San Francisco triples fees for commuter shuttles

Commuter shuttles who want to use designated Muni bus stops to pick up and drop off passengers will now have to pay much higher fees.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors approved the increase from $1 to $3.55 per bus stop for its commuter shuttle program, which begins on Aug. 1.

The 18-month pilot program allows commuter shuttle companies who submitted an application with the SFMTA to use designated Muni stops to pick up residents who live in The City and drive them to work — usually at a tech company like Google.

Shuttles that use Muni bus stops but drive strictly within The City will also face the higher fee.

SFMTA project manager Carli Paine said last week that fewer applicants and requested bus stops led to the fee increase along with more enforcement resources.

Only 11 applicants applied for a permit to use the designated Muni bus stops. Shuttle companies requested 2,249 bus stop locations. Paine said that was about 40 percent lower than what she had expected initially when the SFMTA approved the pilot program in January.

A group of residents who use the non-profit Mission Bay shuttle said the fee increase was unfair. Residents said it was not fair to put the Mission Bay shuttle in the same category with shuttle companies that pick up Google employees.

Paine said though that intra-city commuter shuttles make up 80 percent of the shuttles in The City and that the Mission Bay shuttle does not have to use Muni bus stops.

Sara Shortt, a member of the non-profit group Coalition For Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit, said the fee increase was a step in the right direction. She and the organization have filed a lawsuit with The City on the pilot program:

“It shows that The City is understanding more the incredible cost of true enforcement.”

Shortt said though that she concerned on the few number of applications who applied for the permit:

“The fact that the less companies than anticipated have signed up for these permits because they’re unwilling to pay just a dollar per stop and be open for regulation … shows that many of these companies aren’t going to participate in good faith in the pilot program.”

She said the $3.55 fee will most likely still not be enough because of the possibility of shuttle companies not complying with the pilot program.

Paine said it was possible that shuttle companies who did not apply for a permit for the program could continue using Muni bus stops, but said a dedicated a group of about 20 parking control officers would patrol the pilot program area.

She said though eventually all parking control officers get training to issue citations to shuttles violating SFMTA regulations.

The $3.6 million cost of the program will be paid for through the fees collected from the shuttle operators.