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Mayor Lee and SFMTA Announce Agreement with Commuter Shuttle Providers to Benefit Muni and Overall Transportation Network
Monday, January 6, 2014

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Mayor Ed Lee and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), joined today by Genentech, Google, Apple, Facebook, Bauer's Intelligent Transportation, and the Bay Area Council, announced an agreement to launch a commuter shuttle bus pilot program that will minimize impacts to Muni, while maximizing the traffic and environmental benefits of employer-provided shuttles. These shuttles provide more than 35,000 boardings per day in San Francisco, eliminating at least 45 million vehicle miles traveled and 761,000 metric tons of carbon every year from the region’s roads and air.

“San Francisco needs a reliable, safe and affordable world-class transportation system,” said Mayor Lee. “This agreement will help the City realize the benefits that come with commuter shuttles, such as keeping thousands of cars off our roads and preventing gridlock, while ensuring companies pay their fair share and don’t delay our public transportation system.”

“This new SFMTA pilot takes more cars off the road, reduces delays on Muni, and benefits the environment and all residents getting around and traveling out of San Francisco,” said Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “Partnering with Bay Area companies with commuter shuttles, we are working to improve our entire transportation network, grow the economy and create a more livable and vibrant city for everyone.”

“Employee shuttles help thousands of San Francisco residents get to work without having to drive,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who serves as Vice Chair of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. “The shuttles help us achieve our transit-first goals, and by reducing the number of private automobiles on our roads, they help reduce congestion and pollution. We need to strike the right balance by ensuring our neighbors can get to work on these shuttles while addressing the impacts that the shuttles have on our neighborhoods and Muni stops. By requiring that the shuttle providers pay to use Muni stops and by moving forward with a process to look closely at routes and stop usage, we will strike that balance.”

After more than a year of collaborative work, the group came to a broad consensus on a package of policy recommendations allowing commuter shuttles to use a limited network of approved Muni zones, as part of an 18-month pilot program.  The Pilot Program includes:

  • Charging a daily fee based on the number of stops that a shuttle provider or employer makes in order to fully cover the SFMTA’s cost of administering and enforcing the program and includes private investment to improve select stops. Fees are estimated to raise tens of thousands of dollars monthly to the largest transportation providers.
  • Approval of 200 bus stops (out of more than 2,500 total in the Muni system) to be used by providers;
  • Private shuttle providers will pay to use Muni bus zones, based on a per stop, per day, cost recovery schedule. Due to Proposition 218, the SFMTA cannot create a fee structure that goes beyond the cost to provide such a service or policy;
  • Providers would operate in accordance to agreed-upon guidelines, such as yielding to Muni and pulling to the front of the zone making more room for other vehicles, and avoiding steep and narrow streets;
  • The Agency would enforce these rules to ensure only participating companies are using shared zones. It will be illegal to use all other bus zones;
  • Each commuter shuttle will be issued a unique identification placard so enforcement personnel can easily identify vehicles; and
  • Providers would share data with SFMTA to ensure that location information is available for complaint follow-up, enforcement and to support the agency’s transportation system management.

“The private commuter shuttle sector has been growing very rapidly over the last few years and our policies are now catching up,” said Tom Nolan, Chairman of the MTA Board of Directors. “How we deal with shuttles now is not sustainable and this proposal gives the Board an opportunity to vote on a policy that increases safety, reduces impacts on Muni, provides more information, improves the flow of traffic, and reduces driving simultaneously.”

Currently, issues are resolved on a case-by-case basis, which is not sustainable or effective in managing this mode of transportation. The private shuttles predominantly use Muni bus zones, without any coordination with Muni and this can lead to delays on the transit system.  The city does not have complete information about which shuttles operate where and this makes it difficult and time consuming to follow up on inquiries and complaints.

“Not only will this pilot provide a key solution to a specific challenge, but it allows us to continue the work we are doing to improve our entire transportation network,” said Ed Reiskin, SFMTA Director of Transportation. “These are the types of continued partnerships that are vital to efficient transportation management in a dense, growing city like San Francisco.”

The commuter shuttle sector includes employers and institutions (medical centers, universities), and some buildings that provide commute shuttle transportation within San Francisco, and between San Francisco and other cities. This does not include tour buses, airport shuttles, jitneys, charter buses, or limousines.

“Employer provided shuttles remove cars from our roads and pollution from our air at no cost to the taxpayer,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Maximizing these benefits through better integration with the SFMTA through this pilot program is a big win for everyone who walks, bikes, drives or takes Muni. The Bay Area Council looks forward to continuing our partnership with the City to make everyone's commute safer, cleaner and faster."

The proposal will be taken to the MTA Board on January 21st.  If the board takes action, the SFMTA will ask shuttle providers to propose stops for inclusion into the bus zone network and will ask San Francisco residents for their input to determine specific bus zones that can be used. Final plans will be approved by public hearing in late Spring.