Environmentalists  in San Francisco are suing tech shuttles for using public bus stops.
Image: Evan Blaser / Flickr

For years in San Francisco, private tech shuttles for companies like Facebook and Google have been allowed to use public bus stops for a small fee. Recently, however, activists and labor leaders claimed that this project violates state traffic codes and environmental law. Earlier this week, companies like Apple and Google, as well as the mayor of San Francisco, the San Francisco Muni board, the city planning department and several bus companies were sued. Because these private shuttles are utilizing public stops, activists feel they should have to pass through the same environmental review process as done when expanding city transit programs.

Over the years, these commuter bus systems have grown, and they now consist of “35,000 boardings a day, 350 buses and 200 stops throughout the city,” according to a lawyer for the activists groups, who spoke with Re/code after the suit was filed.

But some see this lawsuit as a way to push back after housing prices rose due to the large influx of highly paid tech workers. Higher cost of living has driven many long-term San Francisco residents from the city they can no longer afford. Many are arguing that the lawsuit is more about trying to get tech workers out of the city than about environmental issues.

The environmental group bringing the suit over the commuter bus network is called the Coalition for Fair, Legal, and Environmental Transit. “What the buses do is facilitate the ability for highly paid tech employees to live in our city who otherwise would not, and when we have an extremely limited pool of housing stock available, what that does is push folks at the lower income levels out of the city,” said Sarah Shortt, head of the Housing Rights Committee, a tenant advocacy organization and a party to the suit.

“We haven’t seen the complaint and it’s premature to comment,” said Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney’s office.

What do you think? Is this suit really about the environmental issues at hand, or is that just an excuse to target tech businesses and their workers?

Cover Image: Mandy Owen, Flickr