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Report: Google buses reflect region in need of traffic, housing solutions

Original post made on Feb 9, 2013

Google buses rolling up and down U.S. Highway 101 symbolize the new Silicon Valley -- and are reminders that regional solutions are needed if the Bay Area is to stay economically vibrant, a new report says.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Saturday, February 9, 2013, 5:54 PM

Comments (39)

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Here's a similar style article advocating the Bay Area turned into one Silicon Valley Region with one overseeing transit authority, etc. Web Link


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Posted by brian
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Feb 9, 2013 at 6:46 pm

On the days I have to drive to work I sort of get a "sick satisfaction" out of watching Google busses get stuck in traffic on the 101 with the rest of us. I can't help but feel this exclusive transit system for the wealthy and parasite of true mass transit is an ominous sign of a more economically segregated and divisive future for "silicon valley" (however that is defined by geographic area).


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 9, 2013 at 7:10 pm

Brian-- google is making an effort to reduce car traffic by providing us service for its employees-- an admirable job. Maybe If the busses were designed by Eichler......


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Recently there was some local press about the useless, costly light rail system (VTA) in Santa Clara County. I think it may have been the 25th anniversary?
We need better thinkers in order to install useful, cost-effective transit systems - I don't have a pre-conceived notion of what they must be, but they should not be a money drain without any riders!


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Posted by Google-Good/Google-Bad
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2013 at 9:02 pm

Seems that there are those in San Francisco that believe that Google Buses are ruining San Francisco--

Web Link

The logic is a little convoluted, because it seems the real problem is Google Bucks spent by Google employees having a distorting influence on housing prices in SF, rather than the buses themselves.

At any rate, one sees that no matter what Google does (or the well-heeled Tech industry), it's going to distort the environment around it--one way or another.


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Posted by Nathan
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 9:18 am

"A tech worker living in San Francisco requires four separate transit systems to get to a job along state Route 237"
Can someone explain why BART and Caltrain are not merged as a first step? this is an easy step forward that should be followed by including the rest of the bay area transportation systems. A unified system will be much more efficient and useful.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 10:23 am

> Can someone explain why BART and Caltrain are
> not merged as a first step?

History, politics and governance—for a start.

These are two massively different operations—which would require an incredible amount of "bending" to effect such a merging. Both are money losers, and neither has much in common with the other. While there might be, over time, some money saved by redacting duplicated functions (like HR, Marketing, etc.), the difference in the two organizations is so great that significant savings from reorganizing the combined entities is hard to estimate.

It's difficult to see how merging these two entities would result in shorter transit times for riders that must cross systems.


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Posted by Ken
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

Widening 101 will not resolve our traffic congestion issues, but will only make congestion worse as it attracts more people to drive. What we really need are effective alternative transportation systems that enhance our economy, not suck the energy out of it. When I spend an hour driving through traffic that would take 15 minutes at other times in the day, I am in a foul mood at work, not very happy about commuting taking up 25% of my non-work-non-sleep time. Google's transportation system not only relieves the tension of a busload of otherwise drivers, but also reduces fuel consumption, plus provides the passengers WiFi so that they can be productive. This is the sort of thing that needs to be available to everyone, not just a select elite.

But there really isn't a viable alternative to the car in the Bay Area. For me to drive from The Alameda to Apple on 280 takes 15 minutes before 9am, but would take 2 hours via bus.

It is time for Bay Area leaders to get out of the '50's mentality of the car as lifestyle and independence, and use the Silicon Valley ingenuity to modernize our antiquated transportation system.

Imagine the profound effect on productivity and economic and social growth when we all have an additional 2 hours in our day as well as 8 hours of sleep each night!


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Posted by imagine
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 10:49 am

> It's difficult to see how merging these two entities would result in shorter transit times for riders that must cross systems.

Huh? Odd statement. Not difficult to see at all.

