area Council, who represent the region’s business community, was quick to point to both reports, writing it would be a "disaster" to switch to the centralized model.

But the report did not convince shuttle critic Erin McElroy of the Bay Area Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, notes Cabanatuan.

“Our studies have shown that evictions and rents have gone up in areas near tech bus stops,” said McElroy. “It seems as if the city is subsidizing the lives of people who ride the luxury commuter shuttles at the expense of those who don’t.”

Officials would argue that last point, as the new program ensures that the tech buses are charged for using Muni bus stops. Other findings of the midterm evaluation included:

  • A 23 percent reduction in shuttles stopping in Muni zones between the Pilot Program and now (2302 to 1783)
  • A 129% increase in the number of citations issued each month between the Pilot Program and now (72 to 165)

According to a July post by James Brasuell, the decision by SFMTA to reduce shuttle stops in San Francisco resulted in a 16 percent increase in solo car commuting to Facebook.

Also in Planetizen:

Saturday, November 12, 2016 in San Francisco Chronicle

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Entrance to a drive-through car wash at night with green 'Enter' sign.

Ohio Towns Move to Ban New Car Washes

City officials in northeast Ohio are putting limits on how many car wash facilities can open in their towns.

May 16, 2024 - News 5 Cleveland

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

California Governor Gavin Newsom announcing funding for tiny home shelter project in front of quick-build tiny home shelter unit.

California’s Tiny Home Pledge Still on Paper, One Year Later

A promise to fund 1,200 tiny homes for unhoused residents in four cities as a way to rapidly and cost-effectively provide shelter has yet to yield tangible results, but projects are moving ahead in some cities.

May 24 - CALmatters

Residential neighborhood in Colorado with fall foliage and snowy mountains in background.

Colorado Ends Non-Family Occupancy Limits

Local jurisdictions will no longer be able to limit how many unrelated adults can live in a household, a move that supporters say will help lower housing costs and help older adults supplement their incomes and stay in their homes.

May 24 - Strong Towns

A white crosswalk painted by Crosswalk Collective LA in Los Angeles, California.

Guerilla Urbanism Spurs Action From Cities

Rather than take a hostile approach to DIY urbanism, some cities are using guerilla efforts as an opportunity to understand critical infrastructure gaps.

May 24 - Smart Cities Dive

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.