SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — City transportation officials were considering a new plan on Tuesday to regulate private employee shuttles operated by tech giants such as Facebook and Google Inc. and charge a fee for the vehicles to use public bus stops.
The shuttles, which transport thousands of workers each day, have become a symbol of economic inequality and rising housing costs and evictions in San Francisco.
The Municipal Transportation Agency heard testimony about the pilot program in a room packed with people eager to opine about the contentious topic. A vote was expected later in the day.
“These buses have become a physical manifestation of a lot of other issues,” said Ed Reiskin, director of the MTA.
The meeting came hours after protesters blocked a Google shuttle bus, hanging a sign that read “Gentrification Eviction Technologies” on the side as police officers moved in to clear the way.
The city and companies say the shuttles remove thousands of vehicles from roads while reducing carbon pollution.
San Francisco’s public transportation system logs about 700,000 separate trips each weekday. Transportation officials say the worker shuttles have added another 35,000 separate trips a day and pose a challenge to integrating the two systems.
The pilot program, which would go into effect in July, would charge the companies $1 for each stop made by the shuttles. The city estimates medium-sized companies would pay about $80,000 a year under the program, with larger firms paying more than $100,000.
Under California law, the city cannot profit from the program, so the fees are meant to recover the costs associated with administering and enforcing the program.
The program did not go far enough for some city leaders.
Supervisor David Campos said it’s wrong to blame tech workers for housing ills, but the proposed program does too little to satisfy those being displaced by new residents employed by the tech firms.
“A dollar a bus stop, as much as it is a first step, it’s a proposition that simply does not go far enough,” Campos said to cheers from some onlookers.
Google employee Crystal Sholts, a program manager in the maps division, said she is not like the stereotypical wealthy shuttle rider being lampooned by demonstrators.
“I’m not a billionaire. Like many people I’m still paying off my student loans,” she said.