Group files environmental-impacts appeal of SF tech bus program 

click to enlarge Google bus protest
  • Jeff Chiu/ap file photo
  • Community groups have protested the SFMTA’s plan to institute fee of $1 per stop per day for shuttle buses using Muni stops, pointing to the displacement of low-income residents.
An appeal of the California Environmental Quality Act exemption for an 18-month commuter shuttle pilot program in San Francisco was filed Wednesday.

The appeal by a group that includes housing activists and a labor union targets the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency program approved Jan. 21 that allows shuttles like the ones used by the Academy of Art University and Google to use Muni stops for a fee.

The 32-page appeal argues that The City should have administered a CEQA review on what could be “significant environmental impacts,” said attorney Richard Drury, who is representing the coalition. Emissions from the shuttles and displacement of residents are environmental impacts under the law, he said.

“There is extensive research that supports that this program does result in the displacement of a lot of low-income individuals, having them displaced with predominantly wealthier tech workers,” Drury said.

The City has used CEQA exemptions for research projects, but Drury said that a pilot program of this magnitude, in which all commuter shuttles can use a couple hundred Muni stops for $1 per stop per day, should not fall under that category.

“Two hundred stops moving 35,000 people per day?” he said. “That’s not a research project.”

The Board of Supervisors has 45 days to make a decision. City officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Transit and city officials who pushed the pilot claimed the shuttles eliminate at least 45 million vehicle miles traveled and 761,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

Sara Shortt, 43, said the claim needs more scientific backing.

“Just to assume that for every tech employee on one of those buses, that without the bus there would be one more car, there is no research behind that,” said the Valencia Street resident, who is part of the group appealing. “There are alternatives, like carpooling, bicycling, taking Muni to the Caltrain.”

The coalition — which also includes Service Employees International Union Local 1021, the San Francisco League of Pissed-Off Voters and the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club — sent a letter on the issue the day the SFMTA board members approved the pilot and did not receive a response.

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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