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Into the Valley
Inside a Secretive $250 Million Private Transit System Just for Techies
1,000 white-collar tech shuttles are stalling Bay Area public transit
Into the Valley
A week-long journey through the heart of tech
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Based on unpublished data, we can estimate that some 52,000 tech workers shuttle to and from the tech campuses in and around Silicon Valley each day.
Regional employer shuttles in the Bay Area date back to the 1980s, when companies such as Intel, IBM, and Hewlett Packard shuttled people from nearby rail stations to campus.
By 2011, more than 55 buses rolled the streets of San Francisco, collecting some 2,000 employees each day.
“Parts of San Francisco are functioning as bedroom communities for suburban corporate campuses,” noted Jason Henderson in his 2015 book, Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco.
“It’s easier to recruit nonlocal candidates when companies have shuttles,” says Silicon Valley recruiter Kinh DeMaree.
In 2013, Alexandra Goldman, a community-based city planner in San Francisco, published a paper outlining the shuttles’ effect on rent.
Windows were smashed, tires slashed, and the nonplussed and confused employees accosted and harassed at shuttle stops.
The responses were reactionary, and even violent, but protestors had some valid points: In San Francisco, the shuttles stopped at municipal bus stops without permission from the city.
William Bacon, a transport analyst for the MTC, says the rise of the full scale of the shuttles’ impact eluded planners for years.
“[They] had flown under the radar for a lot of people,” Bacon says, sitting in his San Francisco office.
Despite constituting the seventh-largest transit network in the Bay Area, shuttle usage was not factored into transportation planning, and companies were extremely secretive with ridership data.
In 2014, 9.6 million people rode up and down the peninsula aboard 765 shuttles, which averaged 34,000 people a day.
“In reality, shuttles are likely an even larger part of the transportation system,” he says
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