San Mateo County blew it when they voted down BART. Imagine a system that links most of the Bay Area - SJ up both sides of the Bay, cross in the tube, all three airports connected with one system. All major sports venues connected: Giants, Warriors, A's, 49ers, a stop for the 'Stick, now Santa Clara. Even the minor teams like hockey and the Raiders. A system that allows you to choose a stop in SOMA or all the existing stops down Market.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

> Not difficult to see at all.

Think it through. BART technology is different than Caltrain technology. The cost of replacing Caltrain rolling stock, and rail lines would be astronomical. Who would pay for this "merger"? Clearly the riders do no believe they should pay. So--it becomes the taxpayers who end up with the bill.

At best, after untold billions would have been spent, the time-to-destination for someone starting on one system that would like to depart on another (Milpitas-SF/Oakland) would only be a few minutes. Not exactly something worth expending these billions on.


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Posted by BrightLights
a resident of another community
on Feb 10, 2013 at 11:04 am

I thought the Google buses were for their mass of 20-something employees who want to to live in the city because Silicon Valley is too suburban and dull for them.


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Posted by transfer times
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2013 at 11:10 am

If you're lucky, the time to transfer between BART and Caltrain is a few minutes. For me, most of the time it is at least 20 minutes and sometimes almost an hour. BART and Caltrain schedules only sync up adequately for northbound Caltrain transferring to northbound BART. All other combinations suck.


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Posted by imagine
a resident of Menlo Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 11:18 am

> Think it through.

I have, thank you.

That's why I'm convinced that San Mateo County blew it in the 60's when they voted down BART (Santa Clara, as well.)

It was a golden opportunity to correct all that you mentioned. Get a set of transit systems on one gauge. How's that VTA working out?

Clearly, you haven't been stuck in Millbrae making connections very often.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm

> That's why I'm convinced that San Mateo County blew it
> in the 60's when they voted down BART (Santa Clara, as well.)

That's the past. Even if you could get a majority of your peers to agree with you, your suggestion that these two agencies should be merged fails to demonstrate the technical/administrative/governance issues that would be involved. You also have failed to provide any value to the taxpayer by your posts.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 10, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Just imagine what it would cost to create and operate a government entity that did what Google and Facebook are doing with their bus operations at no cost to the taxpayers.


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Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside
on Feb 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Doesn't the existence of the Google bus fleet show that we don't need government to foul up yet another sector of economic activity with its unique blend of incompetence, ridiculous costs, and lack of accountability?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

I would say that I don't think they should necessarily be merged, but they could quite easily be integrated. Not only these two, but all Bay Area transit authorities should and could be integrated.

What it would mean to the public (even those who don't use transit) would be an integrated transit service with one advertising, one ticketing/marketing/ one administration and less top dogs. Instead of competing, they would be working together hand in glove. When I say competing I don't mean in terms of aiming to serve the same passengers, but competing for funds, grants, workers, land use, etc. etc.

The public would benefit through integrated services which would meet and serve each other, share websites and trip planning, tweets and other information systems and probably overall lower fares through cheaper running costs.

Excellent ideas.


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Posted by funding
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Public transit needs a reliable funding source to get better than it is right now. Hundred million dollar road projects, like the merging ramps being installed on Hwy 101 right now, seem to have no trouble getting approved. Small improvements to public transit requires decades of begging. The fact that public transit does not have access to the same pot of money as highways shows that local politicians are not serious about public transit.


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Posted by libertarians
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Feb 10, 2013 at 4:00 pm

Posts with comments like the following:

> You also have failed to provide any value to the taxpayer by your posts.

and

> we don't need government to foul up yet another sector of economic activity

Indicate to me that the posters are some of the few, fringe libertarians in the area that have no use for government functions and would not support public transit improvements in almost any instance.

Therefore, I personally find little value in their comments, as they don't care for solutions to the issue.

In other words they "have failed to provide any value... by (their) posts"

Fringe libertarians rarely do, except to pat each other on the back. If this area believed in 'libertarianism' we would elect some.

