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Google Transportation News

Protesters Show Up At the Doorstep of Google Self-driving Car Engineer 692

mpicpp sends this report from Ars Technica: "Protests against tech giants and their impact on the San Francisco Bay Area economy just got personal. According to an anonymous submission on local news site Indybay, an unknown group of protesters targeted a Google engineer best known for helping to develop the company's self-driving car. ... The protest against Levandowski came the same day that the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority (SFMTA) voted for the first time to take action regulating Google, Facebook, Apple, and a number of other large tech companies that shuttle workers in private, Wi-Fi-enabled buses from the Bay Area to points south in Silicon Valley."
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Protesters Show Up At the Doorstep of Google Self-driving Car Engineer

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  • by div_2n ( 525075 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:08PM (#46040069)

    The protesters are part of a group that are upset about gentrification. In the event that you don't know what that is, I'll explain since all the posters so far clearly didn't read the actual article (another day on /.). Quite simply -- it's when people with significant wealth and/or income move into an area of people with less wealth/income and thereby drive up real estate prices beyond what the established population can potentially afford. Hint: property taxes start going up and the established population can't afford to buy/rent a new place in their current neighborhood and possibly can't afford their current residence anymore and will be forced to move potentially far from where they currently live. For families, this is a non-trivial challenge.

    They've been protesting Google buses because this has put gentrification onto the fast track by making areas more attractive to Google employees that otherwise wouldn't have been due to transportation headaches. Getting a company funded ride straight to work is not a small deal.

    Note I'm not taking a side on the issue, just pointing out what's going on. Essentially you have people that can see the time coming when they will have to move and it's directly the result of Google and its employees. I won't use the word "fault" because that implies wrongdoing.

    The tactics of the protesters are clearly questionable, but I'll leave that up for the ensuing discussion.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:19PM (#46040211)

    So the Silicon Valley Masters of the Universe are shuttled to work in their private Wi-Fi enabled comfort busses, free from having to deal with the riff-raff of society while the common folk are out their sucking on exhaust fumes.

    I can't imagine a scenario where this turns out badly.

    I can imagine one scenario -- if the buses stopped overnight and suddenly 30,000 people decided to drive to work instead of take a shuttle since public transit is so unusable for their commute. So instead of hundreds of buses, you'd have thousands of extra cars on the road.

  • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:21PM (#46040255) Homepage Journal

    So they're being too eco-friendly with the bus rides? Or everyone's jealous about the benefits? Or public transportation isn't crowded enough? I don't get it but I have the sneaking suspicion that these people are morons.

    I think you've missed the point. Dozens of companies in the peninsula have their own dedicated bus lines. The bus-to-person ratio is quite high, and this is not as eco-friendly as you might think. It also causes congestion in the city, and confusion at the shared bus stops (which are owned by the city of SF), both of passengers and of citizens looking for a bus they can actually ride.

    The city taxing the bus services allows maintenance to be applied to the extra load of the stops as well as planning for the increased traffic these systems create. I think it is quite reasonable.

    Daily Kos had a good explanation of the problem [] back in April.

  • by supervillainsf ( 820395 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:23PM (#46040283)
    Except for the fact that there is no city bus that runs from San Francisco or Berekely to Mountain View, so the competition would be with CalTrain which is owned by Amtrak. As for Bus service, anyone who does the SF - South Bay commute will be familiar with Bauer's busses and they are a private company doing exactly what you are saying can't be done. So, the whole "can't compete with gubment" thing is a bit stupid in this context.
  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:37PM (#46040441) Homepage

    Please note that rising property taxes is not a big issue in California because of Prop 13, which prevents properties from being reassessed until their next transfer of ownership. People who already own houses in the neighborhood will not see their property taxes go up any more than they otherwise would. Prop 13 was passed specifically to prevent owners from being forced out of their homes by rising property taxes, and it does a good job. Gentrification may increase the cost of living in other ways (e.g. by replacing affordable local stores with more expensive ones) but it will also help the local city's finances and help to pay for better public services.

    The people who really lose out to gentrification are renters, who certainly can be priced out of their neighborhood. Even rent control and other tenant protections can be worked around, if nothing else by landlords selling to owners who plan to live there rather than rent out the property.

  • Re:Wait so now (Score:5, Informative)

    by hey! ( 33014 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:52PM (#46040681) Homepage Journal

    It never went out of fashion. The difference is there used to be a firewall against fanaticism: upward mobility.

