Noe Valley Voice December-January 2009

No Longer a Free Ride for Shuttle Buses

By Corrie M. Anders

Corporate shuttle services that bus high-tech and bio-tech workers between Noe Valley and their jobs on the Peninsula and in the South Bay aren't going away anytime soon.

But there are likely to be changes in the way the private shuttles operate, as San Francisco transit officials seek to alleviate residents' concerns about congestion, double parking, and illegal idling on neighborhood streets.

The San Francisco County Transportation Agency (CTA) issued a report Nov. 17, following a 10-month, citywide study carried out at the request of Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

The report recommends that Google, Yahoo, Genentech, Apple, Facebook, eBay, LinkedIn, and other Silicon Valley employers join with the city in establishing a voluntary sticker-certification program that would manage the private shuttle operations.

The companies would pay an as yet unspecified fee to fund a fulltime staff position to coordinate the program.

Together, the coordinator and shuttle operators would establish routes and pickup locations and determine whether shuttles could share space at Muni stops. Banned would be excessive noise, large buses that exceed weight limits for residential streets, and idling longer than three minutes.

Employers that chronically violated the program's guidelines could be decertified; in addition, formal complaints could be filed with state regulators. Even if firms chose not to participate in the certification program, they could face state sanctions for cumulative transgressions.

"If it [voluntary compliance] doesn't seem to be working, then we might have to go to another level of regulation," said Margaret Cortes, a senior transportation planner with the CTA.

There has been a proliferation of the free, employer-operated shuttles in San Francisco over the past five years. The companies generally use 25-passenger vans or 50-passenger motor coaches, some of which are larger than Muni buses.

According to the report, the shuttles transport approximately 2,000 employees a day citywide, with the heaviest concentration of stops in Noe Valley, Glen Park, and along the Van Ness Avenue corridor.

An agency survey of morning rush-hour pickups showed that weekday shuttles make 37 stops in Noe Valley--12 at 24th and Castro streets, seven at 24th and Guerrero streets, and six each at 24th and Dolores streets, 30th and Church streets, and 30th and Guerrero streets.

In nearby neighborhoods, shuttles make 27 morning stops at the Glen Park BART Station and another 10 in the Mission District at 24th and Valencia streets.

The agency's analysis also found that the shuttles were providing clear environmental benefits.

The report said 63 percent of passengers in a survey conducted in May said they would have driven solo to work without the shuttle services. From that data, the agency extrapolated that the shuttle buses annually eliminated 327,000 commuter trips and 8,000 to 9,500 tons of carbon emissions.

There was also a windfall for San Francisco merchants. The report said shuttle passengers spent an extra $1.8 million a year patronizing local businesses en route to the shuttle stop or returning home.

The transit agency was scheduled to hold public hearings on its shuttle recommendations Dec. 8, 10:30 a.m., in Room 263 at City Hall. You can view the report at