Mayor Lee addresses Google bus controversy

Guardian photo and graphic

At a press conference on affordable housing today, the Guardian asked Mayor Ed Lee about San Francisco’s favorite pinata: tech buses. The monstrous private shuttles, which daily whisk tech workers away to Silicon Valley, currently use Muni bus stops without paying fines, like most private autos do. 

In Guardian News Editor Rebecca Bowe’s article in the print edition of the Bay Guardian this week, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency spokesperson Paul Rose tells her that although there is a proposal in the works to regulate them, the SFMTA won’t profit a single dime from the plan. 

“We are developing these policies to better utilize the boarding zones for these shuttle providers," Rose said. "What we're trying to do is provide a more efficient transportation network."

But everyone in San Francisco who has ever ridden Muni knows that it struggles to run on time, and chronic underfunding is a perennial Muni problem. It even hurts the city’s bottom line, depressing our economy by over $50 million a year, according a report from the city earlier this May.

The report also highlights the cost to overhaul Muni between now and the year 2020: over $167 million would be needed to overhaul the system.

So why not make a few bucks from tech companies using Muni stops, who, according to the city, cause Muni delays? 

We asked Mayor Ed Lee that very question at a press conference today. You can listen to his answer in the audio embedded below, or read the transcript for yourself. 

San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Housing is one aspect of this, but transportation is another. The MTA’s plan to deal with tech buses is cost neutral. Is that a missed opportunity to get additional funding for Muni?"

Mayor Ed Lee: “Not a missed opportunity. That’s the essence of that 2030 task force, transportation task force, that we put together where they send a report to me, I’m in a process of reviewing all aspects of that. 

Muni officials themselves were directly involved in producing that very comprehensive review along with our Planning Department and many in fact all of the departments here had implemented them.

Transportation is not just about Muni, it’s about all the modes of how people get around the city. You can’t forget that, because that’s a really big part of the task force’s work.

How to get people walking. How to get them bicycling safer and more. How to get cars less, and the cars that do, get them through where they have to go without stalling and congesting. 

How do you invest in Muni? In its assets, in its transportation, in all of its aspects. How do you work with taxis and all the other car-sharing and automobile sharing companies. It’s not just about taxis, by the way. I hear from my taxi friends as I walk around City Hall, they don’t want to be left behind so we want to bring them in to see the new exciting use of Uber carshare and Lyft… all of those modes have to be paid attention to at the highest level, including investing in the assets of Muni.

I want Muni to be the choice.”

Earlier in the press conference Lee voiced his opposition to all of the hatred pointed at tech companies. 

“People, stop blaming tech, tech companies,” he said. “They want to work on a solution. I think it's unfortunate that some voices want to pit one economic sector they view as successful against the rest of our challenge. The reality is they’re only eight percent of our economy.” 

We tried to ask a follow up question, but at the end of his answer on Muni, the mayor’s spokesperson Christine Falvey told the Guardian “We’re going to go on a tour now, this is off topic.”


Wow! You're really out there! I'll try and make it as simple as I can for you. I don't care what your original post was about. What I was laughing about was that you wrote a comment and then you posted a response agreeing with yourself. You pretended you were someone else and gave yourself a pat on the back. You do it all the time on this board. It's pathetically hilarious. Hope that clears up the confusion :)

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

LOL. Silly mindless troll. You did not read the post or you have zero comprehension skills. It wasn't agreeing with me, and provided no link to this mysterious poll of which they speak.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:17 pm

Here's the link with the 73% approval rating for Mayor Lee:

OK...start the denial process...and have fun! Think of it as a Xmas present.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

There was more to it than that. I honestly don't recall what other questions they asked, but there was more to it. Now I'm trying to remember what they asked about. Latterman is a nice guy, but I wish he was as open with his data as PPP is. PPP puts the questions and the methodology online. SUSA does that too. Hell, even Rasmussen does that now, I think. In fact, every pollster that's legit does it these days. With Latterman's polls, you're always wondering what their demographic breakdown is, what their adjustment formula was, how they worded the questions, what OTHER questions they asked, whether they decided not to publish the questions because they didn't like the answers... etc etc.

