San Francisco’s Getting Sued For Letting Tech Buses Use Muni Stops

A lawsuit filed against the city of San Francisco today seeks to block the use of commuter shuttle buses at Municipal Railway bus stops, arguing that the practice is illegal and that the city’s plan to charge companies a fee for the use of the bus stops sidestepped state-mandated environmental analysis.

A coalition of labor and housing activists including Service Employees International Union Local 1021 filed the suit over concerns that the shuttle buses are causing an influx of highly paid workers from the Silicon Valley area into the city, driving up rents and housing costs, the group said.

In announcing the lawsuit today, the group said it names the city, Mayor Ed Lee, the Board of Supervisors, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and companies such as Google, Apple and Genentech as defendants.

The lawsuit comes after opponents had filed an appeal of a pilot program by the SFMTA to charge companies providing private shuttle services $1 per stop for use of the city’s public bus stops.

According to the SFMTA, more than 35,000 private shuttle boardings occur each day in San Francisco. As part of the program, which is set to go into effect July 1, the agency will allow the private shuttles to use about 200 selected bus stop locations around the city.

The appeal sought an environmental impact report for the plan. The SFMTA board of directors had previously found that it was exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act because the 18-month program was for fact-finding.
The city’s Board of Supervisors denied the appeal by an 8-2 vote last month.

In a statement today, the group called that an abuse of the board’s discretion and a CEQA violation.

The group is also contending that the use of the bus stops is a violation of the California vehicle code, which allows only common carriers such as city and school buses to use the stops.

“When tech buses use residential streets and those with bike lanes, it makes our roadways more dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists,” Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit activist Cynthia Crews said. “When tech buses are loading in a red zone, it wreaks havoc on traffic and delays Muni.”

Google, which according to the city sponsors about 57 shuttle buses per day in San Francisco, has previously said that the program saves more than 20,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of taking about 4,000 cars off the road each day.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, said this morning that he had not seen the complaint and could not yet comment on it.

Scott Morris, Bay City News

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  • olhorna

    Don’t you have to be able to claim that harm was caused to you in order to sue?

    • Forthright

      “Violations” charges don’t always mean that someone has been “harmed”

      • olhorna

        Good to know, thanks!

  • mz

    Even if you insist the CEQA has to apply to this program, why does the scope of an environmental review has to include anything other than the direct impact of the buses? There’s no reason rents and housing costs have to be involved. Should putting in a new traffic light require an analysis of its potential impact on a butterfly in China?

    And where’s the environmental review of the UCSF shuttles, Academy of Art University buses, or other in-town employee shuttles for companies like Levi’s and Williams-Sonoma? Where is the outrage about them?

    I get that there are very real issues in this city about affordability and the housing market, but all this outrage about shuttle buses just seems to distract from these actual problems. Vomiting on a bus just makes you look like an idiot and isn’t conducive to a real discussion about what kind of city we want to live in and how to make that a reality.

  • Fuck the SEIU. Don’t they have anything better to do?

  • Greg

    How about the number of cars it takes off the street? You’re telling me one bus is more dangerous to cyclists than the 100 cars it takes off the road?

  • I don’t see why the shuttles need to use Muni stops, which is illegal. If some unelected, unaccountable bureaucrat at the SFMTA decided not to enforce the law, there’s your problem right there, which is easily and unilaterally fixed. (The shuttle companies can always rent space legally for their stops).

    In any case, even if you got rid of the shuttles entirely, it would barely make a dent in the housing crisis. Where’s the environmental impact study for highway 101? Shut that monstrosity down — then you’ll see some results 😉