S.F. voters support 'Google buses,' poll says

Posted on March 27, 2014

Google shuttle. David Gartner via Flickr.
Google shuttle. David Gartner via Flickr.
A large majority of San Francisco voters strongly support commuter shuttles, i.e., 'Google buses,' according to a new poll.

Respondents to the poll, conducted by by EMC Research, overwhelmingly agree that the shuttles provide strong environmental and traffic benefits, think more companies should offer shuttles, and think they fill important transportation gaps. Voters want regulation of the shuttles, but not regulation that hinders their operation or expansion, according to survey results.

RELATED: "S.F. to charge shuttles to use stops."

The telephone poll of 500 likely San Francisco voters found that, overall, 57% have a favorable view of the shuttles, and only 18% have a negative view. At the same time, 67% of voters support allowing commuter shuttles to use a limited number of SF MUNI bus stops, while 70%  support allowing shuttles as long as they conform to the kinds of regulatory measures that are included in an 18-month pilot shuttles program currently underway in the city.

“Given the many news stories that theorize that San Franciscans are rebelling against the technology boom and shuttle buses, we were surprised to see the opposite is true — San Franciscans indeed embrace tech and the buses,” said Jim Wunderman, President/CEO of the Bay Area Council, which sponsored the study.

Key findings of the poll are:
•    84% of voters think commuter shuttles help get cars off the road, relieve congestion and avoid air pollution
•    81% say shuttles encourage commuters to use environmentally conscious transportation means
•    74% say the commuter shuttles help supplement existing public transit
•    72% support charging shuttles on a cost-recovery basis to use MUNI bus zones
•    70% support conducting a pilot study to help the city craft permanent regulations

An estimated 35,000 San Francisco residents rely on the shuttles to commute to school and work daily. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Authority estimates that the shuttles eliminate at least 327,000 single-passenger car trips and 11,000 tons of carbon annually.

The Bay Area Council helped convene tech and other companies that run shuttles in San Francisco to work with city transportation planners and Mayor Ed Lee in developing a pilot program for the safe and efficient operation of the buses. Opponents of the shuttles, alleging they are causing environmental harm, have appealed the program to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which is scheduled to hold a hearing on April 1.

The poll also delved into voters’ attitudes about the city’s rapid economic growth and the role of the technology industry in driving the expansion. A sizeable 79% of voters have a favorable view of the technology sector, consistent with the 69% of voters who said creating jobs should be San Francisco’s top priority.

Voters by a wide margin don’t think that the shuttles or the technology industry are to blame for broader issues related to housing affordability, among other problems. Among other key findings from the poll related are:
•    67% of voters disagree that commuter shuttles are ruining the character of San Francisco
•    66% oppose banning shuttles from MUNI bus stops
•    63% disagree that commuter shuttles are a symbol of San Francisco’s problems
•    62% support more companies using employee shuttles

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