Not saying he's not legit, just that what he publishes always leaves me with more questions than answers.

But even if we take it at face value, two things immediately jump out at me. People are fine with Ed Lee, but it looks like their support is a classic case of a mile wide and an inch deep. The other thing is that people strongly believe that cost of living is a big problem, and they overwhelmingly want GOVERNMENT to step in and do something.

That leaves an opening for progressives. We need to put forth ideas on how to curb rents and evictions, and if Ed Lee doesn't go along, we need to hammer him and get the message out that he isn't doing anything to address cost of living issues. And no, building more high-priced techie cages doesn't cut it! That may be why the BOS was willing to pass some moderately pro-tenant legislation without much of a fight from the board's right wing.

Ed's less obnoxious about his antagonism toward the working class than Willie Brown was during the first tech bubble. But if he continues to do nothing, that "support" of close to 6 in 10 who think he's doing "somewhat OK" can collapse very quickly... faster than you can say "Mayor Christine Quinn."

Posted by Greg on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 11:37 pm

I did a bit of research on this poll.

The poll was conducted in English only. WTF?

Only 553 registered voters out of a city of over 800,000? (So that's the Chamber of Commerce, techies and who else?...the Real Estate Industrial Complex and their Liars?)

The poll was weighted on "housing tenure." (What does that mean?)

It seems to me if they truly wanted a legitimate poll they would have conducted the poll in as many languages as possible to match city residents and not this English-only shit. They would have conducted the poll similar to how the Registrar of Voters does all their paperwork with the many international languages.

This poll seems like it was intended to generate a very particular result by the methods used.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:21 am

So the 73% approval that this Lee supposedly got in this poll is only 73% of 553 registered voters. That's it. That's not much. Leave it to a smug, brainwashed Lee-bot troll and SFGate to come up with another piece of propaganda newspeak like this.

This poll was conducted online. How does one trust an on-line poll?

Also, the site this poll is on (corporate SFGate) is very corporate-biased towards big business and homeowners. I rarely go to SFGate because I can't stand that site. I prefer more reliable and trustworthy sites when it comes to news and polls.

If this suspect poll showed that 73% despise Lee I would still say the same thing I've written here.

Hey, I just came up with a poll. 95% of registered voters agree with this post. (Number of SF registered voters polled: 6).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 3:26 am

Enjoy the denials! Consider the poll to be an early Xmas gift for those of you who enjoy living in total denial about how out of touch you are.

Here is some more for you: It's actually the 3rd poll from different organizations that put Lee's approval rating at over 60%, which just happens to be the same % that voted for him on election day.

But, really, I don't want to detract from your holiday enjoyment...please enjoy yourselves denying the truth and living in your own private Idaho.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:45 am

outcome that is unfavorable to their ideology.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:29 am

It's telling when you have to resort to attacking the messengers rather than refuting any criticism that people are making in a substantive way.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:19 am

they immediately claim that the election was "rigged" or "fixed" or "bought" or "stolen" or some such.

Similarly, if a poll shows Lee with a massive 73% approval rating, it has to be in error. Someone the left hates as much as Lee cannot possibly be that popular, right?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:31 am

Folks are just making the observation that polls should be read critically. You're just repeating the same tired troll memes.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

varying between 60% and 73% approval. that ties with his 60/40 thumping of Avalos.

One poll might be flawed but when they all say the same thing, you have to accept them.

Why is it so hard for you to believe that most people don't think like you?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:57 pm

The more I read about that poll, the fishier it seems. I don't have a problem with the 553 registered voters. That's a pretty ordinary sample size. The problem was that it was English only, and online. And no, you don't have to have a command of English to be a citizen. Many citizens do not speak good English, if at all. So why did Latterman rush to put out such a sloppily-done poll?

