Controversial Google Buses Are About to Become Permanent in San Francisco

November 18, 2015, 9:03 PM UTC
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Google Inc. employees board a bus that will take them to the company's campus, in Mountain View, from San Francisco, California, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. San Francisco's private bus drivers are at the center of a swelling debate about income inequality and the role of technology's nouveau rich in turning the city into a place that's becoming unaffordable for everyone else. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by David Paul Morris — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors approved a program on Tuesday that will make shuttles commonly known as “Google buses” permanent in the city as of February 1 of next year.

The Commuter Shuttle Program first began in August 2014 as a way to help people commute to and from work at tech companies like Google, Apple, Yahoo, and Facebook. The shuttles are operated by third-party transportation companies, but receive funding from the tech giants.

CNN reports that since the program’s inception, people have fought against them. Protestors claim they’re loud, dangerous, disruptive, and that they make unauthorized stops at MUNI bus stations. But their most poignant argument is that the program promotes gentrification. Young, well-paid tech workers are driving up rent and forcing lower-income residents out of the city.

The new permanent program addresses certain issues by, for example, including regulations that dictate where the shuttles are allowed to stop. However, supporters of the program disagree that it advances gentrification. “The notion that shuttles are causing gentrification…is simply not connected to the data that we have,” San Francisco Board of Supervisors member Scott Weiner said at the hearing. “Whether or not they have access to shuttles, they’re going to live here.”

A report by the SFMTA shows that the shuttle program helps 8,500 people get to and from work each day. The report found that 47% of them said that they would drive otherwise, showing that the program is actually beneficial to the city by helping to cut down on traffic and pollution.

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