Report On Google Shuttles In the City: You May Hate 'Em, But the Environment Doesn't

That'll be one dollar

So maybe you've heard Mission and Noe Valley dwellers complaining about the huge shuttle buses huffing through their small residential streets to whisk 2,500 daily commuters away to their Silicon Valley cubicles.

Well, turns out they're not so bad, Nimbys. Thus concluded a study by the San Francisco Country Transportation Authority ordered by Supervisor Bevan Dufty (also the chairman of the SFCTA board) to examine the role of corporate shuttles in the city's transportation system.

Released last week, the 16-page report makes for rather dense holiday reading, so we've extracted some of the more interesting factoids for you:


Benefits of the regional shuttles:

  • These babies are a boon to environment: A full 63 percent of regional shuttle passengers would otherwise have driven solo to

    work, meaning 327,000 car trips were kept off the streets by these buggers. The shuttles

    emit 20 percent of the amount of pollution that would puff out of all

    the cars that would otherwise have driven.  Also, 28 percent

    of riders said they didn't even own a vehicle, meaning the shuttles may

    be allowing them to live car-free.

  • Boon to business: 63

    percent of the shuttle passengers say they buy stuff at shops,

    restaurants and other businesses on the way to and from

    the shuttle stop that they otherwise would not frequent.

  • Boon

    to the riders: 92 percent of shuttle riders said they gained time to work en route to the office, and 86 percent said they gained personal

    time to send e-mails or sleep (Does no one read anymore?).


The problems:

  • Shuttles

    sometimes block Muni's access to its own bus stops. State law

    stipulates that no one but Muni vehicles can stop in the bus zones for

    passenger loading and unloading unless the other shuttle has received permission from the SFMTA. But no corporate shuttle has gotten such permission. The

    shuttles started a pilot “Muni First” approach in May without MTA's imput, yet

    conflicts remain. 

  • The shuttles are driving on some

    streets that aren't built to handle buses of that size. The study found six roadway segments where the large buses weighing over 14 tons were on streets

    not built to bear that amount of weight.

  • A 2008 shuttle

    inventory by the MTA showed that 11 private business shuttles were

    operating in SoMa and providing redundant service along the same

    routes. Also, the buses often are not full: Regional shuttles reported

    they were usually 20 to 70 percent full, while local shuttles can be as

    high as 100 percent full during peak hours, but average 18 to 42

    percent full. Not super efficient, in other words.

The study concludes: “Shuttles play a

valuable role in the overall San Francisco transportation system.

Active management is needed and warranted in order to minimize impacts.”

So the policy wonks had some recommendations to iron all this out. If you'll indulge our bullet points once again: 

  • Consolidate some of the downtown shuttles with redundant routes.
  • Create a “Muni Partners” certification program to coordinate the shuttles with the city.
  • To

    staff this program, the shuttles would be required to pay a fee to

    support a staff member who help troubleshoot and coordinate the

    shuttles' routes. He or she would establish permitted lay-over

    locations, and put his or her foot down about not hogging Muni stops or driving on streets not designed to bear the vehicle's weight. 

Whether any of these

recommendations will actually be enacted is anyone's guess. But we've heard that Muni reform is Dufty's mayoral campaign platform, so it may not just die on the shelf like so many other commission reports.

Still hate the shuttles? You can offer your two

cents at the SFCTA's “Plans and Programs” meeting on December 8th at

10:30 a.m. in room 263 of City Hall.

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