back to article Bay Area plots Googlebus tax after local residents riot

San Francisco officials have announced an 18-month pilot plan to tax tech company buses, after numerous protests by locals against the luxurious Silicon Valley worker wagons. The scheme was announced on Monday and means that companies like Google, Genentech, Apple, and others will start paying local officials for the use of …

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Boffin

House Calls?

The logical response from the tech companies running these shuttles would be to arrange to collect from workers private residences instead, and not use the public bus stops at all. Then they won't have to pay the local authority fees (they may still need to pay something to the workers whose residential parking they "borrow" instead).

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Re: House Calls?

This is california

The "logical" response would be for the state to allow 100% tax write-offs for programmers own vehicles - if they were OVER a certain weight.So all the workers had to do was register a side business, buy a HummVee and claim that they used it for work they get the purchase price back.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: House Calls?

The "logical" response would be for the state to allow 100% tax write-offs for programmers own vehicles - if they were OVER a certain weight.

A tax write off for fat programmers ?

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Re: House Calls?

I'm not even joking. Ca introduced a 100% tax write off for "work vehicles" which meant everyone in the state suddenly became a tupperware/avon agent and the taxpayer paid for a new BMW.

So the IRS introduced a minimum weight, so only work trucks would count, and so everyone bought Hummers.

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Re: House Calls?

"The logical response from the tech companies running these shuttles would be to arrange to collect from workers private residences instead, and not use the public bus stops at all. "

Maybe because:

"35,000 people board the buses per day"

And re-routing coaches off major roads where they make pick-ups and down every sidestreet someone happens to live on would cause a shit-ton of congestion?

I really can't see what the issue is. It seems to be "Waaah...those bastards get a free ride to work". I don't see how that is anyone else's business.

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Re: I really can't see what the issue is.

Oh the issue is pretty clear: Cali is filled with too many libturds (like the author of the article) who can't tell the difference between their money and other people's money.

Those people riding the public buses aren't paying anywhere near the cost of running the buses. At no cost to the city, the high tech companies are providing a similar service to their employees. And since they are private, they can keep them neat and clean and take disciplinary action against unruly passengers. If the high tech companies did away with their routes the city would lose even more money if they had to buy buses and staff them to make up for the increased passenger load. And that's assuming they DID pick up the extra work load.

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Excuse me?

They shouldn't be paying a damn penny.

If the NIMBYs don't like it, they're free to move. (or more sensibly keep their noses out of things that are nothing to do with them)

The buses are a good thing, they reduce road use, reduce pollution, reduce emissions and cost the local authority nothing as they're paid for by the companies involved.

How about taking action against the gangs of roving thugs assaulting people/vandalising property instead of pandering to them?

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Re: Excuse me?

I think part of the issue is that:

a) they can't move, prices have risen too much knocking them out of the marketplace

b) they are being forced to move as prices have risen and they can no longer afford the rent

There is no easy solution, the area initially wanted to get the tech companies in their area, now they are there, they have to deal with the issues surrounding that, maybe some other area will offer a huge tax discount and free transportation? Who knows.

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Re: Excuse me?

Great idea!

Lets get rid of the busses and the tech workers can all drive to work instead.

Maybe if the F-wits had an issue with the busses, they could actually run and charge the bus service for the companies. Google would only be subcontracting from a bus company anyway.

Can't see how Google can win. The existing bus services don't cater to their business. Residents complain about the private bus services. Residents complain about the extra cars if there was no busses. Residents complain if the tech companies move out and take their jobs and money with them leaving the residents living in a depressed area and dropping house prices.

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Fair's fair

These bus stops are normally reserved for public transportation, as in buses that anybody can ride on. If the tech companies want to use these bus stops, it is normal that they pay for their use. I understand that generally, an event happening on a public square requires renting that square from the town, e.g for putting a circus tent. This is no different.

