The Issue of Private Mass Transit in San Francisco

We all hate taxis. Even people who love the convenience of taxis, hate taxis. They are the devil and they’re pretty much god awful in every corner of the world like Tim Clancy pointed out in Sarajevo where people are getting charged 15€ for a ride of about 700 meters. Of course, there are always alternatives to taxis in the form of public transportation, except in the US where, as all of us who live here know, our public transport system is severely lacking.

So, what do we do? Do we put our vote and dollar in to fixing the ills of public transport here? No. We put our faith in the corporation to do the right thing and take up the slack. The biggest example of this is Google and their Shuttle service throughout the San Francisco Bay Area which picks up employees and drives them the 100km or more to Google’s offices. It’s a great thing that they do as it eliminates cars from the roads as well as allowing those on board to use internet the whole ride so that they can work if they wish. But it begs the massive question of, why do we need this?

For the case of Google, it’s because there are no public transit lines directly from San Francisco neighborhoods to their offices. But in the case of my most despised entity in San Francisco, the Academy of Art, it just so happens that beyond the fact that San Francisco is quite compact and walkable, there are bus lines that run between all their buildings that spread forth across the city like herpes. Despite this, they run their own bus in San Francisco. There is no need for this. It is redundant and clogs the streets with buses that should only be public buses.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Google of the Academy; the creation of private mass transit lines is preposterous. The energy taken to create these systems should have been better spent in policy changes to build better public transit lines. In the case of the Academy, their constant spread and disregard of San Francisco communities at large shows that they are very tight with whomever they need to be tight with in order to do what they need doing. Thus, how could they not get the city to run additional bus or metro lines for their needs that we could all use? And in the case of Google, they have more money than god and I’m sure if they had the will, they could run BART up to their doorstep. Now that would be newsworthy. And let me emphasize that there are countless other private entities that have this mentality as well such as the hospitals and hotels in the area.

But the core problem is we the citizens. We put our faith in the private entity more than the government and I don’t know why. Despite Google’s, “Don’t be evil” slogan, their shuttle system isn’t just out of the goodness of their hearts. They can control when their workers arrive and they can get them to work more by having internet access on the shuttles. For the Art Academy, it offers then the ability to show the parents of children dishing out $25,000 a year in tuition that their children will be specially treated and won’t have to face the “dangers” of the city. It works as a selling point as we all know how many murders and rapes have happened on public transportation in San Francisco: none.

Besides the fact that we are creating dual systems that are wasteful and discriminatory as they are not for the public, there is the issue that the corporation and private entity is fickle. Take for instance Razor Sharp Cutlery. They are a knife shop located directly across from what used to be the Culinary Academy. That Academy moved across town and now this shop is just stranded there having lost their main customer. It makes me wonder as to what will happen to all those who purchase homes along the Google Shuttle route at higher prices because of the Google Effect in that a Google Shuttle Stop makes an area more desirable. If Google changes the route or stop it altogether, won’t these homes lose value? It would seem to me that buying a house in the new transit village that has been built around Fruitvale Bart as that Bart stop isn’t going to go anywhere, anytime soon. But then again, I just think this way as I’m against the privatization of public transit.

Update: It’s amazing that it took five years after writing this in 2008 for people in San Francisco to wake up to the problem, somewhat. Amazingly there still are imbeciles like the comment below (who undoubtedly work for a tech company) that argue that somehow it’s Google and the others “right” to run their own traffic clogging buses.