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Nose Under the Community Tent

By Paul Losch

About this blog: I was a "corporate brat" growing up and lived in different parts of the country, ending in Houston, Texas for high school. After attending college at UC Davis, and getting an MBA at Harvard, I embarked on a marketing career, mai...  (More)

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Uploaded: Dec 20, 2013
There are several employers who are offering shuttles to their employees who live in one vicinity (e.g. San Francisco) to get to their work place (e.g. the Peninsula.)

I am a major user of PA Shuttle and Stanford's Marguerite locally.

I think this is a good thing.

It's green, cuts down on traffic congestion, and offers a sense (perhaps) of community among the passengers.

I am trying to come up with things about this concept that are negative, and I can not come up with any.

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Posted by 100% bicycle commuter, a resident of Barron Park,
on Dec 20, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I think there are layers to the shuttle issue.

The first layer has to do with efficiency, pollution, and traffic. I agree with you, Paul, that shuttles are great for optimizing road transportation. More clearly, this first layer analysis concludes something like this: given that N people have to get from A to B, a shuttle is the optimal carrier. Corporate shuttles emerge as the solution from this first-layer analysis.

But there are deeper layers, and I think this is where debates and tension come in. One problem is that N people were not at point A at the start. Rather, they decided to live there *because shuttles are available* to bring them to B. So the shuttle enables many more people to live in SF and work in the suburbs than would otherwise. This is where the issue about well-paid tech workers displacing the old crowd of SF enters.

Another issue is that corporations have no incentive to help (through funding, giving advice, participating in planning committees, and so on) build transportation infrastructure that, as a side effect, benefits everyone in the region. For example, one could imagine denser BART and Caltrain schedules rather than corporate shuttles, as well as local shuttles from train stations to corporate centers. One could also imagine having wireless on Caltrain just like on corporate shuttles. And so on.

But there is still a deeper layer. If Mountain View were awash in unused housing, then displacing the old guard of SF with new wealthy tech workers would be truly unseemly. In fact, MV has a housing crunch, and it\'s not clear MV or any other cities have any intention of addressing it (or the associated local transportation issue; though, happily, bicycling is as good as ever). So in some ways, I have to agree with your conclusion: there\'s nothing wrong with the shuttles. People have to live somewhere, and everywhere is saturated, so we should use shuttles to bring people in from far away.

But, ultimately, I am sympathetic to those who oppose the shuttles as symbols of their homes being taken from them. It seems absurd that a business cycle can come in and change whole communities, even and especially those having nothing to do with the business. SF people were just quietly going about their lives and then -- BOOM -- in comes consumer software companies, one after another; surely their anger is understandable.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Dec 20, 2013 at 9:30 pm

Here are a few problems with the Palo Alto shuttles?

1) Cost of the shuttle is hidden from users?who come to believe that personal transportation costs should be borne by government?or at least, someone else, other than the individual.
2) Shuttles divert funds from VTA (in this case), which is a poorly managed, requiring huge public subsidies.
3) Drivers often have problems with the English language.
4) Drivers sometimes are short-tempered with older people not born in this country.
5) Drivers often play radio stations that broadcast in foreign languages.
6) Some drivers run red lights, or speed. There is no simple way to report these transgressions to the City, or the vendor of shuttle services.
7) When shuttles are late, or don?t come at all?no easy way to report this to City, and shuttle vendor.
8) Safety record for each driver is not readily available.
9) Not clear how much insurance is carried by the vendor of shuttle services.
10) Drivers allow too many students to board buses?exceeding the safety capacity for vehicles.
11) Junior high students riding buses are incredible rude, and use extremely foul language, which is offensive to older riders.

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