The private bus problem - Page 2

Corporate behemoths crowd city streets and block Muni stops

A UCSF shuttle illegally blocks a Muni stop, tying up buses and traffic at 16th and Missio
Guardian photo by Danielle Magee

Muni routes are designed with the city's neighborhoods in mind; you don't see the extra-long articulated coaches that ply Mission Street and Geary Boulevard cramming themselves into the much-tighter and more residential streets of Potrero Hill, Noe Valley, Glen Park and the Castro. That's not a concern for the giant corporate shuttles; they go where they want.

That can cause problems for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers who aren't used to seeing these long, tall buses, which at times take up both lanes, squeezing through turns with barely an inch to spare.

And while Muni drivers are far from perfect, the shuttle safety records are even more of a concern. In November of 2010, a UCSF shuttle bus struck and killed 65-year-old Nu Ha Dam as she was crossing Geary Street at Leavenworth Street. Not even a year later, another UCSF shuttle was involved in a collision, killing Dr. Kevin Allen Mack and injuring four other passengers. A witness confirmed that the shuttle ran a red light.

On February 14, a pedestrian crossing Eddy Street at Leavenworth in the Tenderloin was run over by a paratransit van. The victim was pinned under the shuttle for 20 minutes until he was finally rescued. The victim lived, but suffered several broken bones.

Carli Paine, transportation demand management project manager of the SFMTA, told us that shuttles are a growing component of the San Francisco transportation network and overall, support San Francisco's greenhouse gas emission goals.

But, she noted, "Because they are relatively new, and a growing one at that, there is really a need to work together between the city and shuttle providers to make sure that our policy framework is supporting shuttles and also working to avoid conflict with shuttles and transit, pedestrians, and bikes."

Paine noted: "What we've heard is that there are places where shuttles do have conflict with other uses and then there are places that work really well, so one of the things we want to find out in those areas where spaces are being shared successfully, is what's happening."

Elizabeth Fernandez, press officer at UCSF, said the city doesn't have any specific rules regarding transit systems like UCSF's. "With the proliferation of corporate services throughout the city, there are several studies that are ongoing," she said. "These studies are an attempt to manage the growth of these kinds of shuttle services in regards to volume as well as routing, staging, and parking."

Tony Kelly, a Potrero Hill community activist, said the root of the problem is the consistent cut in Muni service over the past 20 years. "Potrero Hill is going to double population in the next 15 years," he said. "People and new housing units are doubling.

"When all the shuttles are in our bus stops, everyone is wondering why we can't ride these things," he said. "Why can't they take it when there is so much unused capacity?"

Hitching a ride

Actually, I rode several UCSF shuttles around the city, and nobody ever asked for identification.

I was picked up at the Muni stop on Sutter St. at the UCSF Mt. Zion Campus (yes, the shuttle pulled — illegally — into the Muni stop to pick up passengers). Fernandez told me the school's official policy states that "Riding UCSF shuttles is restricted for use by Campus faculty, staff, students, patients and patient family members, and formal guests." But when I boarded, the driver made no attempt to verify if I was associated with UCSF. I did a full trip, passing through the UCSF Laurel Heights Campus, and then back to Mt Zion. There were no more than seven people on the shuttle, and about 20 seats available for riders. There are also handrails for standing if the bus ever gets too crowded.


Employers and employees both pay SSI and medicare.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 26, 2012 @ 9:50 pm

The private buses should have to pay to use the public facilities.

I once read a report that claimed the buses actually removed cars from the streets and highways, but it was dubious at best. We know for a fast that any expanded capacity of the roadway network -- local streets, the 101, etc. -- are rapidly filled up again, so why would private buses create a long-lasting effect where no other technology/solution ever has?

Simply put -- it has not. There are at least as many cars on the road as before, and potentially even more, and more single-passenger vehicles to boot.

Posted by Peter Smith on Apr. 22, 2012 @ 2:07 am
Posted by Guest on Apr. 22, 2012 @ 4:52 am

This is not privatization, because the Google buses and UCSF shuttles provide the service that Muni and other transit agencies did not provide before, nor plan to provide in the future.

If your concern is that some other cars are going to replace the cars removed because of private buses, then they must also replace cars removed by Muni, BART, and Caltrain. So that means we should never expand transportation capacity.

I think it is about the jealousy among some folks that some people get to enjoy a relatively direct and comfortable bus service, and that the rest of us have to settle for mediocre Muni.

Posted by Andy Chow on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:16 am

You pay more and get more comfort, service, convenience and time (expedited check-in, boarding de-planing etc.)

