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Commuter buses not just for Google anymore

Original post made on Sep 11, 2013

A new service that's putting wheels down in the California Avenue business district may allow Palo Alto workers to commute as the Googlers do -- in roomy, WiFi-enabled buses that offer a direct route to work and a break from morning-commute stresses.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, September 11, 2013, 5:13 PM

Comments (39)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Hope this service becomes profitable quickly. The current black hole of public subsidy for Caltrain is just a big sucking sound of dollars going into a black hole. The idea that we (the public) is going to spend anywhere from a half billion to one billion dollars to electrify Caltrain is another example of the ineptitude that oozes out of every pour of California government.


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Posted by al
a resident of University South
on Sep 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm

How "profitable" is 101 or 280? What a silly thing to demand of just one method of transit and not the others.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 11, 2013 at 6:52 pm

This is bound to do better than public buses we have at present which house the homeless, have uncomfortable seats and take too long to get anywhere.

Great idea.


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Posted by emily
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm

Fantastic idea! It's about time someone offered a comfortable, safe, and quick commuter bus! Genius idea. I wish them the best!


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Posted by profitable
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I agree with Al. The government just spent $100 million of your tax dollars on that Hwy 101 merging lane boondoggle. That is your sales tax dollars at work. Why don't they use gas tax money for highway projects? Because gas taxes are way too low. Most motor vehicle projects are funded by your sales taxes and income taxes. Public transit gets only a tiny piece of the subsidized transportation budget.

Very curious that this article doesn't say how much companies are paying for this private bus service. I have no qualms with high-priced transit programs catering to millionaire passengers, but don't use that as an excuse to skimp on public transit programs for the working classes. I would much rather see my tax dollars go to public transit than to more inefficient and unprofitable freeways.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 11, 2013 at 7:52 pm

I think just about ALL of my food comes here via freeway.


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Posted by Farmer Rich
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 11, 2013 at 9:06 pm

If ALL your food comes here by freeway then you are eating the wrong foods.


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Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 11, 2013 at 10:28 pm

@profitable - that's not really the full story on gas taxes. Since 2010, the balance between gas and excise tax was shifted. Effectively that means more taxes collected at the gas pump go to the general fund, and less goes to infrastructure.

Regardless, everyone should hope this services is profitable and successful, because it means fewer cars, less traffic, more parking. Stop reflexively attacking private enterprise, and realize this is good for everyone.


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Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2013 at 3:56 am

Marie is a registered user.

Sounds like a great idea. I hope it is successful.


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Posted by Neilson Buchanan
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 12, 2013 at 7:21 am

This new service is the best thing since the internet. In fact, it is an internet. I find it ironic that this bus company wants to avoid downtown Palo Alto since the traffic is so bad. PA Development Office and City Manager take note! More than a few Palo Altans avoid their own downtown for the same reasons.

However, if downtown PA employers and property owners REALLY want this service, they would find a way to pool their common interests, innovate and be as worthy of 21st century bus service as GroupOn is.


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Posted by Rose
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

This is a great step forward. I grew up in in the NJ outside of NYC, and privately owned bus services provided transit options to NY's Port Authority. This was in addition to the commuter trains and local (internal NJ) options.


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Posted by Commute times please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:31 am



Can't find the commute times anywhere.

Anyone have a link?


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Posted by gcoladon
a resident of Mountain View
on Sep 12, 2013 at 10:59 am

gcoladon is a registered user.

Way to go Natalie! :)


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Posted by Stuck on 237
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2013 at 11:10 am

I would LOVE to be able to get on the Tesla bus. Stops near my house, stops near my work. But it is closed to the public.

I had a carpool. Both of my riders were laid off. Now I can't find more riders, because they are commuting on Google or Tesla buses.

One of them used to use public trainsit. Bus to train to BART to another bus. $150 a week. 1.5 to 2.5 hours to go 25 miles. What sort of messed up "transit" is that?

If the private sector can fix this, I would rather my taxes not go to the useless public transit system.


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Posted by Norm
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 12, 2013 at 11:17 am

If this new bus service goes between San Francisco and PA's California Avenue it will be in direct competition with Caltrains. That seems to me to be a looser. I'd choose a different starting and ending point. Will it cost more than Caltrains?


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Posted by cid young
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

Roomy Wi Fi Enabled Commute to work.

Hell Yeah!


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Posted by Chris
a resident of University South
on Sep 12, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Cal Ave has limited Caltrain service compared to Palo Alto and no baby bullets


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Posted by Biotech worker
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm

This sounds like a good start. Now we need the bus to make a stop in South SF for all the biotech workers. Genentech and other shuttles only run from SF to SSF.


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Posted by Marilyn
a resident of Community Center
on Sep 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

I can't find a link to find out more information. Can anyone else


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Posted by Eric Van Susteren
digital editor of Palo Alto Online
on Sep 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Eric Van Susteren is a registered user.

Information on RidePal's schedules and pricing can be found on the company's website, under "Rider Portal." www.ridepal.com.


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Posted by curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Hey, this kind of thing could solve our parking problem by Christmas. Suppose Baer and Hayes and Keenan and Rapp set up a luxury commute bus fleet for their tenants' employees?


