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Google Transportation Technology

Google Co-Opts Whale-Watching Boat To Ferry Employees 373

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-illegal-to-look-at-whales-without-a-google+-account dept.
theodp writes "Purportedly intended to defuse tensions over gentrification that have led to blockades and vandalism of Google's ubiquitous shuttles (video), which make use of public San Francisco bus stops (map), Wired reports that Google is now chartering a ferry to take its workers from SF to Silicon Valley. 'We certainly don't want to cause any inconvenience to SF residents, and we're trying alternative ways to get Googlers to work,' Google explained. Inconveniencing whale-seeking visitors to The Aquarium of the Pacific, however, is apparently not considered evil. After learning that Google had co-opted the $4 million, 83-foot, 150-passenger whale-watching catamaran MV/Triumphant to ferry as few as 30-40 Googlers to work, some expressed concerns on Facebook that Google would be The Grinch That Stole Whale Watching Season (not to worry; the boat's slated to make its 'triumphant' return to Long Beach after Google's '30-day trial')."
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Google Co-Opts Whale-Watching Boat To Ferry Employees

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  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:07PM (#45918695)

    People in the traffic jams are now able to watch whales getting brought to work by boat.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      People in the traffic jams are now able to watch whales getting brought to work by boat.

      This has me thinking you are talking about whales commuting to work.

      How many lanes do they take otherwise? A boat might really be the answer.

  • Citation Needed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pdbogen (596723) <pdbogen-slashdot@@@cernu...us> on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:14PM (#45918775) Homepage

    theodp, do you have any source whatsoever to actually back up your assertion that the use of the boat is intended to defuse tension?

    And since when is "inconveniencing" tourists by chartering just ONE of the boats "in the fleet" considered evil, as you imply?

    • Re:Citation Needed (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Workaphobia (931620) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:17PM (#45918825) Journal

      Apparently if a boat is used for something besides its original purpose, no other boat can ever replace it. You know, cause boats and tasks mate for life.

      I'm no free market fanatic, but it's like they're *trying* to misunderstand basic supply and demand.

      • Re:Citation Needed (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gnick (1211984) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:23PM (#45918907) Homepage

        That was my impression too. This sounds like the equivalent of, "a company rented a van for a business trip that a family could have used for sight-seeing."

      • by theodp (442580)

        This was a state of the art whale watching boat christened just lasr July, coincidentally the same week that a bunch of folks from Google and the [Eric] Schmidt Ocean Institute were attending Ocean Exploration 2020 at the Aquarium of the Pacific with some of the world's foremost ocean explorers.

        • So? That makes me about as mad as when a corporation charters a private jet, when I think of all the people who would've liked to fly in that jet instead. You're really not selling me on the whole "Having nice things is despicable" argument. (Before you call that a strawman, I'll note that you're the one who put this action in the context of google's "Don't be evil" motto.)

    • by theodp (442580)

      From the Wired article linked to in the post: "The move, first reported by local CBS affiliate KPIX, seems aimed at defusing tensions that have led to blockades and vandalism of the ubiquitous shuttles, which make use of public San Francisco bus stops."

      • by pdbogen (596723)

        OK, that's better than nothing; but Wired's unfounded editorializing isn't really a valid source, either. It seems a stretch to believe that Google would be so tone deaf as to think chartering a boat would appease the anti-Gentrification protesters that are taking there angst out on Google.

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Anti-Gentrification? You mean racists.
    • Re:Citation Needed (Score:4, Informative)

      by AJH16 (940784) <aj AT gccafe DOT com> on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:47PM (#45919241) Homepage

      Particularly since they are using it in the off-season to keep the boat in use year round. Whales are in Hawaii now.

    • by mspohr (589790)

      Whale watching season is over for the year.
      It was great in November and we did see a few driving down the coast in December but they've gone to Baja and they won't be back until spring.

  • Moronic. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by t0qer (230538) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:14PM (#45918777) Homepage Journal

    So instead of peacefully letting the tech workers board somewhat environmentally friendly busses that are subjected to stringent emissions regulations, they harass google and others to the point where they have to ride a boat with NO emissions regulations to and from work? Not to mention the fuel economy of boat vs wheels is horrible.

