The big news yesterday -- in every headline -- was that the ubiquitous corporate shuttle buses patrolling San Francisco will now have to "pay" to occupy Muni bus stops. But this isn't a fulfillment of the fever dreams of recent Google bus protesters, who, jokingly or not, called for a $1 billion subsidization of the city by our bus-deploying tech overlords.
That's not happening. It's hard to put into words how much that is not happening.
The plan, as it stands, is to demand bus stop-idling shuttles to disgorge $1 per bus stop squat. That's a jarringly piddling sum; Muni calculates it'll raise $1.5 million over the course of 18 months. (Doing some real easy math, that equates to an estimated 1 million bus stops occupied by corporate shuttles per year, which comes out to about 3,831 per weekday).
So, the real goal isn't to bring to fruition that longtime primal urge of vestiges of this city's left: Grab Downtown by the ankles and shake, with everything that tumbles out its pockets landing in a big vat of funds for Muni (and everything else). Think of this very nominal fee system as being akin to a library card. The way things are now, everyone can waltz into the library, despoil the place, and take as many books as they please without ever bothering to return them. If only card-holders can participate, however, then resources are protected.
And libraries aren't hoping to strike it rich on library card fees.
See Also: Those Tech Buses You Love to Hate Now Have to Pay to Use Muni Stops
Another analogy, if you like, is the oft-repeated refrain about star athletes: You can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him.
That's the case with corporate shuttles. There's no stopping a 1 million bus stop-squatting armada at this point. And, even apart from this city's coddling of all things tech, and as galling as it is to witness San Francisco transformed into a bedroom community for The Valley, it's not exactly sound policy to crack down on tech buses in a manner that shunts riders into cars.
You can only hope to contain them (and, as astutely noted by others, state laws severely limit municipal entities from enriching themselves via fees on corporations. Alas.). So, whether the proposed corporate shuttle program is a mere sop to the tech barons or a workable compromise is all yet to be determined.
Yes, fewer than 10 percent of the city's 2,500 bus stops will be available for these private squatters -- but it's not exactly like problems were cropping up in the city's far-flung neighborhoods. The Muni-vs.-Tech Bus conflict exists in a relatively finite set of bus stops; forbidding shuttles from using facilities they never have and never would isn't solving a problem.
As such, just how the private vehicles will be mandated to defer to Muni at Muni's own stops is up in the air. To recapitulate: Where and how the corporate interlopers are permitted to interlope is a work in progress.
It's not so much a plan as a plan to have a plan. And it goes up for a vote by the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 21. Here's a bet that it'll pass.
Muni spokesman Paul Rose says the framework and logistics of the nascent plan won't be in place until early June. So, yes, the Wild Wild West situation that prompted this response stands to continue until then (if not beyond).
If nothing else, the proposal is a test of one's belief in city government. If you think Muni et al. can conceive, design, and execute a fair and workable plan in our tech-permeated city, then perhaps these are heady days.
And if that sounds fanciful, you can always hold out hope for draining $1 billion from a White Whale to be named later.