From today’s San Francisco Chronicle, this is literally my opinion the subject.
San Franciscans have noticed increasing numbers of employee shuttle buses around the city over the past year. The organic growth of this innovative transit network has occurred alongside California’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, and is a great example of the shift to the kind of activities that policymakers hoped would occur.
Even positive change, however, can bring challenges and this is no exception. There have been concerns expressed about shuttle impacts and calls from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to regulate the shuttles. If regulation is deemed necessary, then it is crucial that it be very carefully crafted in a manner that recognizes both the economic and environmental benefits of the shuttles.
On the economic front, the Bay Area is experiencing some of the strongest growth in the developed world. Driving this growth is San Francisco’s booming tech sector, whose high wages and expanding employment have been shown to create dramatic economic gains across all demographics and throughout entire communities.
The Bay Area Council Economic Institute estimates that every job created in the high-tech sector eventually creates about 4.3 jobs in the local goods and services economy. That’s everything from day-care providers to waiters and day laborers, and helps explain why the city and region have the lowest unemployment rates in California.
It also explains why the employee shuttles aren’t simply about tech. Hospitals, universities and retailers, among others, also operate their own shuttles. In other words, the shuttles service the region’s economic backbone.
Which brings us to climate change.
By law, California must reduce its carbon-dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and to 60 percent of those levels by 2050. Because 38 percent of California’s greenhouse-gas emissions are directly attributable to transportation, mostly single-occupant automobiles, the employee shuttles have emerged as a valuable tool to meet environmental, economic and transit challenges.
According to a San Francisco County Transportation Authority report, the shuttles remove 20 million vehicle miles from Bay Area roads and freeways each year, while 28 percent of shuttle riders have forgone car ownership completely. The result has been a net reduction of the Bay Area’s carbon footprint by an impressive 9,000 tons, and the removal of 327,000 single passenger trips from the region’s roadways each year. The shuttle trend is good for business, residents, traffic and the environment, and is in clear alignment with the city’s long-standing, transit-first policy.
Recognizing these benefits, the City of San Francisco has already begun the process to approve dedicated shuttle stops to avoid possible conflicts with its own Muni buses. We hope this positive trend continues and the city resists calls from some quarters for restrictive regulation that could stifle shuttle service and push thousands of San Francisco residents out of the city or into their cars, or both. The city transportation authority report found that 62 percent of shuttle riders say that their decision to live in San Francisco was influenced by the convenience provided by their employee shuttle service.
It is very important that any proposed regulation continues to allow the shuttles the flexibility necessary to serve the thousands of San Franciscan workers who depend on them. Doing so would best serve the residents, the environment, and San Francisco’s standing as a world-class smart city.