    • I think the issue is that Google is using city bus stops without permission. In other words appropriating a public asset for private use. And possibly impacting the performance of a city service, have city buses had to wait while the google shuttle cleared the stop?

      If Google were picking up its employees somewhere else there would probably be no controversy.
      • by Paco103 (758133) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:01PM (#45919411)

        Is there a law against using the bus stops? (I don't live there, I truly don't know.)

        I get that we're saying they're for public buses, but how are they "specifically" for public buses any more than the roads are only for public transport? Just because no other buses have used it before? It seems to me a bus stop is simply a short term stopping point for drop offs and pick ups that happens to be large enough for buses and sometimes have benches or shelters for people. Private traffic impacts the performance of all kinds of city services. It can slow down fire trucks, ambulances (not always city services, where I live they are privately owned and operated). Some cities deal with these by putting in emergency lanes that actually do have laws that enforce nobody else using them, but unless that law exists for the bus stop I don't see a problem here. Either add more bus stops or enlarge existing ones due to usage patterns, or pass a law (if it's not already passed) stating that the stops are only for publicly operated city buses and then fine accordingly.

      • by j-beda (85386)

        I think the issue is that Google is using city bus stops without permission. In other words appropriating a public asset for private use. And possibly impacting the performance of a city service, have city buses had to wait while the google shuttle cleared the stop?

        If Google were picking up its employees somewhere else there would probably be no controversy.

        Google is not the only company doing this by the way. Additionally, this week SF announced a pilot project to license and charge companies for the use of specific bus stops on some sort of cost-recovery basis.

        http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/07/us-google-commuterbus-sanfrancisco-idUSBREA0517L20140107 [reuters.com]

        "City rules forbid the city from collecting more than the cost of providing the service, officials said."

        God forbid the city make a profit on the use of their assets. It seems like they could use this to s

        • "City rules forbid the city from collecting more than the cost of providing the service, officials said."

          If this is a problem, change the rule. It is just a rule, it is unlikely to be carved in stone anywhere.

          • by j-beda (85386)

            "City rules forbid the city from collecting more than the cost of providing the service, officials said."

            If this is a problem, change the rule. It is just a rule, it is unlikely to be carved in stone anywhere.

            I would not be surprised if it was a rule enacted to follow some misguided legislation prohibiting municipal governments from "unfairly" competing with the private sector. While I can sometimes see how that would be something worth avoiding, I don't usually have a knee-jerk reaction against services being offered by governments in every possible case.

  • by Workaphobia (931620) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:15PM (#45918799) Journal

    > Inconveniencing [whale watchers] is apparently not considered evil.

    I don't understand what anyone involved in this debacle wants google to do. Cease to exist? Develop transporter technology? In general, complaints about gentrification seem ridiculous. You can't complain about rich people outbidding you for your home any more than you can about immigrants stealing your jobs. What do you want, an act of congress to protect your economic niche? Hope you have a lobby.

    • by pdbogen (596723) <pdbogen-slashdot@@@cernu...us> on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:28PM (#45918987) Homepage

      The protesters basically want Google employees to leave San Francisco and stop causing rents to go up. They are angry at Google for making it easier for the employees to live here. The better pay means landlords can charge higher rents, and the landlords are using a loophole (the Ellis act) to evict residents that have been there longer, which usually means (due to rent control) they're paying less.

      It's not even an economic niche. It's an island that's being overtaken by rising tides, and the field mouse on the island are protesting the schools of fish that are taking up residence.

      • by MightyYar (622222) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:20PM (#45919609)

        It sounds to me like a failure of rent control, not a problem with Google. Either it was implemented poorly or it is a fundamentally flawed concept. You have a bunch of people who seem to feel entitled to lower-than-market living costs. Now, I agree that gentrification is a real social problem, and possibly some kind of rent control could help mitigate it - but this is a problem that the community needs to solve, not a company. While there might be some added incentive for people to live where they otherwise might not, the fact is that the main effect of the Google buses is probably of taking cars off of the road. SF was gentrifying before Google came along - it's a trend in many US cities right now. I'm glad we are talking about it, but I think Google is being singled out a bit unfairly.

