Fee increase for shuttles using Muni stops draws criticism from Mission Bay residents

It wasn't riders of Google buses and other tech shuttles, but rather San Francisco residents who rely on their neighborhood shuttle who took issue with a fee increase for a new pilot program charging shuttles to use Muni stops.

Increasing the fees for shuttles from the initial proposal of $1 per stop per day to $3.55 for fiscal year 2014-15 and $3.67 for the following fiscal year was deemed necessary by San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency staff to cover the costs of administrating the 18-month pilot, set to launch Aug. 1. Fewer stops by shuttles than originally anticipated — from 4,121 daily estimated in January down to 2,449 — along with increased enforcement, drove the fee increase, according to SFMTA.

But several Mission Bay residents who attended a meeting announcing the fee increase said it was not fair for the Mission Bay Transportation Management Association, which they pay for monthly to use. Corinne Woods, chair of the Mission Bay Citizens Advisory Committee, said the public transit is much different from corporate shuttles.

“Please do not approve this on a one-size-fits-all basis,” she said during public comment, “Because it's not one size fits all.”

SFMTA Program Manager Carli Paine said the transit agency decided not to treat shuttle providers differently for a reason.

“There was a discussion about whether it was fair or legal to charge different tiers and the advice we received from the City Attorney's Office is that it is not something that is allowable,” she said. “So we did have that conversation at the request of folks from Mission Bay.”

SFMTA board members voted in favor of the increase except for Cristina Rubke, who abstained, and Malcolm Heinicke, who was absent. Board chairman Tom Nolan called the approving vote a move for the “greater good.”

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the commuter shuttle pilot did not oppose the fee increase, but pointed out what they considered the latest flaws in the program.

Sara Shortt, a member and spokeswoman for The Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, which sued, said the fee increase is “a step in the right direction and it shows that The City is understanding more the incredible cost of true enforcement.”

Shortt and members of the coalition in the past months have staged Google bus blockades to protest housing displacement, which they attribute in large part to tech giants that offer free shuttles to their employees.

“It's simply naïve to expect that these very same companies that have been fragrantly violating our law for years will not continue to demonstrate the same rogue behavior once this project begins,” Shortt said.

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