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Silicon Valley commuter shuttles hit home in San Francisco neighborhoods

Liz Pfeffer
A Facebook shuttle pulls over in a Muni stop on 18th Street to pick up employees for the morning commute.

On weekday mornings, tech workers line up at the bus stops on 18th Street next to Dolores Park to wait for the free company shuttles that will bring them to work in Silicon Valley. Corporate transit is nothing new, but the volume of people using it is, and San Francisco neighborhoods are starting to feel the change.

The Inner Mission is an especially popular area for tech workers. With companies like Yahoo, Google, EA, eBay, Apple, Visa and Genentech picking employees five days a week, you have a lot of people waiting at Muni stops for non-Muni buses.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency says there are more than 200 corporate shuttle stops around the city, and most of them are actually Muni zones.

And it isn’t just Muni zones that the shuttles are crowding. Mission High School Principal Eric Guthertz says that the Google bus and other private tech shuttles sometimes block the area where the school’s special ed buses are supposed to park.

“We've had to move them out several times,” Guthertz says. “They're not supposed to be there and when a bus pulls up full of kids with disabilities and I have to make the bus double-park and wait for the Google bus to leave it's pretty inconsiderate.”

A Google spokesperson says the company has no record of this happening.

Guthertz says the tech boom has also brought benefits to his students, like classes in computer entrepreneurship and programming. The school’s location, on 18th Street across from Dolores Park, is one of the city’s more desirable areas for young tech workers -- in part because of the hip nightlife, and in part because it’s close to the freeway heading down to Silicon Valley.

But more shuttles mean more people with money living near the stops. And rents are at an all-time high. A recent Craigslist search showed one-bedroom apartments in the Mission going for between $3,000 and $4,000 a month. Overall, rent in San Francisco has gone up 27 percent in the past two years, according to the online price guide Pricenomics. And there’s a tension emerging between people who have been here long enough to notice the change, and people who have never known it any other way.

Kurtis Nusbaum moved to 15th and Mission Streets because of its proximity to the Facebook shuttle. And like many of the people interviewed at his morning stop across from Mission High School, he’d been living in the neighborhood for less than two months.

The competition for housing is affecting residents old and new. Some renters in their 40s are still relying on roommates to afford the city. And people who bought before the tech boom are turning a substantial profit on their homes.

Marsha Rose purchased her Dolores Park flat back when it was referred to as “Needle Park.” Some people she knew that had left the city were shocked she moved to the Mission.

“They don't have a clue that it's changed because they've not been back for years and that's did not have that reputation,” says Rose.

But that change may benefit her. She’s selling her flat – probably for a lot more than she bought it for.


An earlier version of this story implied that only the Google buses block access to Mission High. In fact, the principal has asked a number of different tech company buses to move.


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