Perhaps it was to counter this:

Ed Lee's real approval now stands at 51%, and falling, and he only leads Ammiano by high single digits.

I still think he'd win if the election were held today, but I predicted that the affordability crisis would take its toll on Lee's popularity, and that appears to be happening much faster than even I expected.

Like I said, mile wide and inch deep. Unless he acts to address the affordability crisis, he could see his support collapse.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

citizenship here, so if you don't speak English, then you are not a citizen, and so cannot vote.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:49 am

knowledge test that applicants have to pass is only conducted in English, unless the applicant is over age 70.

So in practice every voters should be able to speak English. But then we do not know how many illegals are on the voter register.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:33 am

"That may be why the BOS was willing to pass some moderately pro-tenant legislation without much of a fight from the board's right wing."

Yeah, even conservative Wiener went along with that, only because he's heading into his re-election year.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:40 am

those changes are not effective and will not reduce evictions.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:51 am

And they won't vote for any tenant protections that are effective?

I think we're starting to get at the true character of those who label themselves "moderates."

Doesn't sound very moderate at all to me.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:17 am

has to move to Oakland having enjoyed a subsidized rent for a decade or two.

Moderates understand that the city needs a healthy and profitable private rental business or else many more would have to leave.

Moderates hopes to buy a property one day and so respect property rights. Or they own their own home and might want to let it or sublet it if they go away.

Moderates are, you know, moderate and not extreme.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:41 am

Too convenient.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:49 am

And Newsom never really won because he had more money and Bill Clinton wasn't legitimate because he never got a majority and Obama isn't a citizen and Bush stole the election through SCOTUS and blah, blah, blah. Losers always seek to invalidate the results of election with which they disagree.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:32 pm

Agreed. That's what I said at the time. If he were so popular he would have won outright and that would have been the end of it. But he wasn't popular especially since he was an unknown until Newsom appointed him and then Lee lied about not wanting the job. He still isn't popular. I suspect most people who live here don't even know who the mayor is. Many would probably still say Newsom. They would only be able to recite the name "Lee" if they saw it on their gadget screen.

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

when they don't go your way something unfair is going on.

Thats sums up your position for every election you have an interest in correct?

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:00 pm

Incorrect. I didn't vote for mayor in that election because I didn't like any of the candidates so it's not that I'm sour because my candidate loss. I didn't have a candidate. I didn't support any of them.

For future reference so that you don't come off as a complete idiot, should you ask people: Who was your candidate in that election, or did you have one?
Instead of making baseless assumptions about people you know nothing about (other than what they write in a comment on here).

Posted by GuestInTheCastro on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:57 pm

I should have got your purity thing with you guys that you know are gay are holding hands with women thing.

No one that ran was pure enough for you.

My mistake.

ha ha ha

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:03 pm


Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

I'm an asshole because I didn't keep track of the small minded ravings,

Keep it up guest.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 8:10 pm

Is that like one of those flying machines?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:18 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:50 am

He broke his promise. Isn't that a form of lying? Don't you suppose he knew at the time he made the promise that he'd run again? I do. And even if he didn't because nobody knows the future, if he were an honorable man and trustworthy he would respect his initial promise.

Posted by Aunt Tom on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

Ed Lee told us that, at that point in time, he had no intention to run. And that was true, at that time.

He was later persuaded to change his mind because of the popularity and support he was getting.

And has been vindicated both by a crushing election victory and by a 73% approval rating.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 20, 2013 @ 7:12 am

It's really when a candidate is NOT popular that they have to waste time dragging the election through eleven rounds of RVC to get the thing in office through whatever means possible, through campaign $$ and money through the Real Estate Industrial Complex et al. (Money from his corrupt corporate owners in other words).

