At a meeting held last night, the SFMTA's board of directors voted to approve a permanent program that will allow tech shuttle buses to utilize Muni stops for dropping off and picking up their passengers.
The Examiner reports that the new program will be largely similar to the pilot that's been in place since August 2014 and is set to conclude in January, with a couple of changes. The large, double-decker buses will be strictly limited to what CalTrans deems "major arterial roads," which should help avoid incidents of buses bottoming out at intersections that can't handle their weight. Operators will also be required to drive less-polluting buses and use GPS trackers that will monitor where and when the buses stop.
The program has been controversial, drawing the ire of many who say it abets gentrification and rising housing prices. Some Muni shelters have even been regularly tagged with anti-tech graffiti.
Now that the program is approved, there will likely continue to be a debate over how much tech companies should pay Muni for each drop-off and pickup. The current rate is $3.67, but at least one shuttle rider argued at the hearing that the SFMTA should charge more.
"I strongly urge you to approve this program, but I want you to make one improvement: make my employer pay more!" said Zach Swartz, a Navy veteran and tech employee, at the hearing. (Here's the full text of his statement, via the Examiner's Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez.)
The fee that will be charged under the permanent program remains TBD, as the costs of the changes and the number of buses participating in the program need to be evaluated before it can be calculated.