San Francisco’s Commuter Shuttle Program, which was made permanent in November, is facing a lawsuit that could require The City to revisit its environmental studies. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco’s Commuter Shuttle Program, which was made permanent in November, is facing a lawsuit that could require The City to revisit its environmental studies. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

Critics file legal challenge of S.F. ‘Google Bus’ program

The City’s new, permanent program to legalize “Google Buses” just netted its first legal challenge.

An environmental appeal of the Commuter Shuttle Program, as The City formally calls its legalization of tech shuttles, was filed to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last Thursday.

A similar challenge was issued over the pilot version of the program previously, which then escalated into a lawsuit that’s still ongoing.

The lawsuit and the new environmental appeal, separately, may compel San Francisco to study various environmental effects of the buses it did not study — not necessarily to stop the program altogether.

One difference between the challenge of the pilot and the new challenge of the permanent program is the makeup of the Board of Supervisors.

The board rejected the environmental appeal last time around, with Supervisor Scott Wiener vocally opposing any further study. Now, the newest member of the board, Supervisor Aaron Peskin, may swing the board in a new direction on the matter of the shuttles.

“They’ve been too big for our streets, there are pollution concerns, and impacts to the public transportation system,” Peskin told the San Francisco Examiner. “I have an open mind, but like many San Franciscans I have concerns about them driving on our city streets.”

Though some of the shuttles are smaller and operated by local hospitals and schools, the hundreds of large double-decker buses run by tech companies like Apple, Genentech, Electronic Arts, Yahoo and, yes, Google are the focus of much ire in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Board of Directors voted to make the pilot program permanent in November, formalizing San Francisco’s commuter shuttles. The SFMTA in the past has said commuter shuttles existed in a “wild wild west” state, before The City crafted regulations, and would have run with or without rules.

The newfound permanency of the program opened it up to new legal challenges.

The Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, SEIU Local 1021, and citizens Sue Vaughan and Bob Planthold filed the challenge through their attorney, Rebecca Davis. The group alleges the shuttles are low-tech, using diesel fuel which pollutes the air around city neighbors, and that they illegally use public bus stops in conflict with the California Vehicle Code.

Tech workers will pay more to live near the shuttle stops, the group alleges, which in turn spikes nearby rents, spurring evictions and displacement of long-term San Franciscans.

The SFMTA was unable to comment before press time.

Commuter shuttle pilot programGoogle busSFMTASupervisor Aaron PeskinTransit

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Folks wave from the side of a Muni cable car as it heads down Powell Street after cable car service returns from a 16-month COVID absence on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s cable cars return after 16-month absence

San Francisco’s cable cars are back, and they’re free for passengers to… Continue reading

An East Palo Alto resident is inoculated during a COVID-19 vaccination clinic run by Ravenswood Family Health Network at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park on April 10, 2021. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters)
COVID vaccinations lag for people on Medi-Cal

By Ana B. Ibarra CalMatters Low-income Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal have been… Continue reading

Blue California often is the target of criticism by conservative media, but now is receiving critical attention from liberal writers. Pictured: The State Capitol. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)
Why is California now being criticized from the left?

California being what it is – a very large state with a… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

Most Read