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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Sep 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm

What about people who just want to go to the City?


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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 12, 2013 at 5:53 pm

This modern bus solution is what we need instead of High Speed Rail. I'm guessing that the service would be better and operating costs an order of magnitude lower. Futher, the initial cost would be less than four billion dollars instead of the low-ball sixty-five billion now lied about. A better, non-cutting edge solution to transportation from SF-SJ to LA is readily available. Let us not make the mistake that was made with the Super Sonic Transport (SST) plane.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 12, 2013 at 6:41 pm

I would love to see some luxury high speed buses from Cal Ave to SFO and SJC. An hourly service from early until late would be wonderful.

It would need to be bookable in advance as well as pay as you go with space for baggage.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2013 at 9:50 am

> I would love to see some luxury high speed buses

This sort of service could be provided by VTA at little expense, or the private sector, at even less expense. Unfortunately, the extremely misguided administration of VTA seems to preclude their making intelligent decisions.

Private sector buses did operate in Santa Clara County back in the '70s, but they disappeared, for one reason or another--to be replaced by the very cost-ineffective VTA.


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Posted by Danae
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hope this works out, it should have been done a decade or so ago! Hopefully it will transport workers from San Jose and other cities to the south, not just from cities to the north like SF.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

Norman,

What a silly thing to say! How could you even consider these buses an alternative to High Speed Rail?

How many buses do you know that can reach speeds of 220 mph?

(or even safely travel at higher than 80 to 90 mph without jeopardizing the lives of the passengers and other drivers?)


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Posted by fast doggies
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 13, 2013 at 2:29 pm

normin: "this modern bus solution is what we need instead of High Speed Rail."

Dude, the invisible hand of the free market has already spoken and provided you with THE PERFECT SOLUTION!!! It already runs betwee MP, PA and LA! It's called...

Greyhound.

The free market has SPOKEN!!


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Posted by DC
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Sep 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Rather than think of this as THE solution, perhaps see it as ONE solution. It could prove both reasonable and invaluable for some. And anything that reduces the jam is a good thing.

Farmer Rich: If NONE of YOUR food arrives in this area by freeway, you must have an amazing garden, or eat air. Even many of those participating in the farmer's markets arrive by freeway.
Just sayin'.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Sep 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Joe,

The VTA already operates express service to California Ave. (as well as Stanford Research Park). Go to VTA's website and take a look at Routes 101, 102, 103, 104 & 182. They might be glorified transit buses and don't "make you feel special" like a Google Bus but they do their job.

You say: "Private sector buses did operate in Santa Clara County back in the '70s, but they disappeared, for one reason or another--to be replaced by the very cost-ineffective VTA."

Well, the reason those private sector buses disappeared is that they went BANKRUPT!
I guess they weren't so cost effective overall compared to the VTA!

The VTA was established by voter initiative in Santa Clara County more as a matter of necessity than choice. At the time it was considered unthinkable that the area might be left with no transit service at all. That probably couldn't happen today considering so many people in Silicon Valley are closet Tea Party sympathizers.

The VTA may not be the most cost effective system but considering most of it's service area is low density suburban sprawl any other bus system would have similar problems.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

> Well, the reason those private sector buses disappeared is
> that they went BANKRUPT!

Not certain that they went bankrupt so much as they went out of business. There is a difference. Providing low-cost transportation services to a widely dispersed area is difficult, particularly in an era where labor is priced dearly. These private sector bus companies were constrained to operate based on the fee-for-service model that asked customers to pay for their own transportation. VTA, being a government enterprise, uses the power of taxation to force people not riding using the service to subsidize those that do! So--VTA has become a bloated, cost-ineffective, organization that would go bankrupt in a heartbeat, if it were privatized.

There is simply no comparison between the coercion of the State to take, and spend, other people's money, blindly--and private sector enterprises that must live within their means.


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Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Sep 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

There are private transportation companies operating and surviving in the niche market of airport shuttles. You can pay about $25 for a shared van that takes a long time because it makes other stops, or you can pay about $75 for an exclusive ride. This tells you something about the economics of the business, and what is required to survive. If you run a big bus for commuters in the morning and evening, what do you do with the bus and driver during the day? You have to pay for them even if they are not used, which drives up the cost.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 14, 2013 at 9:16 am

> If you run a big bus for commuters in the morning and evening,
> what do you do with the bus and driver during the day? You have
> to pay for them even if they are not used, which drives up the cost.

True, but within the coming decade we are looking at the arrival of self-driving vehicles. While it might take a while for people to become comfortable with a self-driving bus, in time, this technology will solve this particular problem. Riders won't have to worry about whether the driver is drunk, didn't sleep the previous night, is taking drugs, talking on his cell phone, or texting.


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Sep 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

I thought BART was supposed to be self-driven. If that never happened, then I don't believe we'll ever have open road driverless vehicles.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Joe,

Thank you for proving yourself wrong based on your own arguments!

SELF DRIVING BUSES? .....REALLY?

