San Franciscans Think Google Buses Are Swell, So Problem Solved?
James Temple for Re/code
You might have read here or here or here or here or here how San Franciscans are furious about those entitled techies riding around in cushy corporate shuttles, glaring down at the unwashed public-transit-riding masses from behind their tinted windows and Google Glasses.
So get this. The Bay Area Council sponsored a survey of 500 city residents and found that actually:
- 72 percent had either strongly or somewhat favorable views of tech workers.
- 57 percent had strongly or somewhat favorable views of employee shuttle buses.
- 67 percent supported “allowing employee shuttle buses to pickup and drop off passengers at a limited number” of bus stops.
Does that mean all those San Francisco techie tensions we’ve read about for months, earning the attention of the East Coast’s finest glossy magazines, are just the result of a vocal minority of anti-tech zealots and the fan-flaming of a click-hungry media?
That seemed to be the view of Matt Regan, vice president of public policy at the Bay Area Council, who dinged media coverage several times during a press conference on Tuesday.
“There’s been a man-bites-dog element to the story: The birthplace of the tech industry turns on tech,” he said. “The data we shared this morning shows it’s not true. A large majority of San Francisco voters have a very favorable impression of tech.”
The findings are interesting enough. But by choosing to focus their survey on corporate shuttles, the Bay Area Council repeated the error of protestors who targeted the industry’s favored transportation option in recent months: Muddling the real source of local frustrations.
Activists have aired specific grievances about the shuttles themselves, notably that they use public bus stops for free and sometimes block mass transit in the process. The city, tech companies and the Bay Area Council worked together to create a pilot program that would require permits and fees, though its fate is still unclear after several advocacy groups moved to block its implementation.
All of which likely explains why the business group is publicizing these survey results.
But really, the corporate shuttles have become a stand-in for an assortment of aggravations over escalating housing prices, evictions and growing economic inequality.
And a few results from the survey, conducted by EMC Research, suggest residents remain plenty worked up about those issues:
- 79 percent said that “controlling the cost of living” in San Francisco is extremely important or important;
- and 59 percent said the same for “preventing eviction and neighborhood gentrification.”
Perhaps more telling was that a full 29 percent of respondents thought it was extremely important or important to limit “the growth of the technology sector,” which would be pretty radical as far as policy proposals go. Another notable finding: 48 percent said they strongly or somewhat disagree with the statement “my household has benefited from recent growth in the technology sector.”
Oh, and 28 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat opposed allowing corporate shuttles to use bus stops, while 70 percent said they should be regulated.
So clearly, real concerns and resentments remain among a sizable group of local citizens. And we seem no closer to real solutions for the core problems, including addressing the tax and planning policies that have left the region with a perpetual shortage of housing within reach for low and moderate-income households.
Update: The Bay Area Council obviously represents employers, but EMC’s Ruth Bernstein insisted they sought to avoid bias in selecting participants and phrasing questions. They surveyed 500 San Franciscans likely to vote in the November election, conducting interviews in English and Cantonese.
The Bay Guardian’s Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez, however, pointed out they didn’t include Spanish speakers, which seems an odd omission.
“Yes, a poll about tech buses and the tech industry, and tangentially gentrification — which is now hitting the (heavily Latino) Mission District hard — failed to ask Spanish speaking voters any questions in their native tongue,” he wrote.