        Since we are talking about gentrification, I wonder if a system requiring rent-to-own contracts instead of leases would serve the same purpose? By that, I mean where every day you live in a house/apartment, you own a little more of it. When you move out, the landlord can buy you out or profit share with you. If the area gentrifies rapidly, your share of the property will be worth a lot more than you paid in and you'll gain from the neighborhood's resurgence. I'm sure there are all sorts of ill effects that I haven't considered, but I'm just throwing it out there. I'm sure some legal eagles could make it all done in tax law, if there are constitutional concerns. Seems these days that the constitution matters little if the legislation is done in the tax code.

        • Rent control is already forcing landlords to share profits with the renter. The renter gets below-market rent.

          • by MightyYar (622222)

            Agreed. It's a horse of a different color - not all that radical. However, it would eliminate the landlord's incentive to kick you out.

    • by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#45919017)

      In general, complaints about gentrification seem ridiculous.

      The complaints are especially ridiculous when they come from the same nimbys that lobby against the construction of any new housing in SF.

    • Develop transporter technology?

      Proposal accepted.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      gentrification

      One of the many problems is they have rent control.

      http://steshaw.org/economics-in-one-lesson/chap18p1.html

      Think of it this way. Lets say you have 100 houses in a desirable area. But say 50% are in 'rent control'. Those 50 are basically off the market. The people living in them have no incentive to move as long term their price of housing is going down due to inflation. This causes the remaining 50 houses to have a much higher burden of picking up demand. Thus raising the price on them.

    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Yes. They want Google to cease to exist. This is clearly an attempt at a smear campaign. Google having enough employees living close enough together and working close enough together that they can all take a loaded buss to and from work is an environmentalists wet dream. The only thing that would make environmentalists happier is if Google rented out all of the housing next to the employees homes so that the Google employees could just walk to work.
    • If I were Google, I'd be encouraging people to relocate to Austin, a fine city which is the Live Music Capital of the World, and not particularly encumbered by artificial housing constraints. They can even go whale watching on Lake Travis, although they probably won't see any.

      Or they could ramp up their facility near here in Cambridge and rent the duck boats to take engineers over to Boston.
  • i dont get it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ganjadude (952775) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:16PM (#45918801) Homepage
    I really dont get it. While I understand google is not squeeky clean these days, why do people have to turn everything into an anti google issue? Google pays for busses to bring its employees to work? its bad!!!! Google tries something different with a ferry, OH NO now people cant watch the whales!!!! I mean come on already google could say they are going to give everyone in the state a brand new tesla, and someone would be bitching about how they wanted a ford
    • Re:i dont get it (Score:4, Informative)

      by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:21PM (#45918875) Homepage

      It wasn't that Google hired the buses. It was that Google's buses were using the public-transit bus stops, interfering with the regular buses. That's an entirely reasonable objection, if Google wants to run buses then let them arrange all the infrastructure needed themselves or pay the transit system for using public bus stops.

      • Re:i dont get it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pdbogen (596723) <pdbogen-slashdot@@@cernu...us> on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#45919011) Homepage

        Sort of. The protesters latched on to that as a visible and easily protestable symbol of the real problem.

        It's easy to get really, really angry at a super nice charter bus that's picking up the young and well-paid tech workers from your neighborhood (perhaps that you've lived in for a decade or more) that you're about to get kicked out of because you can no longer afford the rising rents.

        • by couchslug (175151)

          If you rent the neighborhood does not belong to you.