    The Great Recession reduced the median net worth of American Household's by 39%, and 85% of self-identified middle class people say it has become harder to maintain a middle-class lifestyle over the past decade (citation: 2012, Pew Research Center, "Fewer, Poorer, Gloomier: The Lost Decade of the Middle Class"). The Great Recession also wiped out 15 years of growth in the median household income in the US (citation: Wikipedia, 'Household income in the United States',, with the median continuing to drop even after economic growth resumed, although truth be told median household income was stagnant through the first decade of this century.

    If you want to know how politically stable this country is, look at those median numbers. If they drop or stagnate while average incomes rise, that means the mass of people in the country are experiencing economic insecurity, and a certain proportion of those people are apt to be radicalized -- toward both ends of the political spectrum.

  • Re:Wait so now (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guspaz ( 556486 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @06:57PM (#46040761)

    Indeed, the protesters weren't complaining about rent, but about how the engineer "is building an unconscionable world of surveillance, control, and automation", that the designer of a condo he wants to build "[have] created military installations, malls, and hospitals", that they are destroying the economy by "growing their own vegetables in a rooftop garden and selling them to other wealthy people"... They talk about how they stalk him in his morning routine and that when he descended the stairs of his home with his baby in his arms, he "appeared in this moment like the robot he admits that he is."

    They also go on some insane rant about mining and that "Anthony Levandowski has never worked in a pit mine"...

    These people come off as a bunch of creepy stalker nutjobs. If I was their target, I would legitimately fear for the safety of my family.

  • by jcr ( 53032 ) <jcr.mac@com> on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @07:01PM (#46040815) Journal

    I don't suppose it's occurred to you that the number and capacity of the busses is adjusted according to what the operators know about their client's needs?

    This isn't a government operation we're talking about here.


  • Re:Wait so now (Score:4, Informative)

    by Luckyo ( 1726890 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @07:28PM (#46041133)

    It's been so for a while. People stalk researchers working on life-savng drugs, threaten to kill a woman with cancer who thanks the people who work on saving her life and so on.

    Being a crazy lunatic is fashionable in certain circles. It's quite sad really.

  • Re:Wait so now (Score:5, Informative)

    by triffid_98 ( 899609 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @08:24PM (#46041531)

    The Great Recession really sucks, and the investment banks have never been held to account for their strong role in creating it [...], but don't lay all the world's ills at its doorstep. We're still far better off economically than the 70s!

    In spite of a far more educated workforce I have serious doubts that that's true.

    Adjusted for inflation, the median household income in 1975? $45,788
    The median household income in 2012? $51,017

    But wait you (might) say. That means we're better off now....except for one small detail. We're measuring household income.

    In the 1970's that was (generally) one persons income, in 2012 that's two people's income. In terms of physical goods I think we compare quite favorably, but factoring in things like housing, energy and food? Not so much.


  • Re:Wait so now (Score:5, Informative)

    by meerling ( 1487879 ) on Wednesday January 22, 2014 @10:01PM (#46042323)
    You do know that lots of gold is mined in the USA.

    In 2012 the United States produced 230 tonnes of gold, making it the third-largest gold-producing nation, behind China and Australia. South Africa (that's actually a country) is 5th, while the Democratic Republic of the Congo isn't even in the top 10.

    Most gold is used for jewelry, not electronics, so go protest a freaking jeweler.
  • by rgmoore ( 133276 ) <> on Thursday January 23, 2014 @12:35AM (#46043045) Homepage

    I certainly wouldn't say that Prop 13 is an unalloyed good, but you're partly misunderstanding how it works. The assessment only goes up- or only goes up by more than 2%/year- when the property changes ownership, i.e. when it's sold or inherited, not when it changes occupants. This means it has the kind of effect you're describing mostly for owner occupied housing, not for rental apartments. What it really does is to give a tax advantage to owners who have owned a long time, whether they live in the property or not.

    It's also important not to exaggerate the importance of property tax in the overall cost of a property. Prop 13 also rolled back property taxes to 1% of the value of the property, and while there have been some tax increases since then, typical property tax rates in California are around 1.25%. If somebody wants to sell their house to move into a smaller house, a big jump in real estate prices will generally give them big windfall profits on the sale that will soften the blow of higher taxes on the new place. There's also a special clause that lets people over 65 carry some of the reduced assessment from their old house if they sell and buy a new place; value in their new house up to the sale price of their old house will be assessed at the assessment for their old house, so their taxes won't go up unless they're moving into a more expensive house.

Love may laugh at locksmiths, but he has a profound respect for money bags. -- Sidney Paternoster, "The Folly of the Wise"