Of course, this is not going to solve the main problem, which is that residents of San Francisco have worked hard through regulations and activism to have a super cool city, and now they are very disappointed that they cannot afford to live in that super cool city, because their own choices have made it too expensive for themselves. There is a great article on this here: http://www.sfweekly.com/1999-08-18/news/welcome-home/full/

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Re: Fair's fair

These bus stops are normally reserved for public transportation, as in buses that anybody can ride on.

Correct but remember we're talking about Google, who's entire business model is based on making money by leeching off other people's property.

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Re: Fair's fair

Correct but remember we're talking about Google, who's entire business model is based on making money by leeching off other people's property.

Is this becoming a fashion? "lol Google steals ur stuff"? Thought-stopping cliché, much?

Plenty of things you can accuse Google of, but this is not one of them. Of course, you are free to rewrite your robots.txt so that Google never touches your site again. Even perhaps block the entire Google IP range from your servers.

Now why don't we talk about Microsoft, whose entire business model is based around, oh, leeching off other people's property. The golden screwdriver business model, with added overtones of extortion and racketeering. Or Apple, who so desperately desire to be Microsoft, even while Microsoft wish they were as "cool" as Apple?

Frankly I'll take Google any day over those bridge-trolls.

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Re: Excuse me?

Because poor people in SF aren't like poor people in the UK. They don't lay there and take the shafting like a bitch and the local government realises that.

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Re: Fair's fair

I didn't say steal, I said 'leech' there's a difference.

You are assuming that personal information is all on servers that individuals have control over. This is simply not true.

I am also not prepared to entertain a bait and switch. Just because others are worse in some ways does not invalidate the argument.

No single organisation with the possible exception of the NSA has done more to dismantle privacy rights and personal control over private information. Remember Eric Schmidt's classic line ? If you don't want people finding out about something maybe you shouldn't be doing it.

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Re: Fair's fair

"These bus stops are normally reserved for public transportation, as in buses that anybody can ride on. If the tech companies want to use these bus stops, it is normal that they pay for their use."

But...why?

Rationally, why should a bus that is registered to use public roads, which is doing the City a favour by reducing traffic and pollution, have to pay to 'rent' a few hundred square feet of tarmac for less than an hour a day, broken up into 30 second chunks and dozens of locations. That's a quite absurd thing to charge for.

I object enormously to parking charges as-is [Oh, so it's worth £1.50 to borrow this car-sized zero-maintenance piece of tarmac for an hour in order to come and spend money in your town, is it:?], and this is a seemingly absurd escalation to that.

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Re: Fair's fair

These bus stops are normally reserved for public transportation, as in buses that anybody can ride on. If the tech companies want to use these bus stops, it is normal that they pay for their use. I understand that generally, an event happening on a public square requires renting that square from the town, e.g for putting a circus tent. This is no different.

It's completely different. They could stop their private buses anywhere that it is legal to stop a private vehicle, and do pick ups there, it is just more logical and less inconvenience for everyone else to use a regular 'stop'.

We're not talking about them renting or using bus stations, these 'stops' are poles by the side of the road.

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Re: Excuse me?

Okay, perhaps the state (and the people) shouldn't be paying "a damn penny" for private buses to be using the public bus stops, and if the companies or employees don't like it, they can move. Your logic works both ways.

Two wrongs don't make a right - sure, prosecute those engaged in illegal actions like vandalism too. That is not pandering them, unless you're suggesting that every tax payer is guilty of assault.

Not that there aren't other options - if public transport was better for everyone, this problem wouldn't exist. And if companies located themselves so walking, cycling or public transport was an option rather than cars or employee-only-buses, then that would be good too.

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Re: Fair's fair

" They could stop their private buses anywhere that it is legal to stop a private vehicle, and do pick ups there, it is just more logical and less inconvenience for everyone else to use a regular 'stop'."

Well there's a point, what is the law for private drivers who stop and wait at the marked out region for a bus stop? I mean, here in the UK there seem to be all sorts of rules and restrictions for things like stopping, parking, bus lanes and so on - and a private company wouldn't be exempt from them, or treated like a public bus, no matter how much you argue that it's more convenient.

