Tech shuttles face new rules, fees in SF

Company commuter shuttles that want to continue picking up employees at Muni bus stops in San Francisco will need to start paying a fee to the Municipal Transportation Agency — as well as following the agency’s guidelines.

The transit agency’s board of directors voted 5-0 (Director Jerry Lee was absent) Tuesday to carry out an 18-month pilot that would charge commuter shuttle providers a $1 fee for each Muni bus stop they want to use.

Shuttle providers must also agree to follow certain restrictions such as yielding to a Muni bus and shuttles cannot be idling at stops.

Shuttles will have a GPS monitor for enforcement purposes and for the SFMTA routinely audit shuttle providers, said Carli Paine, project manager.

Parking control officers and Muni inspectors will get training on issuing citations for those shuttle providers not in compliance with any of the SFMTA regulations.

The fees from shuttle providers will help pay for the costs of enforcement and administrating the pilot. Paine said medium-sized companies could pay as much as $80,000 and larger companies $100,000 a year.

The next step is for the SFMTA to ask shuttle providers to provide a list of stops they would like to use.

Up to 200 stops will get chosen by the transit agency. Paine said staff will evaluate the stops before approving them sometime in June. The SFMTA plans to launch the pilot in July.

Conflicts with Muni

Paine said there have been conflicts with the shuttles and Muni buses at stops:

“The commuter shuttle sector has grown rapidly and its created some impacts on Muni.”

Commuter shuttles average 35,000 boardings per day. About 6,500 of those boardings are from regional shuttle providers. Shuttles are using 200-plus locations in the City — mostly Muni bus stops — to pick-up employees, said Paine.

She said staff went to observe some of the areas where conflicts occurred. Some of those conflicts included shuttles not pulling all the forward at a bus stop, which makes it difficult for a Muni bus to load and unload passengers and shuttles parking in a traffic lane causing congestion.

Despite the conflicts with Muni, Paine said there are also benefits of having the shuttles in The City. A survey of 1,500 riders showed about 60 percent have gotten rid of a personal vehicle or have foregone purchasing one because having a shuttle provided for them to get to work.

Tech workers and housing affordability

Some residents, though, are not convinced, and wanted the SFMTA board to charge more or scrap the proposal altogether. Tech workers and commuter shuttles are front and center in San Francisco’s housing affordability crisis.

Earlier Tuesday morning, protestors blocked two commuter shuttles at Market and Eighth streets as part of an anti-gentrification protest ahead of the SFMTA vote.

Supervisor David Campos urged the SFMTA board to “go back to the drawing board” with the proposal and to allow the tech industry and communities to not just talk about the impacts of Muni, but also their impact on housing costs in the City:

“I think this proposal exacerbates the problem and it doesn’t solve it.”

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who also spoke at the SFMTA board meeting, said he shares in the frustration with the housing issues in The City, but blaming the tech workers and shuttles will not solve the housing crisis:

“If those employee shuttles went away tomorrow we would still have a housing affordability crisis on our hands.”