September 26, 2014

Five Years Later - Are Shuttle Buses Useful Or A Menace?


Since we first wrote about the controversial "Google bus" in 2009, the commuter lines have become a lightning rod around the Bay Area. The obvious benefit of the buses is fewer cars on the roads everyday. While there are no hard numbers that tells us just how many people would live so far from work if the bus wasn't an option, we're going to say less cars is a good thing. The negatives include disrupting existing public transit, bus traffic on roads not designated for their size, increased numbers of noisy diesel vehicles idling in the neighborhoods, an alarming number of them stuck on our hills... and the list goes on. For many they've also become a symbol of the haves and have nots.

Basically, those who ride them love them and those who don't ... don't.

Case in point: We received the video above from Scott Maddux showing a "typical morning in Noe Valley." It was taken this morning around the intersection of 26th and Noe Streets.

He writes, "I support the idea of the buses and efficient commuting but pick-ups and routing should be limited to major streets. These buses are clearly not designed for our residential neighborhoods and I think it's obvious that the current situation is unsustainable."

What do you think? Have things gotten better or worse since 2009?

[NVSF: Shuttle Buses: Useful or Menace?]
[Scott Maddux on YouTube: Noe Valley Tech Buses]

18 comments:

Sarah said...

Agree! These oversized buses should be routed onto wider, commercial streets.

Janer said...

Scott's video says it ALL. This is a daily slice of life on 26th street--since Aug. 1, 2014, when MTA surprised us with the launch of the "Shuttle Bus Pilot Project." While this Pilot aims to do good by regulating these giant buses, city-wide, it needs swift tweaking to get it right. Scott's video clearly explains why--and why I agree that these oversized buses are useful for commuting, but not sustainable for use on SF residential streets.

Anonymous said...

This guy needs to get a life. They're just buses, not dinosaurs roaming the streets of Noe trying to eat your children.

Barak Kassar said...

I'm with anonymous ... what's the big deal? And what's the point of that video? If a car broke down in the same place it would have a similar impact. This is life .

Barak Kassar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Maddux said...

We now have upwards of 40 buses a day going down our block. I didn't have a problem with 10. I have a problem with 40. It's the result of where the stops are located combined with restricted streets at this end of Noe Valley. Efficient commuter buses are great. It's the traffic that needs to be managed and SFMTA is doing a poor job of it.

Anonymous said...

Glad those people aren't in individual cars. But I agree the city needs to better manage commuter shuttles. I just think that that management should encourage companies to provide them, to minimize the environmental and neighborhood impacts of commuting, rather than trying to change the make-up of who chooses to live in SF. I frequently commute by car down south, and I wish I could use a shuttle - Caltrain takes way longer than gridlocked traffic given the transit connections on either end :( when I do take it, I usually take a taxi too -- which is too expensive.

SPM said...

I’m all for companies providing sustainable commuting solutions for tech workers. It’s great - no argument here. But what we have now is an organic unregulated solution with little thought for the impact on the residents of particular streets or the well being of the community as a whole. The current model of convoys of large buses designed for the freeway in residential parts of Noe Valley is not working and is not scalable.

Anonymous said...

Which parts of Noe Valley are not residential? Do you mean 24th or Church Streets? Unlike the suburbs, nearly every street in San Francisco is residential; and in fact residential density tends to increase closer to transit and neighborhood commercial streets.

Anonymous said...

There's still way too many people that drive in Noe Valley.

MIke said...

So why did I see none of you, NONE of you, at the 9/19 meeting where they discussed adding stops along 30th Street, which are now temporary, which are PART of the cause of Apple's buses following the path of the 24? These enormous devices have no business on Noe or on 26th, day or night. SFMTA cannot route them; they can only identify acceptable existing bus stops for them to share.

Pay attention:
http://sfmta.com/calendar/meetings/engineering-public-hearing-091914-updated

This is not causing fewer Noe Valley residents to drive; I see people DRIVING to our neighborhood, parking, then getting on the Apple bus in the morning.

