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Cost of Tech Shuttle Program Could Rise to $3.55 Per Stop

Scott Lucas | July 14, 2014 | Story Politics

The Google Bus? Remember that whole thing last winter? Protestors protested. People tried to get to work. The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal sent what felt like a half a million reporters to run up expense accounts at Sightglass and tell the rest of the world how screwy we all were? You got into a bunch of arguments at dinner parties and PTA meetings? Something like that.

Anyway, the city's pilot program to regulate the commuter shuttle's use of Muni stops is almost in place, with a scheduled launch date of August 1st. As it gets closer, some of the details have changed—most notably the cost to the companies that use the stops. California Proposition 218, passed in 1996, says that transit systems can only levy a fee that recoups the cost of running a program—it can't charge more than that. (Side note: When you hear politicians complain that direct democracy in California means that voters tie the hands of elected officials in impossible to predict and not so helpful ways, this is exactly what they are talking about.) Protestors had seized on the dollar per stop figure as evidence of a city-wide give away to companies like Google and Yahoo.

But, as the cost of running the pilot program increases, the charges increase too. And so it has: To $3.55 per stop in 2015 and $3.67 in 2016. The change comes because the number of uses of the stops has diminished from as estimate of 4,121 in January to one of 2,449 today. (Some of that change could be companies decreasing their shuttle use and some could be from a more accurate estimate). The cost of running the program to be born by the shuttling firms has also increased, from $1.7 million to $3.7 million. There are eleven shuttles that have signed up to use about 130 separate MUNI stops.

The program's manager for the MTA told the Examiner that protests and a lawsuit filled by housing activists had not an effect on the changes, leaving open, of course, the possibility that it was those Oaklanders who vomited on the Yahoo shuttle who did.

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