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

who are cutting edge, unless they are not and then they are easily fooled and don't vote correctly"

Voting is good unless my side loses, then there is some sort of reason other than my candidate got fewer votes.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 9:58 pm

Funny, I don't remember progressives complaining about RCV when Jean Quan backed into the mayorship of Oakland with the "anybody but Don" campaign. Although considering what a colossal failure her term has been, they're probably hoping everyone will forget that she's a progressive.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

Why are progressives so opposed to mass transit? This anti-scientific world view of the progressive left is exacerbating the emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses. It's selfishness pure and simple. They want cheap subsidized rent at the expense of local environmental destruction. Disgusting.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 18, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

Ed Lee could have smoked crack in Coit Tower. The voters were fully aware of whatever he had done or said and they convincingly stated that they still wanted him to be their Mayor.

Sorry that you have trouble dealing with their decision.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:22 am

reasonably trust his instincts in making decisions, knowing he has the people behind him.

Except for a few whiney progressives, who really don't count anyway.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 7:31 am

How many voters voted for Lee because Avalos was considered a menace by them?

The progressives can complain about Lee's promises or the process going through various levels of ranked choice voting, eliminating in the first round people who got a few hundred votes.

But the front runner progressive Avalos was probably considered a menace by the voters.

Posted by Matlock on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

real progressive running. The moderate vote was split many ways because all the major candidates were moderates, as you'd expect.

In practice, few people wanted Avalos as mayor as a first choice, and a majority didn't want him as mayor at all.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

There are several problems with these buses. We are way past the point of being able to stop them altogether, but I do believe they need to only be able to pick up at a central terminus. These giant, double-decker buses should not be allowed to run up and down residential neighborhoods and largely pedestrian sectors. They are blocking buses at Mission High School, blocking pickups and dropoffs for MUNI buses, and making illegal use of MUNI stops. Why are tech buses allowed on Valencia, for instance? We don’t even have a MUNI line on Valencia!

Aside from all this, these buses are creating a sense of class apartheid by stopping at MUNI stops where passengers are waiting for MUNI buses, but unlike MUNI buses, these will not let everyone on. That they are nondescript and unmarked and have dark tinted windows gives a visual representation of the disconnect many of these tech workers and the tech companies have from the neighborhoods they're taking over.

The average ticket fine is $255.00 for illegal parking at a MUNI stop. These buses make over 200 stops per day within the seven miles that comprise San Francisco. First, why in the hell do you need so many stops for such a small area? Second, if each of those stops received only one bus per day (there and back), that’s $102,000 in lost fines for the city AT MINIMUM, PER DAY. The lost fine money could for instance, accelerate the completion of the Transbay Terminal, and we all need that. When the terminal is done, it would also act as the terminus point in SF for these buses.

In the meantime, the interim central terminus would be connected to the public transportation system so that these workers would need to either find their own way to the terminus, or take public transport to get there, which would allow these workers to have a better idea of what it's really like for those who aren't riding gilded limo buses to work. If it overcrowds the system, that’s a good thing. It forces the SFMTA and MUNI to look at what they’re doing and make changes. It’s one thing to have private citizens who can't afford other means of transport say that SFMTA needs to make changes, but when the CEOs of Apple, Google, and Facebook start telling the SFMTA that it’s affecting their workers, things will get done.

People like to point to the fact that Google plans to put WiFi in public parks as some sort of example of philanthropy. This is not an act of benevolence; it’s a way for them to get even more work time out of their employees.

Also, the mayor trivializing the need for solutions while saying "tech is only 8 percent of the city's economy" ignores the obvious fact that many of these tech companies are not based in San Francisco and are merely using it as a bedroom community for their sprawling campuses in Cupertino and Mountain View.

Posted by Josh on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:29 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

No, they don't. They can pick up from a central terminus point, and the employees can make their way to that terminus point to pick up their shuttles to go to work. Just as if I work in Millbrae and live in Crocker Amazon, I have to get to the Caltrain or BART station from where I live, which may require me to ride MUNI.