This is not sustainable; it's not sensible. It's a good idea but is incredibly poorly implemented. If must be better integrated with our existing transit system so it's not so disruptive.

Jim Ausman said...

I don't ride them and I think that they are fine. I am glad to see fewer cars on the streets.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mike. Indeed it would be very good to know how many people are driving to 'park and ride' from the neighborhood. Notice the increase in street parking congestion?

Anonymous said...

One entire block of Sanchez had 2 busses and a third of a block long tow truck blocking the southbound side one morning earlier this week.
Why are these busses have to be so huge? They look like the tour busses that haul gamblers up to Reno.
Way way out of scale with our streets.

Anonymous said...

I did a three week survey of the non-restricted parking area in Noe Valley, from 24th street and Castro to 24th and Church, south to Clipper. The upshot is that, yes, people are driving in to take parking spots. Also, a SFMTA study found a 3000% traffic increase on the side streets (excluding 24th street) in the last two years.
Another survey done using gps following the wi-fi signals from the buses found that at peak times, 7-10am and 4-7pm there are, on average, 26 private buses/hour using the Muni stop at Valencia and 24th street.

Damage to city streets, and the tow trucks, is paid for by SF residents and taxpayers because the companies who hire the buses and the bus companies are not SF based, so do not pay into city coffers. The bus companies might be forced to pay, but no one from the MTA is tracking the damage.

According to CalTrans, private buses are not reducing congestion or the number of cars on the road. In fact, as housing prices escalate, people are living further and further from their workplace, so driving greater and greater distances. The buses mostly go from the nicer areas in SF, where the well-paid workers live, but not very far or very often into the East Bay or the Peninsula's suburbs.

Meanwhile, the state and federal budget for public transportation is decreasing. SF's deficit, this year and next, is almost exactly the amount of the tax breaks given to multi-billion dollar companies like Twitter. Yet charging these corporations for their use of taxpayer funded spaces and services is not taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

Most of the blocks north of 24th St between Church and Diamond are either S or Z permit parking zones. South of 24th St is a different story. The people who live on streets where the only restriction is twice a month street cleaning and our finding all their parking taken by drive in commuters may want to get permit parking for their streets.

This past June I painted a condo at 17th and DeHaro. The parking situation over there was more like North Beach on a weekend night. Then I discovered why. The shuttle busses were using a Muni bus stop on 17th a couple of blocks east and the drive in commuters were taking every available parking spot in the mornings leaving their cars there the whole day. When they came back late afternoon there was suddenly parking everywhere.

Mike said...

Well Anonymous says there's 30x more cars on the street in Noe Valley...I have trouble believing that. But I do believe there are more cars on the street. I do know there are fewer parking spaces (approximately zero) available in south Noe Valley near and along the 30th Street corridor during the day M-F. This really sucks.

If they don't fix this then maybe it's time to ask SFMTA to extend residential permit parking requirements to this area. I don't want that to happen but I think it's ridiculous that this along with the noise, danger and street damage (I see Apple's buses scraping the street while going southbound on Noe at 29th) can possibly be viewed as acceptable side effects of taking some cars off 101 and 280.

Better integration with, and enforcement of use of, MUNI and public transit by those taking advantage of these perks from their employers must be a goal of SFMTA.

Anonymous said...

In San Francisco there are more people, more cars and fewer parking spots because we are growing. Side streets are becoming busier in part because of construction projects on streets like Castro and Chavez. In the past most city families on my block had one car and a one car garage, now most families on my block have 2+ cars which puts one on the street every night. The city is no longer requiring parking for new construction as they did before. All of these things are factors. I have gone to some of these meetings on the buses and asked if the buses could be smaller but I was told by those riding them that they are filled up by the time they arrive at their destination, so a smaller bus would be less efficient and do more harm to the environment. Permit parking is probably a solution to ease neighborhood parking and we could also encouraging more of these growing companies to move more of their business to SF where their employees want to live.