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How We Live Now: In the SF Bay Area tech shuttles now travel as far as out as the Central Valley

Tech employees move all the way into the Central Valley. Private tech shuttles follow.
BY Lauren HeplerFebruary 5, 2020

It’s 2:30 a.m. in the Central California farm town of Salida, and the only sound is the tech bus pulling into an unmarked lot surrounded by barbed wire. Men and women in work boots board in the moonlight. Next stop is 11 miles away in Manteca, and then it’s another 55 miles to Fremont on the San Francisco Bay, where — an hour and a half hour later — the 4 a.m. shift at the Tesla factory starts.

Welcome to life on Silicon Valley’s new frontier. When tech companies first introduced private shuttles for their employees more than a decade ago, they served the affluent neighborhoods in San Francisco and the Peninsula. Now the buses reach as far as the almond orchards of Salida and the garlic fields of Gilroy.

Tech companies have grown tight-lipped about the specifics of their shuttle programs in the wake of high-profile protests in San Francisco. But Protocol was able to locate enough stops for company shuttles to confirm that some tech shuttles now drive all the way out to the Central Valley, an agricultural hub once a world away from the tech boom on the coast.

“That just tells you the story of the Bay Area,” said Russell Hancock, president and CEO of regional think tank Joint Venture Silicon Valley. “We’re going to be in these farther-flung places, and that’s our reality because we’re not going to be able to create affordable housing.”

Tech shuttle sprawl speaks to the unique pressures that the industry has put on the region. High tech salaries have driven up housing prices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and the East Bay, forcing white- and blue-collar workers alike to move farther away from their jobs. The crisis is compounded by anti-development politics that make it hard to build new housing and patchwork public transit systems that make it difficult for commuters to get to work without driving.

The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.

In the meantime, those companies — plus Tesla, Apple, Netflix, LinkedIn, Genentech and others — are trying to solve the problem with long-distance buses. They all now offer shuttle service to at least the extended suburbs of the East Bay, according to interviews and reports Protocol consulted. Their longest routes now stretch north across the Golden Gate Bridge, south to the surf town of Santa Cruz, and east to the Central Valley — a total service area approaching 3,000 square miles.

“We transport more than 6,000 people on 80 routes each day,” Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison confirmed, a sharp increase since the last time the company released numbers. That includes buses to the garlic capital of Gilroy southeast of San Jose, the outer limits of the East Bay in Livermore, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco’s northern suburbs in Marin County.

Google’s shuttles go more than 90 miles north and south, roughly equal to the distance between Philadelphia and New York, and as far inland as the Central Valley, according to spokesman Michael Appel. One-third of the employees at Google’s main Silicon Valley campuses take a shuttle each day, Appel said, penciling out to about 4 million rides per year… RTWT AT – protocol

HT: Never Yet Melted Life In California’s Left-Wing Paradise

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Andrew X February 10, 2020, 9:49 AM

    I’ll say it over and over (and I speak as a Bay Area expat) —

    There is NO California problem, particularly housing, traffic, and water, that cannot be solved by the simple solution of merely welcoming hundreds of thousands of new residents (almost exclusively poor, uneducated, and culturally unattuned) over the border and into the state every single year.

    Just ask the geniuses running the place. They’ll tell you.

  • BillH February 10, 2020, 10:05 AM

    After the life I was gifted with, my heart goes out to those sad sack tech workers and their boring existence.

  • Mike Anderson February 10, 2020, 10:59 AM

    “The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.”

    Hey! Then all they’ll be missing is the inevitable Company Store. Wouldn’t THAT be a Great Leap Forward?

  • John Venlet February 10, 2020, 11:14 AM

    It’s okay, though, because the tech companies’ worker bees (drones) think the shuttle service is a perk.

  • Ray February 10, 2020, 11:18 AM

    In 1987 a friend of mine moved to California to take a job at Lockheed, Ontario, CA. He had to live 60 miles away in Apple Valley to afford a house. He later told me that maybe taking that job at Lockheed wasn’t such a great idea.

  • James ONeil February 10, 2020, 11:23 AM

    When I was working for big oil (tongue in cheek) raping and pillaging Alaska, my commute, from the door of my house to my office in Prudhoe Bay on the North Slope was over 500 miles.

    My average speed door to door, was around 127 miles and hour. That included my drive to Fairbanks airport, airport waiting time, flight time, shuttle bus from Deadhorse airport to my BP office.

    Since I worked week on/week off, -fly up, stay a week, fly back home, it wasn’t a bad commute.

  • James ONeil February 10, 2020, 11:37 AM

    Addendum to my 500 mile commute post above: Multiplying the three prime numbers; 3 X 13 X 125299, all prime numbers, (Prime number, a whole number greater than 1 that can not be made by multiplying other whole numbers.) equals my phone number, hey a guy needs to figure out something to entertain himself during a 500 mile commute! -grin-

    Back then I wrote a prime number tester in Basic, only needed about 12 or 15 lines of code, to test and assure that 125299 is a Prime, that I ran on my Apple II computer. The program took around 3 hours to run but yep, it assured me 125299 is a Prime.

  • Gordon Scott February 10, 2020, 12:54 PM

    It’s alleged that Toronto alone in North America has a sensible, workable public transit system. I do know a couple of college guys studied public transportation systems and concluded that they were run for the benefit of the employees and the suppliers. Commuters came in third. This is not surprising.

    One can look to Shakopee, Minnesota, a 4th ring suburb of Minneapolis. There is a large Indian casino there, and they run buses to the city to bring back workers. Amazon does this also. There is also an amusement park in Shakopee that has a dormitory for the foreign workers it imports every May to staff the park.

  • John the River February 10, 2020, 6:04 PM

    As Chester A. Riley would say, “Whot a revolting deevelopment This! turned out to be!

    So much for the American dream, Left Coast edition.

  • JG February 11, 2020, 5:22 AM

    My company transferred me to the East Coast but I am a Californian. I met my wife at UCLA and we started in LA where I am from but moved to the Silicon Valley where she was from. This was at the early 80’s. I was in telecom and after the Silicon Valley, my job took me to the Central Valley, Stockton, but then then I was laid off. I found a job in San Francisco doing what these people are doing traveling daily via Vanride. Vanride consists on being at a certain place every morning or afternoon at a specific time, riding can be sleeping, reading, working, or whatever and it takes time. If you miss that time you have a problem. It was not pleasant but again my job moved back to the Central Valley and then East Coast as I was promoted.

  • jwm February 11, 2020, 7:22 AM

    They don’t want to live in ‘Frisco?
    The diversity doesn’t like the diversity.


  • Former Lurker February 11, 2020, 8:05 AM

    So, how long will it be before the State, County, and City start taxing the crap out of this?

  • mmack February 11, 2020, 2:42 PM

    “The mismatch between jobs and housing has become so extreme that Google and Facebook have proposed building thousands of apartments or condos on their own campuses.”

    Alexa, Google ‘Pullman Chicago and the Pullman Strike”. Yup, can’t see a flaw in THAT plan.

    Speaking of Chicago before I skedaddled for greener pastures I dealt with an hour to ninety minute one way commutes (20 – 30 drive or bus ride to the train station, 35 – 45 minute train ride to Da Loop, 15 minute walk from the train station to the office high rise) when everything went right. So back and forth was two to three hours a day. So I commiserate with these folks. And the great state of Silly-nois ruined “affordability” with their sky high property taxes.

    As for highways and suburb to suburb driving for work, it’s a nightmare.

    Where I live now, 15, maybe 20 minutes to drive to work. But it’s Flatlandia and not hip California or Chicago. So what do I know?