There are more drawbacks to the general populace by having tech shuttles run all over the city than there are by allowing them to run everywhere. If tech is only 8 percent of our city's economy, the needs of the majority should overtake the needs of the few. They block municipal transit buses, in some cases also school buses, snarl up and down residential and largely pedestrian neighborhoods with little clearance for double decker buses, give landlords yet another reason to drive up rent costs by touting a places proximity to their tech bus stop, and act as the symbol of growing resentment and class apartheid. I'm not saying it's not good to keep cars off the roads. I'm saying that we need to have a hub for these buses to pick up from.

I've already explained why these buses shouldn't be allowed to run all over the city. Having them pick up from a central terminus connected to public transportation also benefits SFMTA by increasing their revenue which can help to fund improvements, keeps the buses out of residential neighborhoods, removes the stigma of class apartheid felt when these buses roll up at MUNI stops across the city, and allows these workers to interact with their community in a way many of them currently don't. Consequently, these workers will also complain about the things everyone else does as it relates to public transit and push for improvements. That can only encourage more civic involvement and activity amongst a group of people who may not have otherwise cared. The ones that don't want to be inconvenienced to have to ride public transportation to get to the hub, well, they can deal like the rest of us, or move closer to work.

Posted by Josh on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 1:50 pm

should not actually do what shuttles do and pick up people near their homes. You just haven't convinced me.

If they have to pick everyone up downtown, then much of the point of them goes away, because the workers will have to commute into downtown SF when they don't work there.

And then they might as well take CalTrain.

Shuttles give people what they want and need, and not what you think they should do.

And phrases like "class apartheid" just make you sound like a dufus. Just so you know.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 2:13 pm

There are differences between needs and wants. They don't NEED to have a shuttle that picks up a block away from their house. They just WANT not to have to interact with public transportation or walk a few more blocks. Again, we're talking about the needs of the few. They're 8 percent of the city's economy. Anything that involves MUNI should come before catering to a tech bus because MUNI caters to the majority. These buses blocking MUNI buses and making illegal use of their stops is a problem - one of many that would be alleviated with a central terminus for shuttle pickup.

"They might as well take CalTrain" shows how little you know about the proximity of these campuses to Caltrain or BART stations. The reason the shuttles exist is because public transport doesn't come close to these campuses yet the employees WANT to live in San Francisco.

Your point about commuting into Downtown SF to catch their shuttle to Mountain View or Cupertino makes no sense: "If they have to pick everyone up downtown, then much of the point of them goes away, because the workers will have to commute into downtown SF when they don't work there."

They don't work in the Mission or the Castro or Hayes Valley, either. I'm just suggesting that the pickup point changes to a central location. Instead of 200 stops, there would be one.

You do realize that even if you're not electing to use public transport, you're also complaining about having to go no further than 7 miles to pick up this shuttle from anywhere in the city, right? The city I grew up in could fit nearly 19 San Franciscos WITHIN THE CITY LIMITS. 7 miles is nothing, and the densest populations of tech workers that live in SF are in very specific areas that are close to MUNI and BART stations. If they didn't want to take public transportation to get to the hub, they could walk, or find alternate means of getting to the hub. UBER could do brisk business in the mornings for people who couldn't be bothered.

If you create a central hub in SF for shuttle buses to pick up at, people will use it. You just don't think they should be inconvenienced by having to.

I really could care less what you think of me, "Guest". Since we're levying personal criticisms though, starting sentences with conjunctions is not a good look. Just so you know.

Posted by Josh on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 2:57 pm

You do realize that you are kind of an a$$hole with a chip on his shoulder yes?

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 4:14 pm
Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 4:30 pm

Your nonsensical ramblings aside I'm sure you're a nice person and all.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 4:39 pm

If i wrote as badly as that, I wouldn't want anyone knowing it was me.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 4:43 pm

A lot more reasonable than the repetitive trolls who bleat Randian garbage over and over again.

Posted by Greg on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 5:50 pm

and on and on and on so much he bored the shit out of me.

But there were definite overtones of envy in there that put me off.

Posted by Guest on Dec. 19, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

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