The SFMTA could legally charge commuter shuttles a higher fee


Under a newly approved pilot program that sanctions private commuter shuttles' use of San Francisco public bus stops, shuttle operators will be made to pay a fee of $1 per stop, per day.

Many community members have criticized this fee as being too low. In response, city officials have indicated that their hands are tied due to a state law prohibiting them from charging any more than that.

But we've just learned that under Proposition 218 – the state law that limits local governments' ability to impose new fees – the city has more discretion about how to calculate "cost recovery" than officials have let on.

“Prop. 218 is part of a legal scheme that doesn’t so much limit how we calculate cost recovery," said spokesperson Gabriel Zitrin, of the San Francisco City Attorney’s office, "but limits the city to cost recovery.”

At the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Board meeting yesterday afternoon (Tue/21), Project Manager Carli Paine explained very clearly how her team had arrived at the $1 per stop, per day fee amount.

“We identified everything it would take to implement this program,” Paine said. After identifying all the program components, the agency “took the number of stop events and came up with a ‘per stop event’ cost.” Further clarifying, Paine said, “The kinds of costs we included are upfront costs, ongoing program costs.”

Even while remaining within the limitations of Prop. 218, however, the SFMTA could determine whether there are other costs associated with allowing private commuter shuttles to use public transportation infrastructure, beyond just the cost of issuing permits and placards.

It would be well within the legal rights of the city to recover identified costs, as long as they were not already being recovered elsewhere, according to Zitrin's explanation.

If shuttles’ use of public bus stops cause transit delays, for instance, what are the costs associated with those delays? More overtime pay for bus drivers?

Low-income kids getting to school late and missing breakfast? What’s the cost of that?

If rents rise in neighborhoods located along the shuttle routes (studies show they do), what are the associated costs of that phenomenon? What's the cost of displacement resulting from those higher rents, which can create a new class of commuters originating from the East Bay?

There are no simple answers, of course. But thanks to data and technology (two things Google seems to know an awful lot about) many costs associated with the private use of public infrastructure can likely be identified.

Zitrin said it was tough to say more without having the details. 

“As far as our office is concerned," he said, "we would need full detail on what costs are being recovered.”


folks you do not like. A shuttle bus that uses a stop just ten times a week is really not costing the city much of anything at all. Ten bucks sounds about right to me.

Anyway, it's moot, as the decision was made unanimously. Move on.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 3:13 pm

That's the solution which no one can argue with. Progressives can win this 100% by doing that - why are they doing everything in their power to AVOID that course of action if San Franciscans are so united behind the anti-work shuttle cause?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

I see no evidence that they do. This is an obsession of a fringe group on the left.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 3:50 pm

for using the MUNI stops? Why did he stop there - what about $20 billion or $50 billion?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 4:13 pm

If you saw what happened at the meeting the commissioners repeatedly made the point that this was a pilot program and that the payment fee could indeed be adjusted later on.

But the part about paying for kids getting to school late is silly. At the meeting they made it clear that there were other provisions being put into effect regarding how the shuttles could use bus stops and which bus stops they could use. Carli Paine said that there were some stops where the shuttles had no negative effect because of the way that they were configured and used.

That is how they would limit kids getting to school late because, for the important thing is that the kids aren't delayed. Rebecca sounds like she would prefer to have kids delayed if it meant that we could soak Google for a few bucks.

Posted by Guest2 on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 4:19 pm

The fact that a few whiners are not happy doesnt mean it is not working. In fact, it could be a good sign that it is.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 5:09 pm

because of a Google bus? I want a check - how can we put this in place so I can get some free cash money?

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 4:55 pm

FYI, another thing that Carli Paine said that was only about 20% of the shuttle boardings were heading south out of the city and that 80% were "intra city" for schools, hospitals, local business, etc... There was an executive from Bauer who said that they administered many of those shuttles and that they had been using city bus stops for at least ten years.

So the "Google" buses are only 20% of the perps. Obviously Rebeccca can't write about that but it was said at the meeting yesterday.

Posted by Guest2 on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

airport shuttles and all the various employer shuttles, then Google is probably 1%.

Also a Google shuttle probably does just five round trips a week. UCSF shuttles run 18 hours a day.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

common carriers with an exemption for school buses. The tech shuttles are large double decked buses while most of the others you mention are smaller than MUNI buses.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 5:58 pm
Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:31 am

The negative impacts of a large double decked tour bus or tech shuttle are much greater than the smaller UCSF or airport shuttle buses.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 7:55 am

The fact that a vehicle is taller does not affect it's footprint.

Weight matters but then, if that is the problem, what about trucks?

Width doesn't vary much, and length is only an issue for turns.

Overall I think the whining here has more to do with WHO is in these buses than WHAT these buses are.

And that is where I have a problem.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:31 am

Free parking on Sundays, holidays, and in the evenings = private use of public infrastructure.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

private use of public infrastructure.

Posted by maybe a guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 7:18 pm

on Market St are primarily used as urinals or storage spaces for the homeless so they actually do have some public infrastructure benefit.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 8:34 pm

I think a ten dollar a day charge per SFBG box is reasonable.

After all, tech buses only use space for a minute, but a newspaper box is always there.

Posted by racer さ on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 10:04 pm

If the person you vote for likes to spend your taxes should go up.

If we are going to base taxes on choices, then if you vote for spenders you should pay more.

Posted by maybe a guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 7:13 pm

did they do environmental review on this? lets see that CatEx!

Posted by guest on Jan. 22, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

Maybe San Francisco should worry about implementing MUNI's charter with the city that says they have to run at 80% efficiency or be fined and penalized.

MUNI has never run at 80% efficiency.

Posted by Ralph on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 12:01 am

¤ If one of the requirements is a realtime feed of the locations of every Google Bus, there's going to be a cost attached to handling that data. Probably a techie salary.

Posted by Jym on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 8:46 am

It's not like having them on NextBus would allow you to catch one.

That said, Google commuters may already be able to locate the shuttles - UCSF has that system already for their shuttles

Posted by Guest on Jan. 23, 2014 @ 9:06 am

It would be hard to compute how much *later* Muni busses are because of the shuttles. The cost of "poor kids being late", really tugging at heartstrings there. To be fair, the societal benefit of telemarketers being late to work would also have to be calculated.

Posted by Guest on Jan. 31, 2014 @ 9:50 am

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.