Monday, July 22, 2013


A few days ago, I wrote about privately owned fuel cells that might allow companies to effectively disconnect from the power grid -- a possibility that makes me wonder whether we're entering an era when what have long been considered universal basic services (utilities, education, clean water) become more and more privatized, and less and less available to the have-nots.

And today I see a New York magazine piece by Bay Area resident Kevin Roose about how private shuttles run by Silicon Valley high-tech firms have muscled in on public bus stops in San Francisco -- a practice to which the government is now capitulating:
Silicon Valley shuttles have been commandeering Muni stops for years. It's always been illegal. And yet, city officials have mostly turned a blind eye. Now, instead of forcing these buses off their turf, they're bowing. It's as if Goldman Sachs were running its own trains on the 2/3 line [in Manhattan], and instead of shutting them down, the MTA decided to rearrange its own schedules to make sure Goldmanites could get from the Upper West Side to work on time.

In my experience, these Silicon Valley shuttles are very popular with the young, educated, upper-income tech workers who take them, and abhorred by most other city residents. According to the Chronicle, residents have been filing "complaints about shuttles forcing Muni buses to disgorge passengers in the middle of streets, blocking crosswalks, backing up traffic, traveling on restricted streets and interfering with bicycles using bike lanes."
During the recent transit strike in San Francisco, Roose wrote about the way upscale residents turned to car-booking and ride-sharing services, which wasn't a feasible solution for low-wage commuters:
... when policy-makers begin to see these services as legitimate replacements for public infrastructure, their incentives to make public services better will disappear. The BART strike has shown how decades of erosion of the tax base, coupled with the rise of a tech-savvy elite that can afford to pay for private services, has reduced public transportation to a second-class alternative and taken away much of the subway unions' negotiating leverage. After all, with so many private options for getting around, why does it matter if a few hundred thousand BART riders are stranded?
I just see this as part of an increasingly widespread belief, in blue as well as red America, that government-provided and government-guaranteed services are shoddy and second-rate and not really important because they're for, y'know, other people.


Cirze said...

You mean, poor people.

At least that's what they mean.

Thanks for the reporting!


BadTux said...

And blah people, Cirze. Don't forget that.

The private shuttles annoy the crap out of me. If the companies that hired these private shuttles instead put the same amount of money into improving public transit, we'd have a bus every five minutes going everywhere we wanted to go in just as short a time as the private shuttles. But they view the private shuttles as their way to shut out smaller competitors who can't afford the private shuttles. It's Libertopian to an extreme, and just as toxic to society as a whole as the majority of Libertopian notions. We have daily traffic jams here in the Silly Cone Valley because of these Libertopian dimwits, but you'll never see them spending money on public transit because that might benefit someone not worthy. So it goes.

Philo Vaihinger said...

All part of the post-progressive abandonment of the working class.

Victor said...

F. Scott Fitzgerald:
“Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft where we are hard, and cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand. They think, deep in their hearts, that they are better than we are because we had to discover the compensations and refuges of life for ourselves. Even when they enter deep into our world or sink below us, they still think that they are better than we are. They are different.”

Now, we can extend that to the upper classes, and the upper middle classes.

They, having reached their status, now want to pull up the ladders, enjoy their status, and not have to deal with people lower on the totem pole.

Buford said...

The private security wave is catching on...I think the wealthy are thinking "guillotines" and "let them eat cake"...they will continue to drain the USofA of our treasure, and put the blame on the poor...all the while they think they are safe...

Bettencourt said...

I'm sorry to read this. I know people in SF complain about Muni, but I live in LA, and every time I visit SF I'm amazed how rider-friendly Muni is compared to LA's buses - virtually every Muni stop has a large, full city route map, plus a list of the routes including how often they come by at each time of day, a fare chart, and an LED sign that tells the time, which buses are coming and how soon each of the next two buses are expected.

At an LA bus stop, all you get is a small sign listing the bus numbers, their destinations and which days of the week they run. Muni's become one of my favorite things about SF.

Anonymous said...

It's been happening in the DC area and other areas as well. The private services are MUCH better all around. Cheaper as well because work takes care of it. Plus you get to hang around a bunch of well educated, hip, upper income, socially liberal progressives.

I don't know why people are shocked or even upset. This is not the New Deal Democratic party, hasn't been for a long time. It's the New Democratic party, pass the gay marriage and cut the social security. These are linked, social liberalism is linked to plutocracy. It's the cosmopolitan and libertine values of the rich and the well off, and saying fuck you to the poors so they can't influence our lives because of their idiotic religion. Of course when adopting those values you also end up adopting their economic values.

It won't change because the left will never accept violence as a solution and that's pretty much the only one left. But if you take a look at the anti crime measures in major cities, it's just about making it nicer for the people there so the problems of their inequality don't come back and kill some rich people.

It's always cracked me up that the most socially progressive companies and cities are the exact ones driving income inequality and cheering it on. And yet some progressives never realize that by choosing social causes, they are abandoning economic ones. They need to pick one, you're either a social progressive or an economic progressive, you can't be both.

BadTux said...

Overclocked, actually social justice and economic justice are closely intertwined, as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out during the last couple of years of his life. You cannot have true social justice without economic justice. And economic justice often brings social justice because we live in a capitalist society and nobody wants to turn down money from "those" people if the money gets to be good enough. Which is one reason why gays are attaining their agenda -- the gay population had sufficient economic juice to make it worth this society's while to grant them social justice to go with their economic clout.

I do agree with your derogatory opinion of "limousine liberals" who ignore economic justice while focusing on social justice. That's like ignoring water for the poor while focusing on food for the poor. Both are needed.

BTW, I often see affluent progressive types on Metro. It's the most efficient way to get around San Francisco, driving is a nightmare because there's no parking and the traffic is bumper to bumper in many cases, meaning that driving is often no faster than the bus or light rail. Unfortunately too many of those same people also rely on the private buses to get to their jobs at giant technology companies... and see no problem with that. So it goes.

BH said...

To an old Dem agnostic of small-town lower-middle-class origins, the idea of getting to "hang around with a bunch of well educated, hip, upper income, socially liberal progressives" engaged in (or at best complicit in) gutting one more public service that benefits low-income folks sounds somewhat less than enticing. You can have my seat, there, o-clock.

David said...

They (the services) are 'shoddy and second rate' because they are government services. There is NOTHING government does which is not shoddy and second rate.

Steve M. said...

Tell it to the Marines, David.

I mean that literally: Please tell some Marines -- who are government employees, after all -- that they're "shoddy and second rate."

Let me know how you make out.