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Google Transportation Politics

Google Funds San Francisco Bus Rides For Poor 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-they-need-to-format-their-destination-query-properly dept.
theodp writes "The LA Times reports that Google will fund free bus passes for low- and middle-income kids in a move to quiet the controversy surrounding tech-driven gentrification in San Francisco. In a statement, Google said, 'San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don't pay more to use city bus stops. So we'll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund MUNI passes for low income students [an existing program] for the next two years.' SF Mayor Ed Lee said, 'I want to thank Google for this enormous gift to the SFMTA, and I look forward to continuing to work with this great San Francisco employer towards improving our City for everyone.' But not all were impressed. 'It's a last-minute PR move on their part, and they're trying to use youth unfairly to create a better brand image in the city,' said Erin McElroy of the SF Anti-Eviction Mapping Project."
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Google Funds San Francisco Bus Rides For Poor

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  • I don't get it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    The land of the Free.

    But not so free as to be able to pick up passengers while stopped on a public road.

    For that you need papers and baksheesh.

    • by Chalnoth (1334923)

      The Google shuttles are a net benefit to the city as a whole. But they are a symbol of much deeper, broader problems brought on by economic growth, increases in income inequality, and slow housing growth. Economic growth in the bay area has brought a tremendous influx of people, but various regulations have made it difficult to feed demand. This, combined with sharp increases in income inequality, has resulted in soaring housing prices. For a lot of residents, that means they're being forced out of thei

  • "Unfair"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by physicsphairy (720718) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @05:48AM (#46380375) Homepage

    'It's a last-minute PR move on their part, and they're trying to use youth unfairly to create a better brand image in the city,' said Erin McElroy of the SF Anti-Eviction Mapping Project."

    This truly bothers me. This guy is like the members of MADD who are upset with ride programs because it means people won't get caught for DUI. Or those who are gleeful when civlians die in a way that proves their point.

    When it comes to something like donating money to help poor kids, I don't care who is doing it or why. I care that the kids are being helped. It's obvious who views them as political pawns when one person feels it's "unfair" that they are receiving financial assistance because it doesn't play into his picture of the world. I'll bet Mr. Erin McElroy donates exactly $0 to help these kids out.

    • Re:"Unfair"? (Score:5, Informative)

      by x_IamSpartacus_x (1232932) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @07:07AM (#46380527)
      It bothers me too. In my opinion it's part of a subtle temptation and accidental attitude that is very common in humanitarian/NGO/missionary work.

      Let me explain.

      I am a missionary working in Sub-Saharan Africa trying to fill a hole in the medical care here. In a developing country there are expected and predictable shortcomings in the medical system and I find myself trying to help cancer patients where the State cannot. Now, the tempting mindset is to hope that the State never actually develops enough to do what I do, thus, I never find myself redundant and always feel needed and like I’m filling a purpose. That is, of course, a horrible thing to hope. Of course I hope my service is redundant soon and of course I hope that what I do won’t be needed soon. That would mean fewer people were suffering! That would be great! It would also mean I’m no longer needed and I could find myself and my family in some trouble looking for a new place to serve.

      The “I hope the problem never goes away so I never find my cause pointless” mindset is what is likely going on here. Erin McElroy of the SF Anti-Eviction Mapping Project likely dedicates her (his?) entire life or, at minimum, most of his (her?) emotional energy on this project and so any progress Google and others make to help things get better means Erin is more and more redundant and less and less needed. That is a scary thing for someone who lives for a cause and therefore, while fighting for their cause, there is often a self-defeating hope that the cause never actually succeeds.

      That’s just what I’ve noticed in the “I have a cause” field at least. YMMV.
      • by EmagGeek (574360)

        The mindset you describe, self-preservation, is the reason that we never actually want to solve problems, win wars, cure diseases, or actually fix anything.

        There is too much money to be made fighting wars, so we don't try to win them. There is too much money to be made treating cancer symptoms, so we don't try to cure it meaningfully. There is too much money to be made lobbying against polluted air, so we lobby for half-assed solutions that don't work. There is too much money to be made fighting the "war on

    • by Zeio (325157)

      The poor dont need free bus rides to shuttle them from hours away to get to a wage slave job serving the modern patrician. If this was sim city, or an ancient Rome city, the slaves were properly called such (just as we wage slaves are today) and the rich had a place for them to live close by. A heck of a lot better than driving 4 hours a day to slave away for money thats being constantly inflated to prevent people from climbing up and out.

