Facebook Workers Ditch Shuttle, Drive to Campus

Today is a good day to drive.

Are San Francisco’s notorious commuter shuttle activists driving more tech workers into cars? That probably sounds infuriating or laughable, but it could be true.

“Facebook disclosed that their car commute trips had spiked in recent months, adding about 400 more cars to San Francisco streets, due to new San Francisco rules changing shuttle stops.”

That nugget comes via the Friends of Caltrain Blog, as reported by Streetsblog SF.

Those new rules started Feb. 1 and were born out of the SFMTA’s pilot program regulating such vehicles, which one could argue was born out of people’s displeasure with the shuttles that were becoming more and more common on city streets after years of unfettered operation.

Or, perhaps slow-moving government finally caught up at the same time activists started making headlines.

[jump] Regardless, the rules target greenhouse gas emissions and where shuttles can travel depending on their size; offer guidelines to prevent disruptions due to labor disputes; and mandate data sharing to aid in enforcement.

It’s possible the vehicle size restriction made it harder for commuters to catch a shuttle. Those longer than 35 feet are restricted from using smaller city streets, which perhaps made solo car commuting more attractive to 400 people who detest walking. Sure, we buy that — especially considering that San Franciscans like their cars, according to the recently released City Survey.

If you scroll way down to page 55 of the document, you’ll see that 45 percent of respondents said they drive alone in the city several times a week to daily. For a city with a longstanding transit-first approach to its streets, that’s the worst stat of all.

The Friends of Caltrain Blog does point out that it only had data from Facebook (which, to its credit, has been trying to motivate people to move closer to its campus). Other big-time shuttle users like Google, Apple, and Genentech are likely seeing similar trends in car use by their employees. But it’s impossible to know unless they, too, update their statuses.

Perhaps if San Francisco wins tens of millions in Smart City grant funding it can figure out how to persuade people to drive less often. Or maybe not, at least in the near future. The SFMTA says its project aims more to help those who can’t afford to drive, seemingly leaving alone those who can afford a car, insurance, gas, and parking tickets. Improvements would be made to the existing transit system, and could reduce traffic collisions and deaths by 10 percent in the next four years.

The SFMTA admits that’s the bridge between the more ambitious goal: driverless transport, which would indeed reduce private vehicle traffic if in fact it’s widely adopted by the public.

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