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New Tech Money, Same Old Problems 372

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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  • by sackofdonuts ( 2717491 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:36PM (#44569061)
    Driving in the Bay area is horrid. Getting bus service to and from work would be great. Could get some extra sleep too.
  • This is good. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkwing_bmf ( 178021 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:37PM (#44569063)

    The buses are better for the environment and road congestion than if each person had to drive individually. And they don't cost taxpayers extra money. This sounds like a win-win to me.

  • WTF perspective (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:37PM (#44569065) Homepage
    Leave it to the mainstream media to take a bizarre perspective and pretend like it's real. They like to go on about public transportation but will you ever see a big name journalist on a bus? Oh hell no. Yeah, I'm not talking about taking the subway in New York City.

    I love how they harp on the fact that "the bus schedules are withheld from the public" like it's some sort of conspiracy theory. Unless your destination is their company, you've got no business sitting on that bus. I suppose they'd prefer the alternative, that employees drive themselves to work in private automobiles? Just more proof (if any was needed) that journalists ignore progress and immediately spring to interpret the next new events in whatever negative manner they can think of.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:41PM (#44569111)
    there's this "turnip truck" thing, too.
  • Re:Allegory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:43PM (#44569147)


    OK, maybe it's because I'm an old-school Missouri farm boy, but... that sounds an awful lot like cows at a stockyard.

    Don't they have school buses in Missouri? This is pretty much the same thing.

    And maybe it's because I'm from a European city, but it sounds like the public transport isn't very good if companies run private buses. The Google, Facebook etc here don't need buses, nor (presumably) do the offices in New York. (We don't have school buses here either, children are expected to use the normal public transport. It's free for them.)

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:44PM (#44569157) Journal

    So, the author is pissed off at Apple and Google for solving their own transportation and parking problems instead of waiting around for the incompetent local politicians to handle it?

    Guess it was a slow news day on the "bitching about non-problems" desk at the LA times.


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:45PM (#44569167)

    Quote: the sharpening division between those who are riding the high-tech industry's good fortunes and those who are not.'"

    How 'bout a little perspective? I'm not riding on one of those buses, but I do recognize the fact that the people who do aren't just lucky. They are actually contributing to the "good fortunes", which trickle down to everybody else.

    Sorry if you are one of those who only get a trickle, but that's a lot better than nothing - especially if you contribute nothing.

    If you want to get "upstream", try going to school for something useful (like STEM) and not liberal arts.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:45PM (#44569169)

    What's even more confusing is the article treats this like a bad thing, but it's objectively making bay area commutes BETTER by taking thousands of cars off the roads. Can you imagine how much worse traffic would be if these shuttles weren't in place?

    It's not like other mass transit is an option. Caltrain is already overloaded.

  • by korbulon ( 2792438 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:49PM (#44569201)

    This is a logical extension of the sort of the carefully cultivated isolation you encounter on a university campus. Why subject your employees to the outer-world that is - let's face it - such a nuisance and an eye-sore. Who wants to deal with the unpleasantness of ghetto-fabulous Oakland or South San Francisco? Fuck that. Reality is for suckers.

    To be fair, Silicon Valley merely compounds a problem that's been in the Bay Area for a while now - namely the ghetto-ization and nimby-ism that's been going on for decades now. The left-wing excesses begun in the sixties and seventies are now coming home to roost, though a lot of ex-hippies get to watch the drama unfold from the comfort of their homes in the Berkeley hills. Why yes I do bitter much.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:50PM (#44569209)

    "... that sounds an awful lot like cows at a stockyard."

    It's worse than that.

    I've had A LOT of job opportunities in San Francisco. (I live far from there.) The cost of living there is significantly more than twice as high as it is here. (According to CNET's Cost of Living Calculator.) And that's not all... the "quality of life" is just plain different. Row houses with no yards, built an inch apart from each other. Lack of adequate opportunity for outdoor activities. Etc. I could go on for a while about how "quality of life" is just plain not as good there.

    I keep telling recruiters that if they want me to move, it would have to be an improvement over what I can get here. So that means they'd have to pay me at least 3 times what I can make here, in order for it to be an actual step up.

    They look at me like I'm crazy... but they're the ones who are crazy.

  • Wait, what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <> on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:54PM (#44569245)

    So organized door-to-door mass transit, reduces the environmental impact of rush hour, reduces roadway congestion in an already congested area, removing the need to drive the commute, your fellow passengers will be co-workers, so it's expected that they'll maintain a reasonable level of public decency, and you don't have to find and subsequently pay for parking, and it's not being paid for with taxes but as a perk to attract more workers - and somehow this is a class warfare thing?