      Google is the best brightest and smartest most driven people who day

  • by drolli (522659) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @05:59AM (#46380403) Journal

    What would be unfair would be to continue to continue the division of rich, clean suburbs far outside the city, only ot be reached by environmentally unfriendly and space/road-wasting cars, and create infrastructure for the upper middle class there - and allow them to avoid contact with the less fortunate.

    To find efficient solutions (aka Busses) to transport workers in the city and thus mix income in parts of the city and even help other parts of the population to choose a efficient way of transportation and help in reducing the traffic is *not* unfair. If at all, it may be considered communist.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      and allow them to avoid contact with the less fortunate.

      Tell ya what. Convince the "less fortunate" (most of whom made bad decisions like getting knocked up) to be less violent, to act like they have the slightest bit of class, to really hate stealing, and generally to value leaving other people alone, and us terrible horrible people who don't want to associate with them will change our minds.

      Till then, you can keep on demonizing anyone who doesn't want to be mugged that day.

    • by Guppy06 (410832)

      I think you're missing several points here.

      First off, the most environmentally sound solution would be for these tech workers to live in the suburbs to begin with. The jobs themselves are in the suburbs, and the workers are commuting from the city to the suburbs simply because it's hip and trendy to (be able to afford to) live in San Francisco proper.

      Worse yet, this ends up putting more cars on the road, not fewer, because the people who do work in the city can't afford to live there. They are the ones wh

  • Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @06:15AM (#46380429) Homepage
    How does Google employees waiting at bus stops cost the city money? Where's this loss coming from that Google must compensate for? Or is this just knee-jerk hostility from the usual suspects?
    • Re:Huh? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @06:55AM (#46380505) Homepage
      They should just have the employees picked up from privately owned locations whenever possible. I'm sure malls and stuff would like the extra foot traffic especially from Google employees who would probably have a little disposable income.
      • by wvmarle (1070040)

        Considering this is the US, the nearest malls are likely more than some 300 m (oh sorry, that'd be 900 ft for you guys) from the employee's home, and that means they'd need their car just to get to the bus stop, making the whole exercise moot. Besides I don't think those shopping malls like to have their car parks used as P+R.

    • by hax4bux (209237)

      There should be a Google helicopter. Should cure everything.

    • Seriously? We're talking about California. Because Google has money, they should have the right to redistribute it as they see fit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rasmusbr (2186518)

      How does Google employees waiting at bus stops cost the city money? Where's this loss coming from that Google must compensate for? Or is this just knee-jerk hostility from the usual suspects?

      Well, it is probably not a coincidence that gentrification became an official problem about when it got to where white middle class people began to get priced out of inner city neighborhoods.

    • Re:Huh? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by pauljlucas (529435) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @10:18AM (#46381379) Homepage Journal

      How does Google employees waiting at bus stops cost the city money?

      On the one hand, they generally don't cost the city money; but it does give tech shuttles a free pass at using city bus stops that, if you or I stopped at (and were caught), we'd have to pay a fine.

      On the other hand, they do cost the city money in that that can (and do) delay the actual city busses from stopping at the stops and, as the adage goes, time is money. (The slower a bus goes, the more potential overtime the city will have to pay and the more busses the city will need to use for a given route to maintain the same headway [wikipedia.org].)

      • but it does give tech shuttles a free pass at using city bus stops that, if you or I stopped at (and were caught), we'd have to pay a fine.

        Google using a community resource in this way has the side effect of making it convenient for Googlers who would otherwise choose not to live in the city. That bolsters its tax base while contributing to a reduction of traffic and vehicle emissions during the daily rush hours. That's all a win-win for the city.

        The real issue is that the opposition is using the bus stops as a pretext to combat the looming gentrification of the city that will raise rents and property values. Those who are vested in the status

      • The slower a bus goes, the more potential overtime the city will have to pay and the more busses the city will need to use for a given route to maintain the same headway

        Perhaps I have trouble relating because the bus system in my home town has an hour headway.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @06:15AM (#46380431) Homepage

    1. Welfare
    2. Gentrification

    One approach says "give the poor some stuff to help them get a leg up, live slightly better and afford them some opportunities." The other says "Give the rich some room to grown in poor/bad neighborhoods and see if things trickle down to improve the local economy."

    Well? I'm a little undecided which is best because frankly, the first option would work on me. I have been on public assistance in the past. I didn't like it and got off of it as soon as possible. On the other hand, some people are quite compfortable wallowing in that sh!t.