If that is legal in the state, then it seems fair enough - though a fair response from the state could also be to change that law. If it isn't, then never mind payments, they should just hit them with the appropriate fines. The argument of "it's legal to stop anywhere else, so it's just as logical to do it here" doesn't work if it isn't legal there.

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Re: Fair's fair

"It's completely different. They could stop their private buses anywhere that it is legal to stop a private vehicle, and do pick ups there"

Correct - however one of the places where it is not legal to stop a private vehicle in the state of California is at a public bus stop.

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Re: Excuse me?

"if public transport was better for everyone, this problem wouldn't exist."

So it's a case of 'those guys get decent 'public' [well: shared] transport to work and we don't, so we're going to protest *at them* instead of our municipal authority?

Well, that makes sense...

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Re: Fair's fair

"a private company wouldn't be exempt from them, or treated like a public bus, no matter how much you argue that it's more convenient."

Not true, though. Private coaches get to use bus lanes and I've seen plenty pick up from bus stations, too. Which seems... perfectly fine.

Ok, if our public transport was better and the private vehicles were cluttering things up and jamming bus lanes, it would be an issue. But I'm failing to see why a bus stopping at a 'public' bus stop is inconvenient, or less convenient than it stopping 20 yards down the road.

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Re: There is no easy solution

There is an easy solution: stop voting for the idiots who cause the real problems in the first place. Housing prices only skyrocket in places were construction companies can't build adequate new housing because of local regulations. Given the money stealing tendencies of the politicians and those who support those same politicians, I expect at the root of the problem are a bunch or convoluted rent-control laws.

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Re: Fair's fair

So what you're saying is that the employees of Google and the rest of the companies providing this service have already paid for the bus stops via their tax dollars and shouldn't be able to use them for their designed service. No sale. Just like you'll get a No sale from me on Frisco moron "working hard" on making it a nice city. They've borrowed money they can't repay just like the rest of Cali. If they were a private business we could at least get them thrown in jail for committing perjury and fraud.

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Re: parking charges

Parking spaces are never zero maintenance. You have to build them and repair them. Some are cheaper than others (along side the road versus 12 level concrete garages). But to the point of your post, since they are paid for from tax dollars, the additional use charge does seem a bit much.

More interestingly, it was originally businesses that wanted parking meters for spaces. Without the parking meters, cars would come, park and stay put the whole day. With the meters, the business could see a steady turnover in the cars that were parked. They believed this created more customers for their stores. Not sure if that bore out in practice, but it is what why they wanted them. In some places you could even get tokens from the stores for free. It certainly has become corrupted since then, with politicians seeing only one more revenue source to shake down.

I concur completely about the rest of your post.

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Re: if companies located themselves

Companies DO locate themselves that way. It's the employees who choose not to live near them.

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Re: a private vehicle in the state of California is at a public bus stop.

In this case the intent of the law is more important than it's letter, and it's letter ought to be updated to reflect it's intent rather than penalize companies who are doing the city's job.

The reason you aren't allowed to stop private vehicles at public bus stops is that most private vehicles are cars, and you'd have too many of them stopping and preventing the public buses from doing their job. That clearly isn't the case with the tech company buses.

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Re: Excuse me?

I makes "Californicated" sense. If there's something -- anything -- wrong, it's obviously the fault of those rich white bastards, not our loving government that tries so hard to take away their money and advantages!

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Re: a private vehicle in the state of California is at a public bus stop.

Sure, but that's an argument on what you think the law should be, not what it actually is. Perhaps the law should allow private buses to stop at places that private cars can't - some people in California think it should, but on the other hand, at least some people in California disagree.

Google and its employees are also free to protest and lobby to change the law.

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Commune of California!

a mature answer to the problems the buses represent

And what problems DO the buses represent exactly? As I check the constitution there is nothing about people being entitled to rent they consider "low" in sunny areas they prefer to live in. Deal with it.

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@ Destroy All Monsters

"And what problems DO the buses represent exactly? As I check the constitution there is nothing about people being entitled to rent they consider "low" in sunny areas they prefer to live in. Deal with it - in a way that *I* find acceptable and in conformity with the writings of von Mises and his epigones."