We have not, nor will we any time soon.


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Posted by Wassup
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 10, 2013 at 5:45 pm

What the SJ Merc reported years ago is that Google and Adobe were told that if they were going to bring thousands of people in this county, they had to provide transportation for people who could not afford to live here. Is this still true??
I eh


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Posted by could not afford to live here?
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 10, 2013 at 6:57 pm

"transportation for people who could not afford to live here"?

Are you implying that San Francisco is significantly cheaper than Mountain View or San Jose? I think you need to check your real estate prices again. Yuppies are choosing to live in San Francisco because it is a way more fun place to live than down here in the suburbs, despite the 2 hour/day commute. I have no doubt that those folks would move closer to work if the local residential areas were more interesting.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2013 at 2:19 am

@Ken - You are over simplifying the "law of traffic congestion." It is true that efforts to reduce congestion can be offset over time because less traffic incentivizes more people to drive. But there are a lot of factors. One is population growth. San Francisco has had flat population for over 60 years which at least limits the amount of traffic in one direction. Another is the lack of practical alternative routes - a wider 101 won't pull that many drivers off side streets, unlike freeways in many urban areas. Widening 101 won't fix the problem, but it can help.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2013 at 8:46 am

New car pool lanes on 101, OK remember reading a Mountain View city general plan from the 60's showing expressway lanes. Are we doing it for car pools, transit or just a way for single drivers to pay top dollar to use.

Transit won't in the bay area, MINI with all their buses, drivers don't have routes to Google or Menlo Park.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

Oops, missing a word, meant to say transit won't work. About spending non sleep and non work time for commuting. Doesn't leave much time to enjoy open space or family.

Just something I wanted to point out.


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Posted by reducing traffic
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2013 at 9:28 am

The best way to reduce traffic is to encourage people to live closer to work. 50 mile commutes are the problem. Figure out why workers are choosing to live so far away from their jobs and fix that. If the local communities are too boring and stagnant and non-diverse, then fix that. The problem is for the most part not affordability (check the salaries at Google and home prices in San Francisco).


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Posted by carlitos Waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2013 at 10:33 am

Ok, lets make the South Bay and Peninsula more appealing to the "refined" tastes of Google, Facebook, etc,employees; so they give us the honor and privilege of them living amongst us. We promise not to be dull and boring, while sparing them of the pain and suffering of having to use four separate transit systems to get to work. What a tragedy!!


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Posted by Beam me up
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 10:45 am

We don't want more people moving around an areas that's supposed to be known for tech enlightenment. Keep the pollution down, diseases in check and accidents few by developing business models that minimize the need for commuting to the office.


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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

Dear Peter Carpenter, re:

"Just imagine what it would cost to create and operate a government entity that did what Google and Facebook are doing with their bus operations at no cost to the taxpayers."

So where would the funds come to pay for this? Ridership rarely pays more than a fraction of the cost of any public transportation system.


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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on Feb 11, 2013 at 11:15 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

Gnome - precisely my point -the Google/Facebook bus systems are the private sector at its best. Employees live where they want to and their employer bears the cost of efficiently transporting them. This has been done by companies in Europe for decades.


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 11, 2013 at 11:25 am

The problem is that only the biggest employers can afford to pay for private shuttle buses between their campuses and San Francisco. There are hundreds or thousands of smaller companies as well as many big ones (like HP) that cannot or will not pay for this service. That puts many thousands of employees in private vehicles that clog up the highways every morning, creating a burden on everyone, including tax payers that are forced to pay for maintaining and upgrading the freeways. Even if you do not drive on Hwy 101, you just paid for those $100 million merging lanes that are being installed on Hwy 101 right now. That money came from local sales taxes, not from automobile registration fees or gasoline taxes (which vastly under pay for the costs of building and maintaining roads). 50 mile commutes are a huge failure by the private sector that is being bailed out by the tax payer.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

I'm sorry but you can't blame the private sector for an individual's choice in his/her home location...to blame the private sector for their employees' personal decisions to locate in SF versus Mountain View or Sunnyvale is just silly.

