Google Employee Bus Protested in San Francisco

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-12-10 Print this article Print

An email inquiry from eWEEK to the Heart of the City was not immediately returned on Dec. 10.

"Advocates of the buses say they ease traffic on already clogged highways as workers give up driving individual cars for the convenience of riding in the buses, which usually come with plush seats and WiFi," Reuters reported. "Foes say the buses jam up municipal bus stops and remove potential customers from cash-strapped public transportation systems, including regional rail service, that could use their revenue."

Proposed rules that would address the issue of such commuter buses and the use of public bus stops are being written now, Paul Rose, a spokesman for The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, told Reuter in an email. "The proposed policy balances the need to minimize impacts on Muni with the benefits that shuttles provide by taking thousands of cars off the street," Rose told Reuters. The proposals are expected to go before the transportation agency in January, and if the rules are approved, a pilot test will go into effect in the summer, according to Rose.

In a reply to an eWEEK inquiry about the incident, a Google spokesperson wrote in an email, "We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents and we and others in our industry are working with SFMTA to agree to a policy on shuttles in the city."

The Google workers who were sitting on the bus during Monday's protest apparently sat in the bus and sent tweets and other messages out about the protest, Reuters reported.

This was the second time recently that Google activities were in San Francisco's local headlines with some controversy.

Since late October, when the presence of two Google barges at opposite ends of the nation was first reported all over the Internet, the company has been very quiet about their intent. That, of course, inspired a flurry of attention and guesswork by pundits, news reporters and local officials about the barges.

In early November, Google finally issued a brief and vague description of what was going on. "Google Barge ... A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above," according to a statement sent to eWEEK by a Google spokesperson in response to an email inquiry. "Although it's still early days and things may change, we're exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology."

The barge Google is referring to in its statement is in San Francisco Bay, while a second barge in Maine's Portland Harbor apparently is not being discussed so far by Google.

Since Google's statement to eWEEK, news reports indicate that the development of the project has essentially been put on hold while local governmental and marine agencies determine if the floating barge meets legal requirements and other regulatory concerns. Permits that are needed for such a project apparently have not been secured, so the review process will likely delay Google's plans to open the barge until later in 2014, the reports state.


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