| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO May 2 Activists have sued the
city and county of San Francisco over a pilot program giving
shuttles run by Google and other private companies
access to municipal bus stops, claiming it favors higher-paid
technology workers over low-income residents.
The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court on
Thursday, marks the latest sign of tensions in the Bay Area over
the growing income divide, which has been widened by the latest
tech industry boom.
Late last year, protesters began to block the commuter buses
that ferry employees from San Francisco to the offices of tech
companies, including Facebook, Google and Yahoo,
south of the city, which they say symbolize the rift being
created by abundant tech money.
Under the 18-month pilot program the unmarked, WiFi-equipped
buses use San Francisco Municipal transit system stops for a fee
of $1 per stop per day and are viewed by many as a symbol of the
industry's disconnect from a broader community left behind by
the tech boom.
The lawsuit, filed by a coalition of transit and housing
activists and a labor union, argues that in addition to
displacing lower-income workers, the buses will increase
pollution, boost risks to pedestrians and bicyclists and
interfere with public transit.
"It's a good thing to transport employees to work on buses,
but there is an impact," said Oakland attorney Richard Drury,
who's representing the plaintiffs. "We want the city to analyze
what that is and mitigate the harm as much as possible."
San Francisco has exempted the project from review under the
California Environmental Quality Act, citing guidelines that
allow such action for a data-gathering phase of a plan that
doesn't create a "major disturbance" to an environmental
resource, which the suit charges is a violation of the law.
"There's one set of rules for the tech industry, and another
set for the rest of us," complained Chris Daley, political
director of SIEU Local Union 1021, a plaintiff in the suit with
the Coalition for Fair, Legal and Environmental Transit. The
buses tie up traffic and make their way into public bus stops
without paying a fair share of the freight, he said.
A spokesman for City Attorney Dennis Herrera said there
would be no comment until after the staff had an opportunity to
study the complaint.
A city study estimates that 350 private buses account for
35,000 boardings each day at 200 San Francisco sites, many of
them MUNI stops, which the vehicles currently are not legally
allowed to use.
(Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Ken Wills)