Corporate shuttles -- you know, those behemoth buses carrying people back and forth to Apple, Facebook, Google and other Silicon Valley tech campuses -- have become a prolific presence on the streets of San Francisco.
They've been assailed by critics as a harbinger of gentrification and an engine of congestion. And they've been embraced by car-free tech workers as a vital transportation link to Silicon Valley at a time when public transit is not a convenient option.
Now, after a unanimous vote Tuesday by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors, a pilot program has become permanent that sought to tame a seemingly out-of-control shuttle fleet and impose rules about what streets they can use and where they can pick up and let off passengers.
The vote means 17 operators that shuttle nearly 10,000 workers to Silicon Valley every weekday can continue to use a network of 125 Muni bus stops and white curb zones in exchange for paying a small fee and complying with updated city regulations. SFMTA officials estimate an average of 360 to 390 shuttle buses are on the streets each weekday.
The agency dropped a proposal that would have created a hub system -- designated locations that shuttle riders would get to using other modes of transportation, instead of buses being dispersed throughout the city. The idea was nixed because an SFMTA study found that between 24 percent and 45 percent of shuttle riders would shift to driving, causing an increase in traffic and greenhouse gas emissions.