Skip to comments.Another Silicon Valley Perk — Free Shuttle Service
Posted on 12/27/2012 12:39:28 PM PST by Lorianne
By now youve heard about the perks that come with working in Silicon Valley. Free lunch, 20 percent time thats the work time you can use to pursue independent projects.
Well, another perk? A private bus that picks you up in your neighborhood in San Francisco and shuttles you down to your corporate campus about an hour south in the suburbs of Silicon Valley.
During rush hour in San Francisco, you see them everywhere, said Eric Rodenbeck, the creative director of Stamen Design in the Mission District of San Francisco.
Theyre just so big, Rodenbeck says. These buses are two stories high and theyre barrelling down residential streets, and no one knows where theyre going except the people who are on them.
Rodenbeck is talking about the private shuttle buses that run up and down the Peninsula. They look like fancy tour buses. Googles buses are white. Facebooks are a sleek blue. But beyond that, theyre sort of a mystery to most San Franciscans.
You know its almost like this masonic ritual, Rodenbeck says. If youve got the key, this whole other city layer unlocks itself to you. And thats the kind of urban puzzle we like to solve.
So, Stamen decided to map the private shuttle buses connecting San Francisco to Silicon Valley.
But getting the data wasnt easy. The tech companies dont comment on the buses. They dont tell you where they stop or how many people ride on them. But in the era of big data, the information was easy enough to find.
Even though the companies might not have wanted their locations public, we started looking around and we realized on Foursquare if you typed in shuttle and google or shuttle and apple all these locations came up because their employees were checking in at those bus stops, Rodenbeck says.
Stamen also hired bike messengers to follow the buses. And then they had people just sit at a cafe on the corner of 18th and Dolores and count the people getting on and off the buses.
I checked out the Google bus stop a little after 7 a.m. one rainy morning and the G-bus, as the display on its windshield reads, was already picking up Googlers. For the next few hours, the buses would arrive in 15-20 minute intervals and a steady stream of 20-30 somethings, holding coffee cups and wearing sneakers and backpacks, would get on board.
It might have been the early morning hour or the rain but few people were willing to talk. When I approached a group of 20-somethings and asked them about the bus, they said they couldnt talk because Google was in a quiet period. A quiet period is when a company cant say anything that might affect its stock price, and that was the nicest response I got until I met 35-year-old Tanya Birch, who works on the Google Earth outreach team. I asked her what its like on the bus.
Its pretty sweet, Birch said. They let us choose the type of seats and decor inside. And its got dim lighting with the Google colors.
Theres also free Wi-Fi on the shuttles, and Birch said its basically another hour of work.
The tech world is driven by young, educated largely urban workers. But companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are located in the suburbs of Silicon Valley, which is about an hour south of the San Francisco.
I think a lot of young people who work at the tech companies they want the city life they want something thats fun and entertaining, and you dont get that in the suburbs, Birch said.
So, to compete for that talent pool, big tech companies have to provide transportation. Rodenbeck says he expected to find the shuttles in the citys hip, young neighborhoods.
What we were surprised to learn is that the network is much more extensive than that, says Rodenbeck.
When the map was finished, Stamen counted buses from Apple, eBay, Electronic Arts, Facebook, Google and Yahoo, and they found the buses ran through almost every neighborhood in San Francisco. Stamen estimates that about 14,000 people ride the private shuttle buses every day.
Rodenbeck says he thinks the locations are secret because the companies are sensitive to this idea that they are funding a change in the infrastructure in San Francisco without it being regulated.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is in the midst of studying whats essentially emerging as a private mass-transportation system, says Jerry Robbins, a transportation planner for the agency.
The increase in employer buses has sparked some reaction from residents, Robbins says.
He says that since tech companies contract out the work to private bus companies, which are regulated by the state, the city has little say in what they do.
But Robbins says the agency has fielded complaints that the the private shuttle buses, which often stop at public bus stops, are causing delays and traffic.
Another impact is rising real estate prices, says Amanda Jones, a realtor in San Francisco for nearly a decade. Today, about half her clients work in the tech industry.
Unquestionably the shuttle stops are transforming real estate values, Jones says. When I interview new clients, we get out the real estate map and they want to show me where their corporate shuttles are. I recently sold a house. He does trading for Google and gets in early in the morning. Literally, if it wasnt five blocks from a shuttle stop, we didnt look at it.
Jones says even fixers-uppers and homes with shaky foundations are selling for a premium if theyre located near a private shuttle bus stop.
They have so little time to have with family and their friends they want to go home and be able to walk to the restaurant and not be stuck in their car for two hours, says Jones.
Jones says she gets it because until someone comes up with an app that can beam you to work, the private shuttle bus is as close as you get.