    Meanwhile, the things I have seen come through gentrification have been successful. I have not seen any information related to gentrification failures other than "they say don't! whites not welcome here!" and then they don't do it. So if anyone can point to "gentrification gone bad" I'd be interested in learning about it.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      > On the other hand, some people are quite compfortable wallowing in that sh!t.

      "some" as far as I can tell from people researching on it seems to be "a tiny minority, and usually only for a fairly limited time". And who knows what they do when they work. I see little point in designing society around a tiny and honestly irrelevant minority.

    • by Bengie (1121981)
      erroneus, as all things in life, a bit of both. All about balance.
    • by jsepeta (412566)

      Gentrification in Chicago made the crappy neighborhoods of Bucktown and Wicker Park more liveable in the 90's, and helped improve real estate values for Ukrainian Village in the 2000's. More tax revenues from real estate = better funding for schools, fire & police departments. What's not to like about gentrification? Poor people have to move? So fucking what. Shitty neighborhoods are now better places to live. Cabrini Green is now gone, but in place Chicago has a new high school that's very highly-ranke

  • Had the right idea.

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Sunday March 02, 2014 @06:36AM (#46380461) Homepage

    1. Corporation does nothing to help the poor.
    - Evil.
    2. Corporation does something to help the poor.
    - PR move.

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @06:57AM (#46380511)

      More to the point. Google offered this service as a benifit to their employees. In a world where are employee benifits are getting whacked every year in both unioned and non unioned shops. Why should we get so outrage that a company is offering benifits?

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        And it has a wider social benefit in taking cars off the road reducing congestion and pollution - if i where Google id be tempted to offer interest free loans an tell people go down the ford dealer and get your self a mustang super snake and if your an engineer and dont appreciate some nice automotive muscle we we shouldn't have employed you hears for performance improvement plan.
    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Every charitable donation a corporation makes, is a PR move. They do it to make their company look good, give themselves a better image to help them sell more product, or to get something in return that benefits them like using existing bus stops.

      Even if Google had done this before the whole furore started, it'd have been a PR move. It'd just have been less high profile.

      And either way it's a good thing for all those low-income people that suddenly gain a lot more mobility.

      • by Patch86 (1465427)

        Couldn't have said it better myself. Whether you think this PR stunt exonerates Google of any blame for "things" or not, and whether you think charity is a suitable substitute for proper taxation or not, doesn't change the fact that a large injection of cash into "buses for poor young people" is obviously a good thing.

        Perhaps it is cynical and we should be cynical. But hey, it's still a good outcome.

  • Stolen PR move. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekmux (1040042)

    'It's a last-minute PR move on their part, and they're trying to use youth unfairly to create a better brand image in the city,'

    Ironically, when I read this statement, it sounded like a line straight out of Big Tobacco's Advertising 101 playbook.

    Don't be so quick to judge. At least when Google does PR, they don't kill millions of people in the process selling their product.

  • The Lords of Google have been forced pay attention because the peasants are actively resisting the annexation of the formerly free city of San Francisco by the Sovereign Realm of Google. The Realm needs to annex the city for housing for it's ever expanding noble classes. (See Lebensraum [wikipedia.org].)

    The current plan is to allow the children of the peasants to gather windfall in the orchards of Google. This costs Google a tiny fraction of it's vast wealth, and makes it seem that they care about the peasants, because th

  • by davide marney (231845) <.davide.marney. .at. .netmedia.org.> on Sunday March 02, 2014 @07:08AM (#46380533) Journal

    "in Oakland, according to reports from IndyBay, as protesters unfurled two giant banners reading "TECHIES: Your World Is Not Welcome Here" and "Fuck off Google", "a person appeared from behind the bus and quickly smashed the whole of the rear window"

    "So we'll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund MUNI passes for low income students [an existing program] for the next two years.'"

    One of these groups is judged by our society as being "evil" and the other as "progressive".

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      One of these groups is judged by our society as being "evil" and the other as "progressive".

      I'm not personally against gentrification per se, it does make towns suck but it also raises property values and then you can move. Don't be so attached to one home, security is an illusion anyway. But in any case, one of these groups is contributing to gentrification and the other group isn't, so there is a pretty clear divide.

  • I still don't understand the uproar over Googlers carpooling to work...

