First day of pilot program allowing shuttles at Muni stops sparks protest 

click to enlarge On the first day of the pilot program where shuttle buses will pay The City for using Muni stops, protesters came out to express their feelings on the matter. - JESSICA KWONG/THE S.F. EXAMINER
  • Jessica Kwong/The S.F. Examiner
  • On the first day of the pilot program where shuttle buses will pay The City for using Muni stops, protesters came out to express their feelings on the matter.
Today marked the launch of The City’s painstakingly crafted pilot program allowing permitted commuter shuttles to use selected Muni bus stops, and sure enough, anti-displacement activists were there to block a couple buses.

As with five other tech bus blockades since December, the protesters gathered at a place near their targeted bus stop -- this time in front of Muddy's Coffee House at 24th and Valencia streets -- and at 8:55 a.m. brought their banners out to the stop at the southwest corner of the intersection.

About a dozen seniors and people with disabilities, along with the usual organizers, managed to block not one, but two shuttles. The first, parked at the curb, was an Apple bus by permitted shuttle provider Loop Transportation. The second, Pure Luxury Transportation, did not have the lime-green pilot permit sticker and was stopped on the lane right next to the Apple bus, clogging all southbound traffic on Valencia Street.

Apple employee Eugene Koontz, 45, arrived shortly after 9 a.m. to find his shuttle blocked. The Siri application engineer said he usually takes an Apple bus from the Ashby BART station in Berkeley, where he lives, but missed it and took BART to catch the shuttle in The City. He wasn’t upset, saying he could work from Muddy's.

“It won’t anger me, I understand where they’re coming from,” he said. “I live in the East Bay because it’s too expensive [in San Francisco]. We’re on the same boat.”

He added that the 18-month pilot program, which launched with 99 bus stops for shuttles to share for $3.55 per stop event, “seems like a reasonable thing.”

“Public space can be rented out like a parking spot,” he said. “And I don’t think it’s tech companies’ fault there’s not enough housing. It’s due to the NIMBY view here.”

But Judy Brady, 77, who got to the protest on an electric wheelchair from her home a few blocks away, did not believe tech workers are on the same boat.

"I've been in my building for 11 years and have seen evictions all around me," she said. "I don't like my new neighbors. They don't understand the Mission, the culture, they don't get it at all."

Like past tech bus blockades, protesters got creative with their props. Bernal Heights resident Giuliana Milanese, 70, held a cardboard cutout of the familiar Google Maps pin with "evicted" written in.

"The seniors and the disabled people in the Mission are the soul of The City," she said, "So the mayor and the high-tech companies are taking away the soul of our city."

The blockade by Senior and Disability Action, Eviction-Free San Francisco, the San Francisco Tenants Union and Gray Panthers of San Francisco was peaceful and calmer than some past protests.

It ended in coordination with police officers at 9:27 a.m., when Mission Station Capt. Dan Perea told protesters, "The issue is people who are behind the bus can't come through."

"We'll be back," the protesters chanted.

About The Author

Jessica Kwong

Jessica Kwong

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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