SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — City transportation officials approved a new pilot plan Tuesday to regulate private employee shuttles operated by tech giants such as Facebook and Google and charge a fee for the vehicles to use public bus stops.
The shuttles, which transport thousands of workers each day around the city and to Silicon Valley, have for some become a symbol of economic inequality and rising housing costs and evictions in San Francisco.
The Municipal Transportation Agency voted unanimously for the pilot program in a room packed with people eager to opine about the contentious topic.
"In my mind, the pilot project is clearly better than what we have now," said Tom Nolan, chairman of the MTA.
The meeting came hours after protesters blocked a Google Inc. shuttle bus, hanging a sign that read "Gentrification & Eviction Technologies" on the side as police officers moved in to clear the way.
The city and companies say the shuttles remove thousands of vehicles from roads while reducing carbon pollution.
San Francisco's public transportation system logs about 700,000 separate trips each weekday. Transportation officials say the worker shuttles have added another 35,000 separate trips a day and pose a challenge to integrating the two systems.
The pilot program, which would go into effect in July, would charge the companies such as Facebook Inc. $1 for each stop made by the shuttles. The city estimates medium-size companies would pay about $80,000 a year, with larger firms paying more than $100,000.
City officials say the 18-month program could reduce vehicle miles by about 45,000 and eliminate some 11,000 tons of carbon emissions.
Under California law, the city cannot profit from the program, so the fees are meant to recover the costs associated with administering and enforcing the program.