    This is just a capitalistic thing.

    You wanna know how you can get on those luxury buses that ferry people from point A to a company's door? Just work for the company. You wanna know how you can get those big salaries that are driving the gentrification of the worst parts of town, making them safe and livable for a family? Just work for the company. You wanna know how you can end up a millionaire? Have an idea, work it, and sell it or start up a company to grow it.

    This isn't a class barrier, it's a time, effort, skill, and experience thing. That's how our economic system works.

    It does suck that an area becoming a better class of neighborhood results in raised rents, but that is literally the price to be paid. The good news is that the more affluent individuals are in an area, the better it is for everyone. It might not increase in equal measures, but it's been well documented - average pay goes up in those areas, following the trend for cost of living.

    It's not like a downtown of a city is ever going to be static. It was different than it was 20 years ago, and 20 years before that, and so on. It's always changing, and there's not anything wrong with that. Besides, what comes to mind when I think of a successful anti-gentrification trend is Detroit.

    You don't want to end up like them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @06:56PM (#44569265)

    The more you isolate people from poverty around them, the more you'll hear stuff like "if people are starving, let them eat cake." It rots the soul. If a millage comes up to improve public buses, how would you expect them to vote?

  • Re:Can't win (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:11PM (#44569391)

    If they were public buses instead of company buses, would they clog the streets any less? Whoever owns and rides them, they are mass transit. Only in San Francisco would people complain about folks using mass transit. I'm no big fan of Silly Valley and its satellite communities like San Francisco, but this has to be one of the silliest, and most hypocritical, complaints I've ever heard.

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

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:12PM (#44569403)

    No, you are missing the point. There busses, Caltrain and BART already ... instead of these corps. helping to make public transit even better they are opting out of paying their fair share and spending it on MORE busses that only their employees can ride ... which clog the streets even more. I pass a bunch of them each morning on my ride in. *shrug*

    Wait, What? Opting OUT?

    Do these companies somehow not have to pay all the local taxes that other companies pay to support the public buses that always run in the RED? Do these private buses opt out of all the road tax, licensing fees, gas tax that the public buses are exempt from paying?

    Would not the local buses also have to increase vehicles on the road to compensate if these private services were discontinued? Would those buses be direct routes? With WIFI, comfy seats, and no smelly vagrants sitting next to someone trying to write an email or looking at some proprietary code?

    Basically, I don't see the problem here, other than the local bus systems are deprived of the opportunity to LOSE MORE MONEY for every rider the private services handle.

    That and a great deal of envy and jealousy on your part.

  • by icebike ( 68054 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:20PM (#44569477)

    The more you isolate people from poverty around them, the more you'll hear stuff like "if people are starving, let them eat cake." It rots the soul. If a millage comes up to improve public buses, how would you expect them to vote?

    Oh, I see.
    The issue isn't that smart technically competent people have high paying jobs, the problem is that they don't have to look at stupid incompetent street riff-raf and gang bangers.

    By all means, lets inflict a affluence penance on these high tech workers, and have mandatory alley tours and sniff safaris into the back streets, because god knows its just not fair that someone who works hard to acquire marketable skills should profit while the high-school drop out has to drive a cab, or panhandle for money.

    Seems your envy has gotten the better of you.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:36PM (#44569613)

    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.

  • Re:Commuting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:42PM (#44569663)

    That's what I love about Silly Valley. On the one hand they complain about not being able to get enough people, in part because housing is too expensive, and on the other hand they won't allow construction of new, preferably higher density, housing. Either you want to be a major tech hub, or you want to be a low density suburb. Sorry folks, you can't have it both ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:43PM (#44569677)

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

  • by CalRobert ( 2451626 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @07:56PM (#44569777)
    I work for a company with offices in SF and Dublin (Ireland, not the one by Pleasanton). In both cases they strongly encourage the use of public transit, and we go out to local restaurants for lunch most days. Interaction with folks in the community is encouraged. Perhaps the issue here isn't tech, but rather the isolation that comes from working in remote suburban campuses far away from the city people want to live in. Thankfully I work in the center of both of these fine cities. If only most Googlers were so lucky! I assure you if these same companies put their campuses in places you could easily get to via BART (or even Caltrain; right now it's great for getting to a point 5 miles from your job) you'd see plenty of people taking normal transit instead of the private buses. As it is now I'd say it's a hell of a lot better to put one bus on the road than 45 cars.
  • Re:Allegory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @08:17PM (#44569925)
    Google is hiding over $10 billion in offshore tax havens and Facebook paid no income tax in 2012. Public transportation sucks. I wonder if there's a connection.
  • by Trailer Trash ( 60756 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @08:21PM (#44569971) Homepage

    Google and Apple do nothing of consequence? How in the hell did you get modded up past -10?

