Report: Creating ‘Tech shuttle’ hubs would reduce conflicts with Muni buses

Moving tech shuttle pickups off of San Francisco streets and into so-called “hubs” would reduce shuttle conflicts with Muni buses and significantly decrease shuttle presence in neighborhoods.

But doing so would come with steep tradeoffs, perhaps placing thousands of cars back on the road by tech employees who may not find the hubs convenient and stop riding the shuttles.

Those are among the findings of a much-anticipated report on the impact of creating tech shuttle hubs, released by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last Friday.

“I still believe the concept of the hub is something we should pursue,” said outgoing Supervisor David Campos, among those on the Board of Supervisors who called for hubs.

“There are tradeoffs with anything you do,” he said, adding a balance should be struck between neighbors complaining of oversized shuttles clogging their neighborhoods and tech workers who want to be picked up at their doors.

The Commuter Shuttle Hub Study, as the report is called, will be reviewed at the SFMTA Board of Directors on Tuesday, though no action will be taken on hubs.

The current Commuter Shuttle Program, as run by the SFMTA, is a voluntary regulatory program that 17 shuttle companies and 789 vehicles are registered to abide by. This encompasses inter-city hospital shuttles as well as the infamous tech shuttles, which transport tech workers to Silicon Valley and back during commuter hours.

Currently those shuttles weave in and out of neighborhoods to pick up passengers at 110 stops across San Francisco, though many stops are concentrated in Noe Valley, the Mission, and other neighborhoods favored by tech workers.

There are nearly 8,500 people taking a daily trip on private commuter shuttles, according to the SFMTA, with more than 17,000 daily boardings.

But confining shuttles to hubs can only be achieved with a steep tradeoff, according to the report.

Shuttle ridership would likely drop between 24 to 54 percent, and the SFMTA wrote nearly all those former shuttle riders would drive to Silicon Valley instead, perhaps putting 1,780 to 3,300 cars back on the road.

And because the regulations are voluntary, as shuttles are regulated at the state (and not local) level, the SFMTA also wrote shuttle companies may simply opt out.

“One outcome of a hub system could be noncompliance with the program requirements,” the SFMTA wrote.

techbus

The study covers four separate versions of a hub model: a single tech shuttle hub downtown, five hubs located around BART stations, a nine-hub system near freeways, or a system with 17 tech shuttle pickups zones called a “consolidated network.”

The single-hub model requires no parking removal while the consolidated network would require up to 230 spaces removed.

Though the tradeoff may be drastic, it could also provide relief for some neighbors. During an SFMTA Board of Directors meeting on Oct. 18, an apartment building manager came to plead his case to the directors for the shuttle stop near his home to be moved.

“We have 100 people in front of our building every morning starting at 5:40 a.m.,” Thomas told the board. He showed them a photo of more than 100 people crowding around his building, blocking his doorway.

In a statement to the San Francisco Examiner, SFMTA Director of Sustainable Streets Tom Maguire wrote, “The SFMTA’s current Commuter Shuttle Program is working, and has improved shuttle behavior and reduced their impacts on The City’s transportation network.”

SFMTA Parking Control Officers have issued 2,267 citations worth $360,895 to permitted shuttle vehicles between August 2014 and August 2016, according to the agency. But nearly 28 percent of the complaints leading to many citations came from one citizen –– Edward Mason, of Noe Valley, the Examiner previously reported.

Mason called shuttle enforcement lax, at best.

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