Fixed it for you.

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Re: Commune of California!

"As I check the constitution there is nothing about people being entitled to rent they consider "low" in sunny areas they prefer to live in. Deal with it."

Also nothing in the constitution about being able to park a private vehicle where you like. Deal with it.

I can see various points of view - but on neither side does this seem a constitutional issue, nor is anyone claiming that.

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Re: Commune of California!

Might want to check Section 9 and the amendments again. This sounds an awful lot like a cleverly disguised bill of attainder with some ex post facto thrown in. Yes, corporations are legally persons.

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The opposite of gentrification is Detroit. If you want all a real good look at what keeping the money out of an area will do look no further. You can have the roving gangs, pot-holed streets, slum areas etc and I'll put up with higher prices (that bring more taxes without raising rates or making up new taxes) and decent infrastructure that the moneyed class brings. It always astounds me when every problem is resolved by make a new tax/raise taxes instead of telling people to STFU. How much do you want to bet SF is trying to figure out a way to tax renters who don't live within x miles of their job?

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Anonymous Coward

And what did all the White People do ?

Being the cowards they are, they moved to the suburbs of Detroit years ago. Are you citing the current condition of Detroit as a cause or an effect ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: And what did all the White People do ?

Why is "White People" capitalized?

Why is progressing through a job through hard work and in light of wanting to provide a better future for you and your family by moving from a possibly deteriorating inner city to the suburbs a bad thing? Or more specifically, why is it cowardly? Isn't this the whole "American Dream?"

Maybe I missed the point of your post, or maybe you forgot to include one, but I don't think folks moving to the suburbs is what causes an inner city area to decline and collapse - that is done all on it's own by the inner city occupants - the one's that simultaneously drive people away and prevent an area from being desirable to other prospective homeowners. Detroit had other economic forces working against it, sure, but let's not let that get in the way of a good finger pointing exercise.

Blaming the CURRENT state of Detroit on the people who USED to live there seems like the same sort of problem ownership I associate with most inner city blamers. Always someone else's fault, right? It's this type of problem ownership that I truly believe is at the heart and crux of most modern problems in the US.

I currently live in Chicago, so no, I'm not just posting this from the comfort of some outer city Suburbs, for all that it matters.

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Re: And what did all the White People do ?

People have been leaving Detroit for 50 years. If you actually pay attention you'll see that the population peaked in the 1950s and has been in decline ever since. Sure, the drop between the last two decades was slightly higher than the average drop over the previous five decades but not shockingly so. The loss of 240k people on the most recent census is on par with the 300k loss in the 70s and 200k drop in the 80s.

After issues with organized crime, racial discord and the automotive industry problems through the 70s and the 80s, this latest burst bubble is only symptomatic of another city that is and has been run by politicians who turned a blind eye to the real problems for fifty years and felt that following the usual mantra of throwing money at the problem and deficit spending would make everything better. I guess that only works for Uncle Sam.

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Who can blame them after watching Am-holes (Amazon.com) employees treat resident natives of South Lake Union area of Seattle like third-class citizens. Tax ahoy, mate!

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Good to see the slogans don't change

I can remember working out of Paul St just down from what is now Silicon Roundabout back in early 2000: "dot scum" graffiti around then :-)

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Anonymous Coward

Google should embrace the internet and allow people to work from anywhere

Of course, they've probably not heard of the internet, and wouldn't believe in it if they did...

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Anonymous Coward

Willie Sutton says...

Why do I rob banks ? Because that's where the money is.

Why tax Google ? Because...

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Facepalm

> a Kafkaesque bit of regulation that prohibits local governments from making more money off a property-related fee than the cost of providing the item the fee is being charged against

Wow, now there's a novel idea, charging the public for the use of a public facility at cost.

Erm, isn't that how it's supposed to work?

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>Wow, now there's a novel idea, charging the public for the use of a public facility at cost.

