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'Google Buses' Are Bad For Cities, Says New York MTA Official 606

An anonymous reader writes "The Director of Sustainability for New York's MTA is calling out Google, Apple, and Yahoo for 'deliberately' building their campuses away from public amenities like restaurants, and public transportation. 'With very few honorable exceptions like Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, who recently moved his company headquarters from suburban Henderson to downtown Las Vegas, tech companies seem not to have gotten the memo that suburbs are old and bad news,' he writes. Instead of launching their own bus services to ferry people from the city to their campuses, as the tech companies have done, the Googles and Apples of the world should 'locate themselves in existing urban communities. Ideally, in blighted ones,' says Dutta." Maybe cities just don't have the right mix of amenities, price, space, parking, and other factors to make them better places to put certain businesses.
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'Google Buses' Are Bad For Cities, Says New York MTA Official

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  • True innovation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by korbulon ( 2792438 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @11:59AM (#46334693)
    Would be creating a virtual workplace with seamless interaction with coworkers. Why are we not working on this? We could live wherever we want, no commuting, no traffic pollution, no being forced to lived in high-priced areas where everything - housing, space, schools, parking - is at a premium. But the world seems content to move in the opposite direction: we have the internet, so let's move all the tech companies to one place.
  • by Albanach ( 527650 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:02PM (#46334721) Homepage

    I'm not sure you follow. Google run buses because driving is horrible, time consuming, unproductive, and because even in the suburbs land space for parking is expensive. They provide food because in the suburbs there are few other options.

    It's only close to home, because marketers decided every American should have a single family home (detached home in the rest of the world), and planners followed along, emptying city centers of residential accommodation. But then property prices skyrocket around large employers and many employees are still forced to commute to work simply to find property they can afford.

  • by jeffmeden ( 135043 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:12PM (#46334857) Homepage Journal

    But then property prices skyrocket around large employers and many employees are still forced to commute to work simply to find property they can afford.

    Its the ratrace; most employees could choose to live really close to work but it would mean an expensive move (if you own, moving costs tens of thousands of dollars) and higher (but affordable) monthly costs. Most gladly exchange an extra 30-45min on the daily commute for an extra 1000 sq feet in their house or perhaps enough money to take an annual vacation; that's just the way Americans like it.

  • Re:What an asshole. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:14PM (#46334883)

    What's interesting is that this guy is the director for the New York MTA, the company that runs the public transit in NYC. Google has a location in NYC, and it's right in Manhattan, not in the suburbs. It's in the Chelsea district. It's a pretty nice area; their building is right across from the Chelsea Market (basically an old factory converted into a small shopping mall mostly filled with restaurants and other food stores). It's definitely not a dangerous area (like most of Manhattan these days), but it's not anyplace you can live either; the cost of living there is astronomical. There's a reason so many Manhattan workers are moving out to Brooklyn, Queens, and northern New Jersey, or even out to Connecticut or Long Island.

    This idea of having workers living and working near the center of a city sounds all well and good from an efficiency perspective, but in reality it never seems to work out, at least in America. Either the downtown is a run-down dump like Detroit where it's extremely dangerous and there's a lot of crime and poverty, or it's "gentrified" like NYC and the cost of living is absolutely astronomical and unaffordable for anyone but the executives of these corporations (which is, of course, why companies like MTA exist, to move people between affordable areas where the live and the unaffordable areas where their jobs are). It'd be nice if it wasn't like this, but it is, though I'm not really sure why to be honest. I guess we just haven't figured out how to build buildings large enough so that it's possible for everyone to live near the workplaces, so there's a lack of supply for living spaces near the good locations, driving up prices.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:21PM (#46334999)

    It's my thought that crazed luddite zealots attacking Google's busses which will lead to the legislation allowing corporations to use lethal force to protect their property (to include their people).

  • by gentryx ( 759438 ) * on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:22PM (#46335007) Homepage Journal
    Foxconn [wikipedia.org] is already doing arcologies [economist.com]. Workers never have to leave the company's premises. I don't know whether they already include graveyards.
  • False comparison (Score:1, Interesting)

    by bradrum ( 1639141 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:28PM (#46335089)

    Its not even a "private alternative". I can't pay someone to take these Google buses if I am not one of the sanctioned few who work in the pearly gates of Apple, Google, Yahoo, etc... Its not even close to the services to the MTA provides, if you actually took the MTA you would understand that.