Why is anyone here shocked that high-paid applers and googlers have it better than most of the rest of us? Isn't it obvious?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 10:28 am

"The private buses should have to pay to use the public facilities."

They do pay for it. More accurately, when I pay property taxes in SF, I pay for these "public facilities" and any legal vehicle that I choose to use on it. And using a shared bus actually has less impact on the city than if I drove my own private vehicle, so I don't see what you're complaining about.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 10:41 am

I also don't think that this is a huge problem. In fact, I'd LOVE it if passengers waited in actual queues at Muni stops instead of just AX and BX limiteds.

I agree that they shouldn't stop in Muni bus stop locations. Instead, corporate bus fleets should all pay annual fees into a system of private stops, and those stops should take the place of existing parking spaces. After all, if we are saying that these buses reduce the need for a car, then why are we still providing the parking spaces for those cars?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:00 pm

need MORE car parking!

Why? Because now we have extra cars parked during the days.

I see no issue with more than one bus using a muni stop. After all, many muni stops have more than one route using it, and it rarely causes a problem.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

Of course you have no problem with a public facility like a bus stop subsidizing a private firm if the only cost is the convenience and time of San Franciscans waiting to use public transit.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

there is no incremental cost to a few more buses using it since their utilization rate is trivial, if the amount of time i have to spend waiting for a bus is anything to go by.

I'd rather the private buses used existing infrastructure than take away parking for what is only used for a few minutes each day at rush hour.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:43 pm

The subsidy is in delay for thousands of Muni passengers when private buses lumber up to a public bus stop and prevent public buses from loading and unloading.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

And where is your evidence that, even if that is true, that the economic value of that delay is greater than that to those with high value jobs?

My bus runs every 20 minutes. A stop takes maybe 30 seconds, So stop utilization is perhaps 2%? Trivial.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

700K+ rides per day on Muni, a hundred or so shuttle buses stopping at public bus stops mostly during peak hours, so, yeah, thousands of Muni riders are delayed each day. Add that up and we're talking about shifting money from average folks' pockets into Google, Apple and Facebook corporate and employee pockets.

If the payroll tax is a job killer, than clearly the private shuttle tax threatens western civilization as we know it.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

But yes, I'm sure those two or three google buses that leave in the morning are taking cash right out of the pockets of the city's most needy. Keep it up.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:00 pm

Not the most needy, but Muni riders from all walks of life are being made to waste their time without compensation so that private buses can use public resources without compensation.

It is abhorrent, job killing taxation when it goes the other way, but nothing significant when it delays people's commutes to work and might cost them a job.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

just because some successful enterprises elect to provide more efficient transit for their key producers.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:30 pm

while taxes are a political issue. You appear to be confused about the distinction.

Anyway, what does that have to do with the fact some economic entities like to provide transport for their staff? That's hardly new or controversial.

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

Taxes are coercive and confiscatory. Private vehicles delaying transit coerce public transit to be delayed and confiscates vehicle and rider time and therefore confiscates money from honest, taxpaying citizens and from the government that we fund with our taxes and transit fares.

Posted by guest on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

Or do you just instinctively hate someone else having a perk or privilege that you haven't worked hard enough to get for yourself?

Posted by Anonymous on Apr. 23, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

Yes, I hear the privatizers loud and clear, they should read about transit during the turn of the last century, the early 1900s, there were several private transits racing around recklessly then, trying to haul more people for less, damn the consequences.

Posted by sf24hr on Apr. 25, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

Safety concerns could be an issue if those private buses were to pick up non-employees into private grounds. The bus drivers do not check identifications, and trespassing could soon be an issue. Also, since anyone can take these buses, the city buses might end up losing money to them. Add road congestion to the problems and we see why regulation is needed.

Posted by Thomas on May. 22, 2012 @ 1:58 am

I wish more parts of the world operated this way, and that the government stepped up their efforts to resolve the problem in a way that benefits everyone. Shuttle services are nothing new, and if the public transport system cannot handle the pressure, soon more people are going to resort to these.

Posted by Thomas on Jun. 17, 2012 @ 6:21 pm

As said before, Muni is not well-run, despite its truly tremendous efforts. It has a 1940's idea of public transportation in mind, while trying to deal with the 2010's. Muni tries to fix the small parts, but does not concentrate on the real issues at hand. Because of Muni, San Francisco isn''t growing that much. Had Muni made better decisions in the 60s and 70s, San Francisco would be a quarter larger in population or more, most likely with the same feel it has today.