  • Charity vs Taxation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Blaskowicz (634489)

    Why should we applaud the good prince's largesses? Yes, this is actually nice, encouraging the use of public buses and giving short change for that.
    But I find it weird that a giant company wants to substitute itself with what should the town's/muncipality's/local government's duties. And it's a PR move anyway, one that reinforces the notion that a giant private company can appriopriate public space, pay little to no tax and do whatever it wants with no accountability.

    In general, I don't get the cultural fas

    • Why isn't San Fransisco allowing students to ride public transportation for free? Google is a private company that's done well, and can do whatever it wants with it's money, that they choose to do this is to be applauded.

      I agree, fix the tax loopholes for ALL companies. Until that is done, all companies will take advantage of them.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)

        I agree, fix the tax loopholes for ALL companies.

        You have to fix tax rates at the same time as the loopholes because they are not independent of each other. The rates are modified based on existing loopholes and the loopholes are modified based on existing rates.

        The rates are the general discouragement of everything that isnt subsidized via loopholes and other subsidizing vehicles. Without the loopholes we have the highest corporate tax rates in the world. We used to be number two but we overtook japan when they lowered their general rates. It is not e

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      In general, I don't get the cultural fascination that US americans have for charity, while at the same time showing extreme disdain for welfare, public services, public funding of infrastructure (except for roads, military and prisons, go figure) and even decent conditions of employment.
      E.g. waiters/waitresses are to be paid starvation wages, and rely on tips. Why do they have to beg?, is it so that customers can feel superior or something?, I have trouble understanding this.

      Well, here go my mod points. It's because we're assholes who still want to feel good about ourselves. When we engage in the charity that we should support all the time, we get to feel good. So, yes. It's so that customers can feel superior. Not to the server, necessarily; to their actual selves.

    • Charity is voluntary, while welfare is extracted with a gun to your head. The recipient of charity is motivated to change their situation, while the recipients of welfare become dependent, believing they are owed a living. Food service is actually more of a welfare culture that benefits wealthy restaurant owners like Walmart is benefited by employees on public assistance; servers don't beg, they believe they are owed 15-20%, and they generally are paid way more than they are worth.
    • by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Sunday March 02, 2014 @11:09AM (#46381637) Homepage Journal

      Why should we applaud the good prince's largesses? Yes, this is actually nice, encouraging the use of public buses and giving short change for that. But I find it weird that a giant company wants to substitute itself with what should the town's/muncipality's/local government's duties. And it's a PR move anyway, one that reinforces the notion that a giant private company can appriopriate public space, pay little to no tax and do whatever it wants with no accountability.

      You don't understand what's going on here.

      People have been complaining that Google uses public bus stops without paying for them. Google thought that was reasonable and offered to pay the city for the use of the stops, but state law doesn't allow the city to charge a reasonable amount for their use. So, Google and the city worked out what they thought would be a reasonable amount, and Google is paying that in the form of a donation, buying bus passes for kids. Meanwhile, Google is helping the city lobby to change the state law, so that the company can simply pay for the right to use the bus stops.

      Google has been trying to do the right things here, from beginning to end. Providing buses reduces congestion and greenhouse gases, and is a nice perk for employees who want to live in the city.

      Google hides its profits in the Carribean and pays no taxes. What about fixing that. Hire well paid accountant/fiscalist lawyer types to try and close as many of those fucking tax loopholes as they can.

      Are you proposing that the city should do that? The city doesn't have any right or power to tax Google (though it collects a lot of property taxes and sales taxes from the Google employees who live in the city, as well as property and other taxes for Google's building in the city). The taxes you're talking about that Google manages to avoid are largely federal, so San Francisco wouldn't see a dime of them anyway. Frankly, no one would see anything; they'd disappear into the federal deficit without making a ripple.

      In any case, not only is your tax argument completely irrelevant to the question, it's pretty ridiculous. Do you pay more federal taxes than you have to? If a company can legally avoid paying billions, do you seriously expect them to volunteer it? If you really think this is a problem, talk to your representatives about changing the federal laws.

      Personally, I think that corporate taxes, like all other forms of hidden taxation, are evil. All taxes are ultimately paid by the people as a whole, and taxing various, intermediate cash flows obscures how much the people are paying. Money Google pays in taxes is money that can't be paid to investors (which is taxed as capital gains), can't pay employees (which is taxed as income), can't spend on goods and services (which are taxed in all sorts of ways -- some of them also evil), and can't invest (which pushes the money to other companies which may buy stuff, pay employees, etc.). Taxes are necessary, but they should be transparent. Property taxes are good. Income taxes are good, including capital gains income taxes -- though mandatory withholdings are obnoxious. Sales taxes are okay, and it's even fine to tax different goods differently -- taxing luxury cars harder than food, for example, makes sense. The key is that all taxes should be directly paid by and be visible to the voters.