It was partly introduced because public bodies eg University of California were using it to stop groups they didn't like. Controversial figure wants to speak to students ?- Ok we have free speech - but the extra security will be < dr evil > one million dollars

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So they make a profit...

Quote: "If the city was charging prices equivalent to local Bay Area Rapid Transportation system then that would yield a revenue of around $18.2m per year, compared with the $1.5m or so the City is claiming it will make out of this scheme."

Why yes, they would make $18.2m in revenue, but how much would it cost the city to provide those services for 9.1m rides? $20m? More? So in effect they are making $1.5m profit rather than the loss they'd be making if they ran it themselves.

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Re: So they make a profit...

I'm sure that if the city offered to provide equivalent-standard transport at a cost lower than what Google and the other companies could afford to do themselves then they'd have the offer accepted. The only question then would be whether it would be a private hire run by the city or a public service for which employees of the tech companies would be provided pre-paid tickets but could otherwise be used by anyone. I don't see it unreasonable to charge private vehicles to pick up from public stops, it helps with the maintenance costs.

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This is just more Bay Area economically illiterate leftists at work

Lord knows we can use more housing around here, but gentrification does happen all the time, as does neighborhood decline. Right now, gentrification has the upper hand.

There is a group of activists, especially in Oakland and Berkeley, who just don't understand basic economics. For example, a couple years ago, during the occupy movement, a UC Berkeley grad student wrote an article about how Oakland would be better off if the successful port of Oakland gave its revenues to the city instead of spending it on the port. My respose was "Oh, you mean reinvesting in plant, equipment and maintennce, like a real business? ". The activists wanted to literally milk the port until it collapsed from neglect, at which point the problems faced by Oakland would be worse than ever.

Techy buses are a good thing. They should pay local transit agencies a reasonable fee for using bus stops, but this is not a chance to slap onerous fees on a service that reduces traffic and pollution.

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"should make it easy for people to file complaints if buses (or their riders) behave badly."

That's nice, but me thinks the problem is with the redneck locals.

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Re: with the redneck locals.

I'll guarantee you those are Occupiers and not rednecks.

Rednecks know you go to the local dive and get drunk before behaving badly and vandalizing stuff. And I doubt there's anywhere in Frisco that plays both kinds of music anyway.

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"Why can't the city pull a Robin Hood and take more from the tech cos?"

Now I can understand why Silicon Valley wants to secede from the rest of California.

What could justify this theft? Hipster brogrammers with goatee beards may be very annoying, but that's not a valid excuse to steal from them. There is no externality to tax. The Google and Facebook buses are reducing an externality - car traffic. So the justification must be spite and envy.

"...Because it is restricted by Proposition 218 – a Kafkaesque bit of regulation that prohibits local governments from making more money off a property-related fee than the cost of providing the item the fee is being charged against – in this case a fraction of the time available at public bus stops."

In other words, San Franciscans already have protection against greedy government officials enacting their spite-driven punitive money grabs. There is nothing Kafka-esque about this, any more than Miranda rights or detention limits are "Kafka-esque".

Yes, the State of California does need to sort out its property taxes. But the city of SF more than makes up for it:

http://www.sfexaminer.com/sanfrancisco/san-francisco-property-tax-take-to-exceed-2-billion-for-first-time/Content?oid=2576548

"San Francisco property tax take to exceed $2 billion for first time "

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Re: need to sort out its property taxes.

Cali needs to sort out a hell of a lot more than their property taxes. They keep pretending they're some economic juggernaut when they're more like Greece. They may be too big to fail but they're also too big to bail out.

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Re: need to sort out its property taxes.

"Cali ... keep pretending they're some economic juggernaut when they're more like Greece."

You got it almost right. We *are* an economic juggernaut, just like Greece.

The actuality in California is so wildly different from the way the state is portrayed by it's media managers. For instance, the idea that California is some sort of high-tech haven. In point of fact, the majority of the states revenue comes from agriculture. The entire computer/networking industry in California is smaller than one single crop; the largest in the state. Which is, of course, marijuana. So put that in your pipe and smoke it. But only if you live in Washington or Colorado.

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