2014-01-08

Co.Labs

Google's Luxury Commuter Yacht Has Protesters Even More Pissed

Is this the most tone-deaf PR move since Marie Antoinette let us all eat cake?



“We certainly don’t want to cause any inconvenience to [San Francisco] residents and we’re trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work,” a spokesperson for Google said about the company's plans to boat people to work.

Inconvenienced? Not as much. Pissed off? Very.

Google and other Silicon Valley tech companies have come under fire from San Francisco and Oakland residents for the gentrification of the city--and for (they say) abusing free public transit to cart around mobs of employees. The fury erupted into protests last month, with residents vandalizing and blocking the path of Google- and Apple-bound shuttle buses.

Locals are pressuring tech companies to invest more money into the city amid issues with rising housing prices and strained transit systems. Google and other Valley tech companies have been using public bus stops to bus an estimated 45,000 employees between their homes and offices daily.

Instead of investing in the city, the company rented the Triumphant, a 149-passenger private catamaran that travels between San Francisco and Redwood City to cart commuters. The luxury Wi-Fi-equipped boat will run two trips in the morning and two trips in the evening for employees on a trial basis.

In a news conference on Monday, Mayor Ed Lee introduced an 18-month trial program that will limit the commuter buses to the use of 200 pubic stops (out of the total 2,500), operating under guidelines (like yielding to Muni), and paying "charges of around $1 per stop per day," according to Reuters. The result will pay an estimated $1.5 million, or about $100,000 per company, to the city, which is definitely small potatoes considering enterprises like Google are worth around $268 billion.

It is difficult to rectify this chump change as a means for helping Bay Area residents get back on their feet as the income gap widens. Jennifer Cust, an organizer for Eviction Free San Francisco, said this about Mayor's Lee's shuttle-payment plans in a press release for the Housing Rights Committee: "We are prepared to be demand more of City Hall if it appears that Mayor Lee's plan is not realistically aggressive enough to address the concerns of poor, working, and middle-class San Franciscans."

Mayor Lee's program will go up for a vote next month and may mitigate some upset from San Franciscans. However, the Triumphant, which is privately operated and therefore will evade any city payments, may contradict his efforts.

In any case, if Silicon Valley techies continue to complain about the city they inhabit (i.e. Peter Shih of Y Combinator and Greg Gopman, formerly of AngelHack) without illustrating real attempts to improve it themselves, locals will only get angrier.

[Image: Flickr user Dennis Jarvis]