It has nothing to do with elitism either. Every town has its assets that appeal to certain people more than others.

I love SF. But I'd rather live and work here. Weather and space for me. But for others a more urban lifestyle is what they like most.

I wasn't that long ago that SF was lamenting the flight of families to the Peninsula.

I applaud Google an FB for stepping up and providing transit for their employees.


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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Feb 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Google, Facebook and other large company shuttles work but only if you work for them. Yes what those that work for others or that small business owner struggling with the commute, because Palo Alto is a far better place then let's say Union City.

Not everyone is in the high income related fields.

Others do strive to own and operate a business with employees.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2013 at 1:29 pm

I suspect that it won't be too long before some enterprising company sees what Google and Facebook are doing and tries to copy the model.

Comfortable buses starting in downtown San Francisco and one running to downtown Palo Alto, another to downtown Mountain View and another to downtown Sunnyvale would make a great deal of sense.

At present the only way to travel that distance relatively quickly is Caltrain but the first and last mile can be difficult. A bus that doesn't stop apart from a couple of stops at either end and using the highway, could be an attractive commute for people regardless of what company they are working for. There could even be a method of payment whereby the rider pays half fare and the employer can pay the rest. In this way even smaller companies can compete with some of the benefits that the big companies offer.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm

I occasionally use the Deer Creek shuttle, which I thought was financed by HP or maybe contributions by multiple smaller presences in Stanford Research Park. Marguerite also serves the area. There are rush hour shuttle buses from several Caltrain stations for that "last mile". And many companies offer those VTA Eco Passes to their employees. I keep waiting for these perks to show up on my W-2.

On the counterproductive side, I've heard that the taxi companies are fighting spur-of-the-moment carpooling facilitated by new cellphone apps.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 11, 2013 at 5:41 pm

My wife retired from a law firm in P.A. where a significant number of the young attorneys prefer to live in San Francisco because of the lifestyle there. I have four Google households for neighbors, one of which has their main home in SF and a Monday/ Friday home in M.V. You cannot force people to live in an area close to their work, as there is still some freedom in this country to choose where one lives. The jobs/ housing balance is a totally bogus concept as it treats people like they are chips on a wafer packing them in ever more closely. It is ones choice to work and live where one wishes, and that decision often includes a sizable commute. Many people like living in Santa Cruz and gladly drive Hwy 17 to work in the valley. Finally, if you think that things are screwed up now, wait till we get Regional Government.


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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Meadow Park
on Feb 11, 2013 at 5:57 pm

The Google bus is a great idea

Google prefers not hire people over 27 yrs or so

What 20-27 yr old wants to live in Palo Alto?

None-unless they are Stanford students and have to

- in fact many if not most Stanford graduate students live outside of Palo Alto and their preferred residence is SF.

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Not an issue
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

How does Sharon know where google employees live? There are busses from google tht go over the whole bay area


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Posted by Stan Hutchings
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 11, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Massive and monolithic transit systems are so 20th Century. Silicon Valley, led by Google and Stanford, and supported by Sacramento and the UC system, should research, design and implement an autonomous vehicle system to serve the Bay Area. An autonomous vehicle system can reduce congestion, improve safety, and extend the transit system to the door. It could allow passengers to sleep, read, text, phone, put on make-up, eat a meal, or whatever, while the vehicle navigated from the home to the office, and back again. For us older folk, it could take us safely to and from our doctor appointments. And for the younger folk, it can reduce the need for "soccer moms" to chauffeur their kids to and from activities. I long for the day when technology replaces human drivers with emotionless, undistracted, polite artificial intelligence!


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2013 at 10:07 pm

@reducing traffic - Companies like Google and Apple are too large to ever move to San Francisco, and the Mountain View/Cupertino will never be interesting places to live. So it isn't particularly easy to get people to live close to where they work.


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