What are the negative environmental impacts of getting 35,000 commuters out of their cars and into transit buses?
This is not a trick question.
The fact the City of San Francisco did not do an environmental impact report on the affects of Google, Apple, and other high tech firms that now operate 350 private transit buses that take San Francisco residents to jobs in the Silicon Valley is a major legal hook of a lawsuit filed this week. And who filed the lawsuit? The Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit.
An idiot gets that getting people out of their cars is a plus for the environment. It’s been studied to death. Certainly one bus is better than 55 cars.
But this is California, Land of the Cry Babies.
You got it. Cry babies.
What is really irking the mob that’s replaced pitch forks with legal briefs is the fact those riding the buses are mostly software engineers making $100,000 plus while others who live in the same neighborhoods make half that amount. Those filing the lawsuit blame the influx of software engineers with fat paychecks for boosting rents. They are also miffed the private shuttles don’t charge their workers while it costs them $2 a day to ride public transportation. They say it is unfair that that Google et al are only paying the city $1 each time they stop for several minutes at each public bus stop. They also cite a state law than bans private busses from using public bus stops. They don’t care that San Francisco addressed that with the per stop fee that will cost the bigger high tech shuttle bus operators tens of thousands of dollars a month.
Those suing essentially say it is unfair because the private buses don’t benefit them and the people they carry make more money than they do.
You want to hear something that is really unfair? The California Legislative Analyst’s Office reports that one-third of all state income tax receipts come from within the Silicon Valley.
That mean those $100,000 plus a year software engineers are paying a higher proportionate of the state tax subsidies that make $2 public transit rides feasible. Here’s a news flash: Public transit in California rarely recovers 25 percent of its operating cost from the fare box. That means those protesters are getting a free ride in a true sense as they are only paying $2 for a ride that costs at least $8 to make possible.
And the very people paying the most taxes can’t benefit from public transit to reach their jobs. Google didn’t sue because the situation was unfair. They rolled out buses on their own dime. At the same time they are getting upwards of 35,000 of cars off the freeways and surface streets helping ease congestion and improve air quality.
That is the crime Google et al are essentially committing.
Those commuters are also breathing new life into San Francisco neighborhoods supporting small business jobs when they spend money.
Don’t blame the Silicon Valley for San Francisco’s income inequity. Neighborhoods such as South of Market and the Haight Asbury where the poor, footloose and general dredge of society could once survive quite nicely are being gentrified courtesy of San Francisco-based high tech firms such as Twitter, Yelp, Salesforce, Pinterest, Craigslist, and Instagram to name a few. They have been pushing small businesses and working class folks – not to mention the poor – out for years.
The real economic problem in San Francisco isn’t software engineers who commute from The City to the Silicon Valley. For years San Francisco has pursued municipal polices from higher minimum wage and personal income taxes that has essentially forced its working class/middle class to flee across the Bay to Oakland to escape higher prices driven by wages and city income taxes. San Francisco is the only California city with income taxes that are imposed via employers at 1.5 percent.
The city in recent years has been left with the rich, the upper middle income, the struggling working poor and the poor.
The lawsuit won’t address any of that. It will only line the pockets of lawyers and perhaps a consultant who may have to do a bogus environmental impact report saying taking cars off the road will help air quality.
So what will the lawsuit accomplish?
Not much except solidify envy and hatred toward commuting neighbors who, if the truth be told, are subsidizing many of the government services that the poor need to survive in San Francisco.
As for Google, welcome to California. It’s the state where even if you do the right thing you get sued.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.