Public transportation, American style

Interesting - despite the American love affair with the car, it appears that Bay Area companies like Facebook and Google are re-inventing public transport to make it easier for their employees to get to work:

The relationship between city officials who run the Muni, San Francisco's public bus system, and the largely unregulated world of private shuttles has historically been tense, and is worsening as shuttles become a more prominent feature of city life. At least one San Francisco official, Supervisor John Avalos, has called for more stringent oversight of the behemoth tech buses, including stopping them from picking up passengers at Muni stops.
One can only presume that the Muni (municipal transport) have failed to pick up on the demand for company-specific bus routes, and feel aggrieved that the companies are spending money on private bus companies rather than with the Muni. Well, chaps, whose fault is that?

The article estimates around 750000 car journeys saved annually, which at 230 days per year is 3000+ cars per working day off the road - this isn't bad, though at 1 car per 5 seconds entering a major highway during the 1.5 hours of rush hour, and (best guess) 100 major arterial road entry points, that's only a 3% saving on congestion. Still, it's a start.

It's interesting that an existing governmental monopoly (the Muni) has completely failed to address a clear need and easy, profitable solution to alleviating congestion and improving journey times. Perhaps this implies that government really can't solve problems like this, and it take private enterprise to produce a solution? Actually, I'm surprised that the Muni and friends haven't lobbied the state or federal governments to tax this activity heavily to drive passengers back onto the Muni - maybe that level of lobbying is too obvious even for them?


  1. There's more to this than transportation. These shuttles frequently provide a genuine work environment with company intranet and no non-employees who could steal confidential info. There's no way a government can replicate that, and it's a very big deal. I simply cannot be as productive on normal public transit, usually even in a comfortable quiet space with generic internet.

  2. Gregory - a good point well made, that a lot of these benefits accrue from the privacy of the bus. I'm still surprised that the Muni didn't leap at the opportunity to run buses exclusively for the companies concerned (leveraging their existing depots, drivers, infrastructure) and make a substantial profit, but I guess that's just a bit too much imagination for them.


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