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Hearing on San Francisco’s Tech Shuttle Program Draws Complaints

| June 20, 2014
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(Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)

(Mark Andrew Boyer/KQED)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency has tentatively approved a list of stops for its tech shuttle bus pilot program following a packed public hearing at City Hall Friday that drew complaints from residents concerned about the loss of parking and the impacts on their neighborhoods.

“They’re just ramrodding this through and it’s wrong-minded and short-sighted,” said Lisa Awbrey, who lives near two Muni stops in the Panhandle where public buses would share curb space with private shuttles.

The SFMTA approved an 18-month pilot commuter shuttle program in January, and earlier this month said it identified 115 stops where the shuttles would share space with Muni buses. It originally called for 200 stops.

“We really wanted to select locations where, based on our best information, we could accommodate the shuttle activity and minimize impact on Muni and other users,” said Carli Paine of the SFMTA.

At nine locations, where Muni stops are too busy, some parking would be removed to provide white zones exclusively for shuttles. Three parking spaces would be permanently eliminated and 30 spaces used during peak hours, or about .01 percent of all on-street spaces in the city, according to the SFMTA.

Gus Hernandez of the Alamo Square Neighborhood Association is worried about one of the white zone stops proposed on Hayes Street at Steiner.

“Our concern is that it’s going to cause more congestion and traffic in the neighborhood, as well as removal of parking on the north side,” he said.

Adrian Covert of the Bay Area Council was among the few speakers at the public hearing who testified in favor of the shuttle program, saying it’s a vital link in the transportation system, and that the loss of parking would be minimal.

“Three permanent parking spaces overall are going to be eliminated to provide for shuttle space for 17,000 San Francisco residents. I think that’s a pretty good deal,” he said.

Activists who contend the tech shuttles, often called “Google buses,” have helped fuel gentrification have filed a lawsuit against the city, demanding an environmental review. A settlement conference is scheduled for next week, said Sara Shortt, director of the Housing Rights Committee.

While she supports the white zones, Shortt said the city needs to get more creative about how it manages the shuttles.

“I think there are better solutions, like having a tech hub in one specific space. I think they can stretch themselves further. I do think not using the Muni stops is an absolute improvement,” she said.

Eighty eight stops were approved at the hearing by a traffic engineering panel. SFMTA officials said they were still reviewing a small number of additional stops that would be considered at a July 11th public hearing. The list of stops is then expected to go before the SFMTA Board for final approval.

The shuttle pilot is scheduled to start August 1st, a month later than anticipated.

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Category: News, Technology, Transportation

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About the Author ()

Bryan Goebel is a reporter focused on transportation and housing issues. He was previously the editor of Streetsblog San Francisco and a producer and anchor at KCBS radio. He's a lifelong Californian and over his 20-year radio career has worked at stations in Barstow, Redding and Sacramento. Reach Bryan Goebel at bgoebel@KQED.org.

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