          Having been variously tenant, homeowner, and landlord I can see their side, but renting is transient and if you don't own you should not be planning to stay anywhere for a very long time. If you do own you should have a plan to adapt to changing property values and do well. If those values and the place you live in can be expected to crater (as was correctly anticipated in Detroit a LONG time before that happened), don't stand on sentiment and have a pla

      • Re:i dont get it (Score:5, Informative)

        by ganjadude (952775) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:37PM (#45919097) Homepage
        I dont know how it works in SF, but here where I live, a bus stop is open to any bus, public or private. We cant reasonably expect google to build its own bus stops, Now as for paying to use the existing stops I can see an argument for that route but my argument would be road taxes pay for that public use, therefore anyone can use it, even a private company
      • Re:i dont get it (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ShanghaiBill (739463) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:39PM (#45919133)

        It was that Google's buses were using the public-transit bus stops, interfering with the regular buses. That's an entirely reasonable objection

        No, that is not the objection. The protesters are primarily upset that Googlers are living in SF. It is legal for their buses to use the bus stops. Other private buses use them as well. There is minimal interference with the public buses.

        if Google wants to run buses then let them arrange all the infrastructure needed themselves or pay the transit system for using public bus stops.

        Everyone benefits from more buses and fewer cars on the roads. Allowing them to use the public bus stops is a good way to encourage desired behavior that benefits everyone, and it is legal for that reason. Requiring everyone with a bus to build their own redundant infrastructure would be idiotic.

        Google is acting responsible here. The protesters are idiots.

      • by mythosaz (572040)

        If Google had built their own bus stops, people would have been up in arms about them not peacefully coexisting with existing infrastructure.

        It's all sour grapes.

        I know SF runs on a tight schedule - it's always moving quickly to its next destination - but you can't have it both ways.

        Reminds me of a little neighborhood here downtown. [Overall, downtown here is a hit-and-miss mixture of early century houses, new businesses, run down junk, industrial areas - quite a mix indeed.] Anyway, a corner full of aban

      • Re:i dont get it (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:44PM (#45919201) Homepage

        It wasn't that Google hired the buses. It was that Google's buses were using the public-transit bus stops, interfering with the regular buses. That's an entirely reasonable objection, if Google wants to run buses then let them arrange all the infrastructure needed themselves or pay the transit system for using public bus stops.

        Google is now paying the city $100,000 annually for the use of the public bus stops.

      • It wasn't that Google hired the buses. It was that Google's buses were using the public-transit bus stops, interfering with the regular buses. That's an entirely reasonable objection, if Google wants to run buses then let them arrange all the infrastructure needed themselves or pay the transit system for using public bus stops.

        If interfering with regular buses was actually the problem, then I don't see that having Google pay for the privilege of using the bus stops solves anything.

        I can't find any evidence that that was really an issue, though. It sounds like this is more of a money thing -- complaints that Google employees are using infrastructure built for the public buses without having to pay for it. From that perspective, I agree that it is sensible to have Google pay to use them.

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        so Google just needs to do a month of having everyone that uses the buses drive - 1 person per car and see what that does to the traffic
      • by Belial6 (794905)
        Was it really interfering with regular buses? I highly doubt that. It is also not a reasonable objection. "Arrange all the infrastructure needed themselves" is a "if you want to make an apple pie, first you have to create a universe" type argument.

        As for paying to use the stops. A) Did they? No one has indicated what arrangements Google made with the city. B) It would be highly irresponsible for the city of San Francisco to charge for the use of these stops. They are on the street where cars drive
  • Co-opted or hired? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Todd Knarr (15451) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:18PM (#45918837) Homepage

    It sounds like Google didnt' co-opt the boat, they just hired it. The company that owns it and hires it out decided to take Google's offer over that of the whale-watching company who apparently didn't have a long-term contract for it's use. That's frankly one of the risks you take when you make your company's operation dependent on someone else without locking it down with an iron-clad air-tight contract: that someone else may change their mind and you're left high and dry.

    • It sounds like Google didnt' co-opt the boat, they just hired it. The company that owns it and hires it out decided to take Google's offer over that of the whale-watching company who apparently didn't have a long-term contract for it's use. That's frankly one of the risks you take when you make your company's operation dependent on someone else without locking it down with an iron-clad air-tight contract: that someone else may change their mind and you're left high and dry.

      Plus there's not exactly a shortage of charter boats operating out of Long Beach. TFS is a troll.

    • Shh... you're interrupting the "OMG GOOGLE IS EVIL" circlejerk.

  • by Meostro (788797) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:20PM (#45918855) Homepage Journal

    I don't think "co-opted" means what you think it means. I'm pretty sure Google just paid the operator for their service.

