Google's private shuttle system, which whisks staffers away from the cruel streets of San Francisco to the sterile safety of Mountain View, already has a big image problem. What could make it even more dystopian? How about a memo from the overlords with eerie talking points?
Google's private transit lines are only private in that they won't let regular people inside—they rely on the same public roads as everyone else, and more troubling, stop at public bus stops. It's civic infrastructure co-opted for narrow private use, and it's turned the bus fleet into a symbol of Silicon Valley arrogance. TechCrunch obtained the following internal Google email by way of Heart of The City, an anti-gentrification group based in San Francisco. If Google employees are leaking company memos to an openly anti-Google group, things have taken a turn:
[Misc-sf] Next week's public hearing on shuttle regulations
Transportation Team XXXXX@google.com Fri, Jan 17, 2014 at 11:35 AM Bcc: XXXX@google.com
IF YOU DON'T RIDE THE SHUTTLE TO/FROM SF, YOU CAN STOP READING NOW. Dear Shuttle Riders,
This Tuesday (1/21), the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) Board will meet to vote on the proposed shuttle regulations we told you about last week. The hearing will take place on January 21 at 1pm PT at San Francisco City Hall (room 400). While we recognized that many of you won't be able to make it during the workday, we encourage any interested Googlers who live in San Francisco to speak in favor of the proposal (please RSVP here if you are planning to attend). While you are not required to state where you work, you may confirm that Google is your employer if you are so inclined.
If you do choose to speak in favor of the proposal we thought you might appreciate some guidance on what to say. Feel free to add your own style and opinion.
You can read the full press release announcing the proposal here, and we'll keep you updated in the coming weeks as the proposal moves towards approval. Feel free to email us at email@example.com with any questions.
- *I am so proud to live in San Francisco and be a part of this community
- *I support local and small businesses in my neighborhood on a regular basis
- *My shuttle empowers my colleagues and I to reduce our carbon emissions by removing cars from the road
- *If the shuttle program didn't exist, I would continue to live in San Francisco and drive to work on the peninsula
- *I am a shuttle rider, SF resident, and I volunteer at…..
- *Because of the above, I urge the Board to adopt this pilot as a reasonable step in the right direction
Thanks, XXXX, on behalf of the Transportation Team
This is what it looks like when the most powerful entity in the history of the internet starts to realize people hate its guts.
Two portions stand out. First, Googlers are being encouraged, directly by management, to say they would drive to work by themselves if their buses weren't an option. Underlings are asked to fight a PR war that stems from policies at the top, to carry water for the likes of Eric Schmidt. Never mind if any of those bullet points are true. An expanded public transportation system—or, hell, quitting Google to work somewhere in the city—is not an option. From within the collective Google executive brain, it's better to get employees to cheerlead private buses than to contemplate why it needs these buses to begin with. If the Bay Area's transit options are inadequate for Google, maybe Google should use some of its roughly $50 billion in idle cash to fix that, acknowledging the fact that there would be no Google as we know it if there were no San Francisco. You know, the same money pile it uses to acquire thermostat companies.
It's also noteworthy, as New York magazine's Kevin Roose noticed, too, that the memo grants permission for Google employees to admit they work at Google, as if this would be otherwise verboten.
Clearly someone at Google agreed this was not a good look for the increasingly disliked web behemoth—part of the email chain includes a comment worrying what happens if the memo leaks:
This message comes off a bit high handed and I don't think it would be good if it showed up on the front page of the chron or valleywag.
Or am I being too paranoid? XXXX
[Quoted text hidden]
You're definitely not being too paranoid.
You can reach me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org