San Francisco's big push to make tech corporations pay for years of clogging city bus stops ended with a shrug. Starting today, the 18-month pilot program will charge a mere $3.55 per-stop fee for shuttle operators. But organizations figured out a way to avoid even that small token of goodwill just by crossing the street.
Yesterday, a tipster sent Valleywag a notice posted outside the offices of Advent Software, a San Francisco-based company with a market cap of $1.6 billion that makes software to help investment banks, hedge funds, and family offices manage their wealth. The flier explicitly says the shuttle bus stop is being moved because of the pilot program's fee. Although Advent's name is on the building, the bus service is provided by Advent's landlord at 600 Townsend Street, which manages the contract with the shuttle operator.
From the flier:
The reason for this change is that the SFMTA recently approved an 18-month pilot program whereby all shuttles stopping in designated stops (one of which is our current stop) are being charged a fee per stop. [The new stop] is a white zone that is less busy and a safe and dedicated shuttle stop. This stop is not included in the SFMTA pilot.
According to the tipster, the smaller 600 Townsend shuttle used to stop at the Chase bank on the corner of Market and 8th Street, the site of a heated Google bus blockade in January. The spot outside Chase (red arrow in the map) is also used by a number of other tech shuttles. Now the 600 Townsend shuttle will stop at the Burger King across the street (green arrow). The image at the top of the post is taken from the SFMTA's map for commuter shuttles participating in the pilot program.
In Google Street View, you can see the Chase logo and the Burger King logo in the same frame. Hey, brands!
Unlike the double decker deals that cart workers to and fro tech campuses on the Peninsula, the tipster said 600 Townsend's shuttle picks up employees who take BART and Muni and buses them a few blocks to their office. Advent's office is a just down the street from Zynga's headquarters. Airbnb's headquarters are also nearby.
I contacted the company that manages the building at 600 Townsend yesterday afternoon and will update the post if I hear back. The building's website links to the America subsidiary of the Toda Corporation.
SFMTA spokesperson Kristen Holland told Valleywag there was nothing illegal about avoiding the $3.55 fee. The pilot program was designed "as a framework for those who do want to continue using Muni bus routes," said Holland. "If they're outside of our permit program, they're a road user like any other. If they find a legal place to park, that's fine. And, if not, they run the risk of being cited." Holland said all transit officers have been trained and the SFMTA has "a very robust enforcement plan in place."
Holland also stressed that the pilot program only levied fines on the shuttle bus operators, not the tech corporations directly. "Our understanding is that they do pass along the fees [to the tech companies]. We don't have copies of all their contracts, but that's my understanding."
After looking at a photo of the flier, Holland said she wasn't sure if the new spot was entirely on the up-and-up. "It's a little unclear exactly where they're going to be, but I can't see the curb really well," she said. "If they have a legal way to operate safely in the city that's fine."
When I asked how the SFMTA felt about companies hopping crossing the street rather than paying the city, Holland sounded very Zen: "Everyone needs to do what makes sense for them."
The pilot program is still accepting applications. Here's a list of participating shuttle operators:
|1. Bauer's IT|
|2. Sunset Development/Bishop Ranch|
|3. Black Tie Transportation|
|5. SFO Airporter|
|6. Royal Coach Tours|
|7. Lux Leasing|
|8. Storer Coachways|
|9. MV Transportation|
10. LOOP Transportation
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