Private shuttles, which have proliferated as a way of carrying commuters from San Francisco neighborhoods and transit centers to large workplaces, could be more tightly regulated in the future.
Marina and Noe Valley residents have long voiced their displeasure with the shuttles, saying they are loud, block narrow streets and interfere with public transit.
A new report from a planning agency said the shuttles could avoid such conflicts if the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni, had greater input in scheduling times, route alignments and bus stops.
“Local residents have no clear way to address the issues of shuttle buses, which is leading to friction,” said Tilly Chang, deputy planning director for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “Greater integration into The City’s transit system would clarify the rules and make things smoothers for both the shuttles and the residents.”
The four biggest employee shuttle providers — Apple, Genentech, Google and Yahoo — carry about 4,000 commuters daily, twice as many as two years ago, the authority said.
Meanwhile, shuttles that operate entirely within San Francisco also are booming. For instance, shuttle service to Mission Bay has increased from 4,000 passengers in 2010 to more than 17,000 today, according to Wendy Silvani, who oversees the shuttles.
Shuttle advocates said they are an environmentally responsible way to move commuters. The authority’s report said taking away the shuttles would add 327,000 solo vehicle trips each year to the Peninsula’s already-overburdened highways.
On Tuesday, a government committee could give the authority approval to work with the SFMTA on new regulations. The authority hasn’t proposed any specific fees, but possible annual costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Representatives from Apple, Genentech, Google and Yahoo declined to comment.
Miguel Guerrero, manager of the SF Mini bus shuttle, said he wouldn’t mind paying annual fees as long as they were “reasonable” and his vehicles were guaranteed a right to share boarding zones with Muni. But he worries the SFMTA would have too much control over his routes and scheduling.
“They’re having a hard enough time running Muni,” Guerrero said. “Why do they think they would be able to regulate us as well?”
SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose said his agency has helped private shuttles with scheduling and route planning upon request. He said it was too early to comment on the authority’s report, but that Muni works with private companies on service plans.
Proposed shuttle fees still being studied
While transit planners haven’t recommended specific shuttle fees, several options are being considered.
One is charging shuttles to reserve on-street spaces for passenger loading. The City offers this at $28 per foot of curb, a rate that could add up to $2,990 for a zone longer than 66 feet. Depending on how many zones the shuttles want, this could cost thousands of dollars annually.
Another idea would copy a Seattle program in which shuttle providers pay an annual fee of $300, according to Jesse Koehler of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. That pays for curb space.
Lastly, there could be a combination of fees — some that would reserve curb space and some that would fund the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. With a full-time SFMTA staffer, the private companies could have a public voice to inform, advocate and coordinate service, Koehler said.
On the bus
4,000: Daily passengers carried by regional shuttles to employers in Peninsula and Silicon Valley
50: Percent increase of those passengers in the last two years
4,000: Daily passengers carried by local shuttles in 2010 between Mission Bay and transit stations
17,000: Daily passengers carried by local shuttles now between Mission Bay and transit stations
325: Percent increase in last year
327,000: Solo vehicle trips that would be added to highways each year without regional shuttles