Idea was probably imported by Indian techies. A professional driver to pick you up and take you home again is a common perk for tech workers over there (largely because Indian traffic is so nerve-jarring to the non-professional driver)
If taxpayers aren’t paying for it, I don’t care
I live on a main drag in Silicon Valley. I see a LOT of these busses during the commute hours.
It’s always astonished me that the companies don’t have them covered with advertising.
They’re just about the only thing that isn’t!
Stuff that works really angers gubmint bureacrats because it makes all their failed utopian schemes look even dumber.
These buses aren’t empty. lol. Government bureaucrats will not be happy, lol. Next they will offer to have taxpayers fund this.
Those evil capitalist corporations are using the roads that were built for everyone!
I have been looking at changing to a different job in my company. I had to turn down a couple of positions which would have required me to move to California Bay Area. The company I work for is a tech company based out of Silicon Valley.
What has kept me from moving forward in the interview is a couple of items
- having to move and the very high cost of living in the Bay Area
- Not being able to work from home like I do now when I so choose
- Company does NOT have their own “in-house” transportation like Google or FB
If I was in my 20’s and single I would consider taking the job in the Bay Area with the caveat that I can totally bike and/or use their transit to go to work. I traveled to the Bay Area quite a few times and like the perk of Cal-Train and Capitol Corridor. But uprooting my family, the high cost of living and California liberalism has been a real turnoff. One time back in 2005, I interviewed for a position at Google but didn’t make it past the second interview. It would have been an interesting place to work at though. Nice thing where I am at is not having to follow a dress code like having to wear slacks and can wear shorts to work. Google would still be an interesting place to work at if politics is shoved aside since high tech is a big thing which I like.
One thing I want to add, if the job market keeps heading in the direction of going further into the toilet, I can see these amenities being taken away starting with the transportation and then with dress codes. Saw it at Lockheed Martin. When I was at LM, we had the pension, flex time, more casual dress code and today, flex time has been taken away all but in name only, stricter dress code where even casual Friday is gone and pension long gone as well. On dress code, they gotten picky even where a polo shirt is considered too casual and they want you in a long sleeved button down shirt and even khakis is also too casual and they want you in dark colored dress pants now.
The author missed a company. Genentech, a large bio-tech company located in South San Francisco (a seperate city on the south border of San Francsico), also runs these luxury motor coach shuttles. I see them daily, crossing SF Bay on the San Mateo Bridge. Unlike other companies, they actually display their company name, and shuttle’s destination, on the front and rear of each bus (via electronic signs). Their shuttles are bound for the suburbs of the East Bay (not the Silicon Valley), and usually display the name of the suburb to which they are travelling - I have seen them display destinations like Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek.
Hence, it is not only the “Urban Hipsters” in San Francisco who are being provided this type of transportation.
I addition to the Genentech busses, I also see the unmarked double-deck luxury shuttles, mentioned in the article. They are frequently travelling north and south along the East Bay freeways during commute times (probably to and from the Silicon Valley). Again, I am guessing that these coaches are not simply transporting SF twenty-somethings, as they are nowhere near “The City” (unless they came across from San Francisco via the Oakland Bay Bridge). Hence, these shuttles seem to spread out across the entire SF Bay area. I wish my employer would run one for us!!
If they put their logo on the bus they’ll be ambushed by bands of roving recruiters.
You may find that these shuttles are provided because the employers in the area have voluntarily agreed to ‘trip reduction programs’ advocated (or required) by government.
Dress code here in Seattle is, wear clothes.
BTW MS runs shuttles for FTEs as a commute service, and also runs intra-site shuttles that orange badges can also ride.
Its rumoured that Amazon does something similar around its Lake Union campus.
Yeah, I worked with a lot of offshore folks in Hyderabad a few years ago, and almost none of them had their own cars. They either rode the municipal bus system (the Indian state of Andhra Prahesh, including Hyderabad, has the largest bus system in the world), used taxis or rickshaws, or more commonly, used hire vans that our company provided.
The downside to this is when they have a transit strike there, which happens every few years, all the hire van drivers and taxi/rickshaw drivers join the strike, often involuntarily. There tends to be violence if they don’t. (Yes, union thugs are the same the world over.)
Only thing that pisses me off about these buses is they get in the fast lane and act a piece on a Parcheesi set, essentially blocking anyone from passing.
Only thing that pisses me off about these buses is they get in the fast lane and act like a piece on a Parcheesi set, essentially blocking anyone from passing.
Thereby filling an ecological niche formerly held by the Prius and before that the Volks Wagon minibus which took over from the Nash Rambler...
beep, beep... beep, beep...
It was probably done to cut down on poaching. The carpooling in the 90s was pretty intense, but because so many of the companies were in the same neighborhood the carpooling was also pretty haphazard. Lots of folks showing up in one parking lot then gathering into cars with people from multiple companies, people start to talk, offers get made... Company owned buses helps keep that down. Also whatever morning get together meetings you have can be scheduled to happen on the bus.