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      Have you ever dealt with a municipal transportation system? A lot of them, especially when you're trying to cross between city and suburbs, suck horribly. Moreover, actually getting them to fix things is akin to talking to a brick wall.

      In that context, it was probably easier for Google to take care of its own employees by putting up their own circuits which service areas where Google employees live. The only alternative was for the employees to live in the suburbs, which would give the city fewer taxes (s
      • by k8to (9046)

        This is kind of a miss.

        There's a pretty able transit system that goes from San Francisco to Mountain View. It's called Caltrain. It's not perfect, and at off-hours it has more headway between trains than is highly desirable but it's extremely energy efficient and quite affordable as far as rail systems go.

        The real reason that the existing transport systems don't serve Google workers well is that Google HQ is over 3 miles away from the nearest train station.

        The inefficiency is all down in the suburb, not i

    • by jsepeta (412566)

      Proof that Google hides profits in the Carribean? That's a bold accusation Blaskowicz.

      It's more likely they're doing what Apple does, and have shell corporations in Ireland and other locales to avoid paying taxes. But I have no proof either way.

    • The money sitting in the Caribbean wasn't earned in the USA anyway. It's sitting there waiting for either:

      1) The USA to drop its stupid double taxation policies (the money was already taxed once, where it was earned, and most countries try to avoid double taxing in this situatoin). In that case the money could be reallocate to the USA and spent there, where it would of course eventually get taxed again in the process of being paid out as wages or buying things, but at least just moving it into the states wo

  • by mbone (558574)

    The appropriate response is to tax them properly. I would recommend the 65% top bracket that JFK thought was "sensible."

  • by tlambert (566799) on Sunday March 02, 2014 @09:32AM (#46381157)

    Economic eviction not gentrification is the issue.

    Mostly, it's a problem for renters, who get evicted or have their rents priced out of their reach when someone buys the house/unit they are renting,

    It generally has nothing whatsoever to do with Google, other than highly paid people are capable of paying higher rents, and Google tends to pay its employees well. But if the now-priced-out-of-range rental unit were not rented by someone from Google or Twitter or Facebook, or Genentech, or Apple, or some other company, of which many are increasingly based in San Francisco, they would either be rented by someone else with more money than the previous occupants, or they would stand empty, and provide a tax write-off as a loss at the higher rental rate.

    There are in fact huge amounts of both housing and office space in SF that are currently standing empty as a tax write-off for some absurd per square foot rental cost that no one in their right mind will be willing to pay.

    Note that the vast majority of the investment driving the economic eviction in San Francisco is *not* coming from the tech industry, it is instead coming from foreign investors. Out of 6 offers I made on houses in San Francisco - houses I fully intended to live in, not merely hold as investments or use as rental properties or "flip" in the new real estate bubble - all six were bid out by over 25% at the last second by all cash offers from foreign investors.

    Very few countries allow foreign ownership of property; the U.S. is one of the few which does; Japan, China, Mexico, the Philippines, Australia, and Thailand, among others. Minnesota does not permit foreign ownership of agricultural land, period, and does not allow corporate ownership of such land, either, unless associated with an existing long-held family farm. Here's an interesting resource:

    http://www.academia.edu/106796... [academia.edu]

    Perhaps it's time to take a page from one of these books, and apply the same restrictions on a state-wide level, rather than bitching about San Francisco in particular, since San Francisco has no legal ability to regulate foreign ownership.

    I imagine the Real Estate agents would not be terrifically happy, since most of their "big fish" clients are foreign buyers.

  • Coincidentally, Thursday's Google Doodle [staticflickr.com] was Grapes of Wrath-inspired...

    "Wherever there's a tech company not payin' enough to use city bus stops, I'll be there."
    --Tom Joad [wikipedia.org]

  • Forking idiots in SF don't understand that if a city allows crappy neighborhoods to sit without investment, they're dooming their children to shitty schools and poor emergency response from fire and police departments. It is through gentrification that cities rebuild and thus rebuild their tax base. San Francisco is a very expensive city in which to live. What they should be doing from the government's side is accepting donations from successful businesses to fund more affordable housing -- that helps busin

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