  • I'm just waiting . (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    One day, Google is just going to build a space station and all of their workers will be up there. Then other companies will follow suit.

    Eventually, all that will be left on the hot drought stricken planet will be the unemployable dregs with no skills and no worthwhile education - you know, all those losers that companies say have no skills or inadequate education. And the folks who don't fit into the corporate culture *cough*too old*cough*.

    Then in the meantime, when those losers complain about job prostpec

    • by mythosaz (572040)

      One day, Google is just going to build a space station and all of their workers will be up there. Then other companies will follow suit.

      Eventually, all that will be left on the hot drought stricken planet will be the unemployable dregs with no skills and no worthwhile education - you know, all those losers that companies say have no skills or inadequate education. And the folks who don't fit into the corporate culture *cough*too old*cough*.

      I watched Elysium too!

  • Missed the point (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think the anger is misplaced in the first place but this doesn't actually address what I see as the actual gripe.
    The reason people are mad a Google buses is because it enables and encourages Google employees to live in SF without paying expensive transportation costs or suffering the inconveniences of public transportation, which makes a two tiered system of those who work for a deep pocket tech companies and those who don't.
    It causes an increase in demand for housing which SF building laws do little to m

    • by mbkennel (97636)
      "suffering the inconveniences of public transportation, which makes a two tiered system of those who work for a deep pocket tech companies and those who don't."

      So if SF public transportation is inconvenient, then everybody should be inconvenienced?

      What about this angle: Google's busses are clearing up traffic of 20 cars.
  • by EMG at MU (1194965) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#45919013)
    Seriously will ./ try to slant anything to make Google look bad? Co-Opt a boat? Did Google storm the boat by force and take it over like nerdy pirates? Or did Google negotiate a contract with a company to use one of their boats? If whale watching is in such crazy demand that Google using a boat for 30 days is ruining the season then it sounds like there is a great business opportunity for someone to start another whale watching tour company.

    Why isn't anyone bitching about the owners of the boat letting Google use it? Becuase that wouldn't get ./'s pantys in a knot. Thats why.
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:30PM (#45919027)

    I would guess that moving 30-40 passengers via bus uses far less fuel than taking them by boat.

    Way to go SF! Save your bus-stops...

    We should expect pro-environment Berkley folks to be protesting the pro-bus-stop SF residents...

  • From this summary: "...some expressed concerns on Facebook..."
    From another summary today: "Google today announced new integration between Gmail and Google+..."

    Oh this irony!

  • The boat doesn't belong to the Aquarium of the Pacific; it belongs to a private harbor cruise company. If the cruise company would rather charter the boat to Google than run whale-watching tours, why shouldn't they do so?

    As to the buses -- it seems that the excuse a lot of opponents use is that Google and other companies use the city's bus stops without paying for the privilege, either through fees or through fines. But the mayor of San Francisco doesn't seem to have any issues with this. Muni is actuall

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 10, 2014 @02:49PM (#45919267) Homepage

    I'm surprised Google is bothering with a boat. The boat only takes people as far as Redwood City. They've only doing a little more than half the trip by boat. They'll have to take buses at both ends. It doesn't seem worth the trouble to change vehicles twice.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I rode on a ferry once. I was heading to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe. So, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. 'Give me five bees for a quarter', you'd say. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah...the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They d

    • by j-beda (85386)

      I rode on a ferry once. I was heading to Shelbyville. I needed a new heel for my shoe. So, I decided to go to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. So I tied an onion to my belt, which was the style at the time. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days nickels had pictures of bumblebees on them. 'Give me five bees for a quarter', you'd say. Now, where were we? Oh, yeah...the important thing was that I had an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time. They didn't have white onions because of the war; the only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...

      Exactly!

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday January 10, 2014 @03:03PM (#45919425)

    ...after Google's '30-day trial'...

    Good grief. Even their boat chartering is in beta.

  • Telecommuting? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    If Google's people are so friggin' smart why are they wasting all this money on buses and ferries? Keep all the employees at home, make them telecommute, and use Hangout for meetings. How hard is that???

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