So that's the simple solution to make private sector operated buses profitable and an economical option for the average commuter? Are you suggesting it's wise to put all our eggs in that basket and do nothing to improve public transit until self driving buses become a reality? I assume by the time self driving buses become a reality the average car will be self driving and more people who would otherwise take transit by choice will be "driving" (riding) in these self driving cars.

Even the best traffic management software out there will not be able to overcome the basic laws of physics limiting the rate a large mass of traffic can flow on the limited capacity of our current roadways. Self driving vehicles might even result in an increase in traffic congestion as people who can't find parking will just send their cars home with no occupants to be retrieved at a later time.

It's almost as ridiculous as concluding an argument that we don't need high speed rail because there is an untested / unproven concept out there called the Hyperloop that will be the answer instead. Most people talking about these new technologies have no interest in actually implementing them or seeing them become a reality. They just bring them up as a ruse to justify inaction on the known solutions. Talk of self driving vehicles and the Hyperloop usually just boils down to the all too common Anti-Transit / Anti-High Speed Rail Propaganda popular among the Tea Party, John Birch Society and a certain vocal group of Palo Alto residents including their Ayn Randian hero; Elon Musk.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

> Thank you for proving yourself wrong
> based on your own arguments!

> SELF DRIVING BUSES? .....REALLY?

Wonder if this poster has ever taken a course in simple logic?

Yes, self-driving buses:

Web Link

In the transit industry, self-guided rapid transit is not new, extending from self-guided systems in Vancouver, Lille (France), London and other places with no onboard personnel at all to systems that are technically self-guided in San Francisco and Washington (D.C.) but have employees at the control for reasons of safety redundancy or union regulations. Assuming self-guided buses will be technically possible, what kind of issues could arise?
---

It's unbelievable that people living in Palo Alto can be so uninformed as this poster. The world is shifting quickly towards higher mechanization, automation, and the use of robotics to replace humans in any number of occupations. There are mines that have self-driving trucks to carry ore/coal from the mines to the transport points.

Most automobile manufacturers are now targeting 2020 as the year that self-driving cars will be available to the public. The following link points to an article in Irish Times where Mercedes has announced its intentions of offering self-driving cars within a decade:

Web Link

The Wall Street Journal ran an article just a few weeks ago predicting some severe displacement in the realm of commerical transportation systems:
Web Link

Over the next two decades, the driving will slowly be taken on by the machines themselves. Drones. Robots. Autonomous trucks. It's already happening in a barren stretch in Australia, where Caterpillar Inc. CAT +0.20% will have 45 self-directed, 240-ton mining trucks maneuvering at an iron-ore mine.
---

Buses will become self-driving, over time. This is a certainty.

"Wrong by my own argument." Don't think so.



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Posted by Garrett
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

Commuter shuttles are great if the place you work for has a fleet and is willing to spend the money. Shuttles running from San Francisco and then to Mountain View are a small part.

What are you going to do if you work for small to medium sized company and you live in Dublin? Also want to point out shuttles get stuck in traffic and the causes of traffic.


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Posted by southbayresident
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2013 at 2:16 am

Joe,

There is a big difference between 'self-driving' and 'self-guided'. A truly 'self-driving' vehicle should be able to navigate unknown territory like a dirt road with no problems. I wouldn't consider many of the 'self-guided' systems you reference as being currently in use around the world (or being studied as an option for "decades into the future" like Vancouver) as truly 'self-driving'. Whether it relies on embedded magnetic strips in the roadway or a pre-programmed course inputted into the vehicles onboard computer that is still not truly 'self-driving'. The truly self-driving systems are extremely slow and operate about 12 mph and carry only about 8 people. Other systems that are a combination of either self-driving or self-guided are limited to about 20 mph with the exception of fixed guideway PRT type systems which are a whole other category. Basically all of the current examples in use are slow low capacity systems suited for predictable but easy tasks like serving as parking lot shuttles. Everyone knows about Google's self driving cars but those are carefully monitored applications for a significantly smaller vehicle.

To repeat my earlier point we should not be holding our breath that fully self driving 80 passenger buses capable of safely operating at highway speeds or congested city centers are just around the corner. For large intercity buses we may have 'driver-assist' systems in the near future as an ADDITIONAL safety feature but when a driver is still required to monitor the systems that is not truly driver-less The bus "monitor" would still require a salary like a regular driver. It's going to be a long ways off until the average pedestrian, bicyclists and other drivers feel safe sharing the road or navigating around 15 to 20 ton self driving buses.

Until then there are plenty of things that can be done to make public transit more attractive and effective that have nothing to do with self-driving technology. It's going to be a long time before self-driving technology can demonstrate itself on a meaningful level (meaningful as in serving high capacity transit needs). Until that time comes it will primarily serve as a distraction and likely get in the way of the actual transit improvements we could be making in the immediate future.


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Posted by sunder
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Bart is mostly self driven. The drivers are there only in emergencies and announcements. In fact if BART were to be fully automated it can be done and they did try to pilot it once. May people complained that there were no drivers and doors were closing on them etc... Something that can be solved easily. It is more of a comfort feeling for commuters than not achievable with technology. Self driving buses might sound much complex but it is not something unattainable. But making commuters believe it is safe is a whole different thing.


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