    I take it everyday and so does everyone else here. This is the great thing about NYC that people out in the burbs don't get. Except for the gilded few that get whisked around in limos and choppers in NYC public transit is the one thing most New Yorkers have in common and it makes for better citizens here. You can just see it in the amount of charitable giving, the lower crime, and the gregariousness of people that live here.

    I have lived in 5 different states and 8 different cities. I grew up in North Dallas, the home of the suburb. I can say with experience that this guy has a point because I have lived on both sides of the fence of this argument.

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:45PM (#46335313)

    Workers never get to leave the company's premises.

    Not true, they leave for Chinese Newyear. I was listening to an interesting piece of NPR and apparently the entire country shuts down for 2-3 weeks and the backlog of orders carries on for 2 months after that so if you outsource you have to have it built into your timetables. Part of the backlog is apparently caused by 15-20% of the workers failing to return because they found work closer to home or they decided that farming wasn't that bad.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:50PM (#46335397) Homepage Journal

    Where is your sense of social responsibility?

    Why are you using social responsibility and a business in the same sentence?

    A business is there ONLY to make money for itself and/or shareholders if it is public.

    Its gift to society is generating jobs for people and helping to fund the community at large by taxes, etc.

    But really...there is no social obligation by a business, that is something that is up to individual people in how they interact with each other.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @01:37PM (#46336065)

    I agree that the buses are a great solution as I support all forms of public transportation but I think you lost me with the inner city squalor. I live in a city. Not SF but another major metro and I live five minutes from the subway in a condo in a restored victorian home. I'm not particularly looking for bars and dance clubs but I did move here for the subway access. 30-min. commute to work, easy to go to a nice restaurant without driving after drinking, lots of jobs, being able to walk to my bank, food store, mechanic etc. Perhaps you consider that squalor but I enjoy it alright.

  • by ebno-10db ( 1459097 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @01:46PM (#46336171)

    Any major city ... has a pretty nice immediate downtown and a ring of shitty stuff out of that.

    Which means there isn't a decent affordable place to live near downtown, because downtowns are mostly business, and any decent housing in or near it is exorbitantly expensive due to demand. That's how much of Manhattan is. Lots of business, and some nice places to live, but nobody can afford them anymore. You also have some decent areas a short commute away, but they're still expensive. I wish I could afford Brooklyn Heights.

  • by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @03:27PM (#46337613)

    It was the other way round. Ford (the automobile company) developed the production line so that everyone could afford a car and enjoy living in the city and being able to drive out in the countryside during the weekends. Then customers had a better idea. They would all live in the countryside and drive into the cities. That displaced the existing farm workers who then ended up moving into the cities, leading to blockbusting of luxury apartment blocks and white flight. Blockbusting meant that large comfortable apartments with four or more bedrooms were subdivided into smaller apartments.

    Meanwhile the oil and gas companies saw what was happening and gave things an extra push by closing down the tram and railway lines so that everyone had to drive a car to get to work. By the time everyone had moved out into the countryside, there wasn't any left, it had all become suburbs.

  • by jwdb ( 526327 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @03:40PM (#46337797)

    Yeah, we have "townhouses" in America too. They're for people still trying to realize the American Dream.

    See, I think that's where you're wrong. Quite a few people would be perfectly happy with a nice town house in a decent but not necessarily gentrified part of the city. The shortage of that kind of housing drives people either into apartments or into the suburbs.

    But it's not the suburbs per se that are the problem, it's the sprawl: subdivision-style houses with single-use low-density zoning. It means the only thing there is to do in the suburbs is sleep and garden, and everything else is far away. Mixed zoning, and a move away from developers building cookie-cutter subdivisions would be a start in fixing this, and would actually make the suburbs an interesting place to live rather than just a residential wasteland. Build some row houses in the heart of the suburb together with some commercial streets and you've got a micro city, without many of the big city problems.

    I'd rather live in my car than in a subdivision house.

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