Protesters stage Google bus ‘performance’ hours before pilot program could move forward 

click to enlarge Google bus
  • Jessica Kwong/The S.F. Examiner
  • Protesters blocked a Google bus at 24th and Valencia streets Tuesday morning.

In the spirit of April Fools' Day -- and just hours before the Board of Supervisors is scheduled to address an issue related to commuter shuttles -- several dozen Eviction-Free San Francisco protesters blocked a Google bus at 24th and Valencia streets this morning, handing out fake "Gmuni" passes for San Franciscans to board the vehicle.

"The Google bus is going to wait because the bus has a place for us," a suited woman wearing a fake Google Glass device announced into a microphone, as six fellow protesters dressed in red, blue, yellow and white acrobat-like jumpsuits blocked the vehicle.

The woman, who called herself Judith Hart and president of Gmuni, explained she was launching a pilot program allowing San Franciscans to ride Google buses for free, given an imminent hike in Muni fares. But police helped the shuttle shut the door on non-Google employees.

"It was unsuccessful; it turned into a protest," Hart said. "I called my higher-ups and they said they put [Gmuni] on hold until the environmental impact hearing happens today."

The blockade at 9 a.m. lasted about 15 minutes and was planned to bring attention to a 2 p.m. hearing today in which the Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on an environmental report appeal for a pilot program allowing commuter shuttles to use Muni stops. Under the program, a select 200 stops will be available for commuter shuttles for $1 per stop per day starting in July.

Eviction-Free San Francisco protester Deepa Varma, wearing a blue Gmuni shirt, acknowledged the Gmuni program and passes were a hoax. "It's April Fools' Day," said Varma, a 33-year-old tenant attorney.

"We'd like to see tech contribute to public transportation and not just pay for private shuttles for their employees. Muni, Caltrain, BART - they're all underfunded," added Amanda Ream, another protester.

The blockade was peaceful, with the most confrontation happening when Bernal Heights resident Robert Irminger, 54, tried to force his way on the Google bus. He complained to a police sergeant that the bus driver grabbed and pushed him off the shuttle.

"I was trying to get on because I had this card that said 'free pass,'" Irminger said. "I was just walking by and it was primarily to draw attention to the hearing."

Eviction-Free San Francisco has staged several tech bus blockades since December in the Mission district and mid-Market Street area, none quite as staged as Tuesday's "performance."

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

Bio:
Jessica Kwong covers transportation, housing, and ethnic communities, among other topics, for the San Francisco Examiner. She covered City Hall as a fellow for the San Francisco Chronicle, night cops and courts for the San Antonio Express-News, general news for Spanish-language newspapers La Opinión and El Mensajero,... more
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