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New Tech Money, Same Old Problems 372

Posted by Soulskill
from the those-who-don't-study-history-are-doomed-to-something-something dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Following the publication in May of George Packer's alarming article in the New Yorker revealing the state of the communities surrounding California's tech boom, the LA Times reports that despite the wake-up call, things are getting even worse in the Bay Area as tech companies seek to completely insulate their employees from ever having to interact with the real world. Quoting: 'Every weekday starting at dawn and continuing late into the evening, a shiny fleet of unmarked buses rolls through the streets of San Francisco, picking up thousands of young technology workers at dozens of stops and depositing them an hour's drive south. It's an exclusive perk offered by Apple, Facebook, Google and other major Silicon Valley companies: luxury coaches equipped with air conditioning, plush seats and wireless Internet access that ease the stress of navigating congested Bay Area roadways. The private mass transit system has become the most visible symbol of the digital gold rush sweeping this city, and of the sharpening division between those who are riding the high-tech industry's good fortunes and those who are not.'"
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New Tech Money, Same Old Problems

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  • Re:Can't win (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DarkOx (621550) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:43PM (#44569149) Journal

    I think the issue is not so much with these people having access to a better class of transportation than others, it more to do with the communing period and how easy it is. When large cities have nobody living where they work, they become Detroit.

    Regardless of whether its a big interstate artery, rail line, or buses; its a problem when people are into the office and strait back to suburbia. Sure you have some big business downtown contributing the tax base, but you don't get the personal income taxes, you don't get any contribution to retail business. You get nothing to support the street level life in the city, and no civic engagement from the professional class there.

  • And The Best Part Is (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The Cat (19816) * on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:44PM (#44569155)

    They are creating nothing of any real consequence. Everything made by Google, Apple, Facebook, Zynga, etc. is designed to be obsolete in months. They also have a habit of destroying working products and laying off workers for no reason at all.

    I have a perfectly usable 2G iPod that is perfectly unusable because it's no longer supported and it doesn't talk to anything except the mothership that disowned it.

    What was the last new (new as in it has no contemporary substitutes) COMMERCIAL software product (as in you pay real money to a company that employs people at grown-up wages to buy it) written in a real programming language and introduced with the same usefulness and value as say, Photoshop, Office, Quickbooks, Skype or Final Cut Pro?

    There isn't one. Why?

    Because all the developers are too busy shoveling pure crap into app stores as fast as they can to try and make rent.

    Truth is the "high tech" industry in America was deliberately bludgeoned into a coma in 2000 and 2001. All advancement of personal computers stopped then.

    Since no real efforts are being made to rebuild it, the industry will probably never recover. Any future high tech industry will happen somewhere other than America.

  • This is nothing new (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:46PM (#44569175)

    Railroads have had private commuter club cars for a century. A bunch of wealthy people get together, purchase or lease a train car, add nice seating, waitstaff, & amenities, and pay Amtrak/Metro North/CNWR to haul it around with their regular commuter trains. In exchange for not sitting with the riff-raff, they subsidize everyone else's fare.

    Every so often, some young journalist realizes that rich people can afford nicer stuff and attempts to spin it into a scandal.

  • Re:WTF perspective (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:59PM (#44569293)

    I want to agree with you but I it is getting more difficult to ignore the ways in which people are disengaging from the real world.

    When my former college hired crossing guards to help adults cross a minor city street because they couldn't take their eyes off their gadgets I became convinced something significant has changed. When I see a lack of pick-up games and activity in the parks on beautiful days but see the organized indoor summer camps bustling with kids and tight supervision I wonder if we've become unable to live in the real world.

    We live in a world that is safer than ever - whether we're talking about world politics or safety in our neighborhoods but we're also acting more fearful than ever.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nojayuk (567177) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:11PM (#44569393)

    I live in the centre of a city with the best public bus service in the nation, operating at a profit with regular clean modern buses, express services to the airport, park-and-rides, good handicapped access, night bus services etc.

    Despite this the big city centre employers like the financial services companies, healthcare, TV stations etc. all run their own shuttle bus operations as the public buses don't necessarily go from one office to another, although a few bus routes actually go into company campuses to pick up and drop off passengers at the office front door as well as passing through the business parks on the city outskirts.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:16PM (#44569435)

    Within the past month I've started a job in San Jose, moving from the US East Coast to Silicon Valley.

    This area has the worst (inefficient, inconvenient, and slow) public transit system I've ever seen. I've opted to rent a car (at $250+ per week) until I can have mine shipped out here just so I don't have to rely on the light rail and buses. It's that bad.

  • Re:Sooo.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by darkwing_bmf (178021) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:19PM (#44569463)

    I'm not sure that's true. If you divide the cost among all the passengers it will probably be less than the cost for each passenger to drive separately. So getting paid more would actually mean less money for you after expenses.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Stumbles (602007) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:41PM (#44569653)
    Sounds like the beginnings of "The Company Store" coal miners suffered in the 1800s. i wonder when Google will start paying their employees in Google dollars that can only be spent at Google stores. Of course Apple and others will have their equivalent money.
  • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:53PM (#44569751)

    Rich people walling themselves off from poverty all around them? What could go wrong?

