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Protestors block a shuttle bus transporting Google employees in San Francisco (Credit: cjmartin on Flickr)
Protestors block a shuttle bus transporting Google employees in San Francisco (Credit: cjmartin on Flickr)

The City of San Francisco has struck an agreement with technology companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft to create a proposed pilot program to charge private bus companies for the use of the city’s bus stops for the transportation of tech employees from San Francisco to their offices in Silicon Valley.

Mayor Ed Lee announced the deal in a press conference Monday afternoon. The deal, which is slated to bring in more than $1.5 million in its first 18 months, will create a permit system for the buses, which are said to transport more than 45,000 tech workers between San Francisco and their offices. In addition, buses will have to submit to certain regulations, such as yielding to public buses and only using 200 of the city’s more than 2,500 bus stops.

“San Francisco needs a reliable, safe and affordable world-class transportation system,” said Mayor Lee. “This agreement will help the City realize the benefits that come with commuter shuttles, such as keeping thousands of cars off our roads and preventing gridlock, while ensuring companies pay their fair share and don’t delay our public transportation system.”

Proponents of the shuttles say that they help take cars off the already-congested arteries leading south towards the tech sector’s heart, sparing the environment and traffic conditions, while allowing tech workers to live where they want.

But for others, the buses have come to stand as a symbol for the technology industry’s impact on San Francisco. The median rent in the city has hit $2,800 for a one-bedroom apartment, and evictions under the Ellis Act, which gives landlords the ability to unconditionally evict tenants if they plan to sell the units in their building, have risen more than 170 percent in the past year, partially driven by housing demand from wealthier tech workers.

On a few occasions, protestors have stopped shuttle buses from Google and Apple. In one incident, one of the windows of a Google shuttle was broken by protestors in West Oakland after they stopped it along its route.

In Seattle, where Microsoft Connector buses routinely run throughout the region, connecting workers who live in Seattle to Microsoft’s Redmond headquarters, the issue has not heated up like in the Bay Area. But could new Seattle Mayor Ed Murray make it an issue? Let’s wait and see how that plays out.

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