Why is Muni so hard to steer? Because of the political set-up in this town. There is just one party, so we should not be surprised to find Eastern-European (pre-wall) transit conditions of a large bureaucracy, focusing more on paper lions, while not addressing the true basic issues at hand. Sure, the unions do not always help, but the real culprits are found in the political system: one party equals not having a democracy, equals not having a real discussion about what is best for all. To fit on top of this poli-roli reality, Muni has high-paid managers in place, controlling the issues, but do not steer the organization to where other world cities have steered their public transit.

Posted by Fred-Rick on Jun. 19, 2012 @ 1:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Jun. 19, 2012 @ 1:58 pm

I applaud these companies for: 1) offering free transportation to and from work for their employees, and 2) helping keep extra cars off the roads. HOWEVER, I live on Van Ness, and most of these buses have decided to set up shop on my block.
They start a little before 7 a.m. every week day, and one stops in front of my building on average every 10 minutes, for about three hours. Instead of stopping in the bus stop, they stop BEHIND it, which is directly in front of my building, blocking our building's garage spots and one street parking spot in front of it for 5 minutes at a time. These buses have an exhaust on the back right end that is so loud, it literally shakes the windows in my bedroom, relentlessly waking me up over and over every morning (I work until 11:00 every night, sometimes later).
Last week, one was parking in public parking spots across the street and left the bus in reverse for 20 minutes (back up siren going the entire time, it was 7:15 a.m. when I had dressed and come outside to ask him to turn it off). The very next morning around the same time, one was loading (again right in front of my window) and honked on his horn for what felt like forever. I again dressed, and drug myself downstairs to ask him to refrain when he told me "it got stuck" but no apology.
It's not just the noise, they also block our garages, as well as the street parking spaces. Furthermore, since they stop BEHIND the bus stop, they frequently stop traffic behind them, INCLUDING THE PUBLIC BUSES trying to get to the actual stop, making traffic back-up in the lane for blocks.
Unless you have these buses doing the same thing in front of your home, you probably won't understand my frustration. I literally broke down in tears the day the bus "backed up" for 20 minutes, to a neighbor I barely know when I passed her walking her dog as I walked back from the bus. I am exhausted and I am actually thinking of taking the legal course against what I firmly believe to be a serious nuisance. If they can figure out a different approach, more power to them. But the way they are approaching it at the moment is absolutely unacceptable.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 26, 2012 @ 10:07 pm

"HOWEVER, I live on Van Ness,"

Van Ness is a busy and noisy street, full of trucks and delivery vans, and it's always been that way. You knew that when you moved there. Presumably, you pay less for your rent because of it (or got a better deal when you bought your condo).

"I am exhausted and I am actually thinking of taking the legal course"

Why not just move?

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 10:37 am

From the author " Instead of working with the city and the region to improve transit for everyone, these tech firms have decided to create a private system of their own..

And that may be the most disturbing trend of all."

Wow...the author is so enamored with government services that privatization is a horrible, horrible thing.

That is unbelievable. Please provide me with a few solid examples where the public sector is just doing a great job. Muni is a don't start there.

Can't we just agree that capitalism, while regulated properly by the government, is the best option in nearly everything?

Posted by Privatization...oh my! on Nov. 13, 2012 @ 11:45 am

I have been reading in a class and we are looking at this subject in the next week. I will be assign my student to look at your post for good information.

Posted by BkCcheni on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 5:18 am

I have been reading in a class and we are looking at this subject in the next week. I will be assign my student to look at your post for good information.

Posted by BkCcheni on Jan. 02, 2013 @ 6:20 am

I pay property taxes in San Francisco, property taxes that are supposed to pay for roads. I choose to ride a shared bus to ease congestion (I could also just drive my own car). You now want to charge me again for use of the roads I pay for? That's insane.

Posted by Guest on Feb. 24, 2013 @ 10:30 am

The problem is happening in most countries.

Posted by 3Dmats Inc. on Mar. 18, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

Yes I am totally agree with you that private shuttle buses that have been booming in San Francisco has more than 6,000 employees registered in commute programs on 56 routes. These buses take cars off the road and solve most of the problems like congestion problem.

Posted by Wheel & Tires on Apr. 16, 2013 @ 11:11 pm

all this griping about private shuttles taking business away from public transit, how does one come to the conclusion that the shuttle riders don't pay taxes?
The employers pay taxes as do all the riders being picked ip by the private shuttle services.
I ride bart and use an employer paid shuttle service because there are no buses to or from the area I work in so essentially my employer is subsidizing my transportation even though they and I both pay taxes that subsidize public transit.

Posted by Skylar on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 7:58 am

the city have to find some ways to regulate these buses, legalize them and enforce them to follow the regulation.

Posted by Jeff on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 11:56 am

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