    Have you ever been to San Francisco? There are rich people, and richer people. Googlers, Applers, etc, are choosing to live in SF to enjoy the lifestyle of the city. They are not "walling themselves off" just because they take a bus to work.

    Some people will whine about anything. If we find a cure for cancer, someone (probably the author of this article) will complain that grave diggers are out of work.

  • by hawguy (1600213) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @08:00PM (#44569799)

    Really. So companies provide employees with a free benefit, thereby reducing pollution, and relieving traffic congestion, and this means that things are "getting worse"? This is the stupidest article I have read so far today.

    I think the problem is that it's turning SF into a "bedroom community" for employers far to the south rather than having the workers live *and* work in the city (thus they are spending less time and money in the city. When I worked in SF during the first dot-com boom, my coworkers and I all went out to lunch at local restaurants and met after work at local bars. The worker that leaves the city at 7am on a bus, and them comes home at 7pm to be dropped off in his neighborhood is probably not spending as much time going out and supporting local businesses. Further, the added influx of SF residents are driving up rents, so even those that *do* work in SF find it difficult and expensive to find a place to live. Oh, and the city receives no payroll tax for those employees, so not only does the city earn less tax revenue due to reduced spending by these workers, but they receive no payroll tax either.

    Rather than subsidizing bus travel to make it more attractive to live in SF and work 40 miles south, it would be nice to see the Peninsula cities and tech companies work on making it more attractive for their employees to live closer to work. It's no fun to live next to an office park that becomes a big unwalkable, bike unfriendly concrete wasteland after working hours.

  • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @09:02PM (#44570207)

    I think the problem is that it's turning SF into a "bedroom community" for employers far to the south rather than having the workers live *and* work in the city (thus they are spending less time and money in the city. When I worked in SF during the first dot-com boom, my coworkers and I all went out to lunch at local restaurants and met after work at local bars. The worker that leaves the city at 7am on a bus, and them comes home at 7pm to be dropped off in his neighborhood is probably not spending as much time going out and supporting local businesses. Further, the added influx of SF residents are driving up rents, so even those that *do* work in SF find it difficult and expensive to find a place to live. Oh, and the city receives no payroll tax for those employees, so not only does the city earn less tax revenue due to reduced spending by these workers, but they receive no payroll tax either.

    Rather than subsidizing bus travel to make it more attractive to live in SF and work 40 miles south, it would be nice to see the Peninsula cities and tech companies work on making it more attractive for their employees to live closer to work. It's no fun to live next to an office park that becomes a big unwalkable, bike unfriendly concrete wasteland after working hours.

    So let me get this straight. These people are commuting out of the city they live in to go to work on company supplied buses and this is causing the city to loose money? It would be no different if they drove themselves to work. These people may be even less likely to live in the city if they had to drive themselves everyday. In which case the city would get nothing from them. As it is, the city is collecting property and local taxes from these people. They probably also do most of their shopping in the city, so the local businesses are making money and the city is getting sales taxes. It''s my understanding that most of these tech places also have their own food services and such, so I fail to see how the city is losing much from the lunch crowd either.

    Now if you want to see the reverse of this, come to D.C. Damn near everyone who works in the city lives along the beltway in Virginia or Maryland. So the city gets all of the lunch crowd people. Then they go home and spend their money where they live and pay their taxes there too. Those areas are very well off for the most part. DC itself is broke. If it wasn't for the federal government propping it up it would be an even bigger hell hole than is already is. The 2010 violent crime rate> was 207% higher than the national average. [cityrating.com]Sanfrancisco [cityrating.com] was 73% higher. So no, Getting people to move away is not going to do anything for the city. Just look at Detroit.

    Your remark about driving the property values up I agree with, but that seems to be happening most places.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @09:41PM (#44570383)

    The picture in the article was taken 100 feet from my house, and the rental units in our building have gone up from $1800/mo to $2800/mo within just two years. I'm not complaining, but the article is dead-on that this huge influx of intelligence and money has thus far failed to actually lead to any benefit for the large majority of people who actually live here. It's a bit of a disappointment so far, and possibly a prelude to what's to come for the rest of the country (?).

    I actually left Silicon Valley 14 years ago in order to escape the slit-your-wrists boredom of Silicon Valley. San Jose is loaded to the gills with money, but they never seem to prioritize perks for those who are not directly working for those companies. To give just one example, I distinctly recall having to drive quite a distance to get to the nearest bar, even when I was working for a great company. San Jose's idea of a solution to that sort of problem is to vigorously go after drunk drivers (as opposed to just creating more and better mass transit). Those who have lived in the Bay Area might have noticed the incredible difference between San Jose and San Francisco police officers.

    I think many people are legitimately concerned about what this culture brings with it. The human aspects of San Francisco which set San Francisco apart from the rest of the world -- the electronic music, burning man artists, etc -- have already mostly crossed the bridge to Oakland.

    In reviewing the comments here, I'm honestly not completely surprised that the people here would take a clinical view of the article. This is not exactly a reflective community. You guys probably won't get it until your tech company throws you away at age 45 or 50, as tends to happen when your pay gets too high. Will you know enough to start up your own company at that point? Those who have put everything they had into their work tend not to have the time to think about such things. The same things that make the Silicon Valley culture lacking in empathy also sporadically appear here too.

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