    Google is worth many many thousands of dollars/year to my company. There's no way to program in a modern system like RoR without being able to search and find answers to questions. That's not to mention all of the other stuff that I can easily search and learn about, like when I had shingles 4 weeks ago. What used to take me a day at the library 25 years ago now takes me 5 minutes. Sorry, that's value.

    Don't even get me started about my iphone.

  • Re:Allegory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @08:40PM (#44570081)

    I wonder if there's a connection.

    It's the same government which is too incompetent to run mass transit or tax a business. Who here really thinks that if California and the US were to tap into these businesses that things would be even a bit better? It's not that these governments aren't getting enough revenue, but that they simply squander whatever they get. Double their revenue, and they'll just double what they squander.

  • by Macman408 ( 1308925 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @09:27PM (#44570325)

    Maybe these people aren't eating lunch in the city any more, but the people I know who have moved there want to live there exactly because they want to spend their time and money there. They aren't moving there because it's more convenient, or less expensive, or has better housing - they move there because there's better food, better nightlife, better social atmosphere.

    Of course, this ends up benefitting the high-class, trendy local establishments, possibly at the expense of the ones that are not.

    I'm sure they're pricing many people out of the housing market - but that's happening everywhere within about an hour of any of the tech companies, save for a few spots that have a reputation of being unsafe or in an undesirable location (adjacent to train tracks or highways, perhaps). It's not unique to San Francisco. Although the presence of a bus stop may amplify the effects of techies in a small area, the techies moved to the city before the bus service started. (I work for a company where it is a perennial request to run a shuttle from the city for the employees that already live there.) Additionally, there are bus stops in many other areas - a friend of mine often rides one from south San Jose, for example. And it's not just distant destinations, either; I have seen an Apple bus dropping off about a dozen employees a mere 3 miles from the mothership, in a completely boring (but still expensive) neighborhood.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @09:54PM (#44570435)

    the "lifestyle" they crave is getting killed off by the gentrification the tech money is bringing in.

    Except that SF was fully gentrified forty years ago when the gays and DINKs* moved in. Other than the homeless, poor people haven't been able to live in SF since before you were born. I don't think many theaters, shops, bars and restaurants are shutting down because their customers are "too rich".

    *DINK = Double Income, No Kids

  • Re:Wait, wait (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @10:36PM (#44570643)

    Only a complete moron woud turn around the need to hide yourself in your own car (and pay for it) as a sing of "being connected to the world"

    Oh, no, that isn't it at all.

    This is the tired leftist (I mean actual leftist, not the Democrats' 'I'm kind of tired so I've kind of shifted my weight and now I'm leaning slightly I guess' left) bullshit that's ended in ruin every time it's been attempted.

    The simple, asinine idea that poor people with no hope and nothing to lose are going to magically transform - complete with theme song, costume change, and kawaii fan service - the moment they're in contact with the middle class.

    In reality, a bunch of geeks would get beaten up and/or killed; their iDevices would be stolen and sold out of dark alleyways; and Middle Class Flight ("White Flight" has never been the correct term, as the exoduses have always contained many skin colors) will begin.

  • by micheas ( 231635 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2013 @11:29PM (#44570881) Homepage Journal

    Except that it is more profitable to produce housing that is 25% occupied that is priced at > two million a unit than lower priced units that are actually occupied by residents of the city.

    The 25% occupancy rate was a fairly recent number from One Rincon Hill With units going for between $700,000 and $30,000,000. That is some of the densest housing in San Francisco.

    One of the effects of Prop 13 is that in California when your property goes up in value, your taxes go up no more than 2% annually, and when your property goes down in value you get a new lower cost basis for which to limit your annual increase from. This means that housing shortages that predominantly effect the young and entrepreneurs minimally effect the large voting block of older voters allowing rather unique real estate economic systems to form. Many of them encouraging a concentration of wealth.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of car payments. -- Earl Wilson