The Positive Impact of Silicon Valley’s Corporate Shuttles
Every day, over 34,000 Silicon Valley employees are transported to their jobs via private shuttles provided by their employers. Hired by well-known companies such as Apple, Google, and Facebook, these shuttles help solve the “first mile/last mile” problem, which concerns the traveling that takes place to and from heavy rail public transportation stops.
Providing a shuttle for heavy-rail passengers helps to alleviate regular traffic. Unless an employee lives and works within walking distance of two rail stations, they’re likely to take their car instead of public transit, making traffic on the road even worse.
Some shuttles even provide transportation directly from an employee’s home to their work, further reducing the number of individual cars on the road. 90% of shuttle passengers own a car at home but choose to take the shuttle to work instead, which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 2,000 tons every year.
With a shuttle, employees can travel in a more compact vehicle while they relax on their way to the office, chat with one another, or even get started on some work.
Commuters who take their cars to work every day are also noticing the impact of private shuttles. “A lot of people are thinking, would they rather be in traffic behind one private company shuttle bus filled with 42 people rather than behind 42 cars, each filled with a single driver,” President Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group said to The Mercury News.
According to Mercury, a recent poll administered in San Jose found that 78% of participants agreed that private shuttles help to reduce traffic in highly-traveled areas. Of those that agreed, 73% also think that these shuttles should be allowed to use public transit stops.
On top of alleviating everyday traffic woes, shuttles may also serve another purpose: to reduce the pressure on public transportation systems. Even though the “first mile/last mile” problem causes more people to take their cars, public transportation systems remain overwhelmed by those who rely on buses to complete their journeys. Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, also told Mercury: “We learned firsthand how valuable shuttles are in getting cars off our congested roads and highways, taking pressure off overwhelmed public transit systems.”
Private shuttle systems have not always been looked upon favorably by locals, however. Just a few years ago, many residents expressed their objection to shuttles that pay only $1 to use a public transit stop while residents were charged a minimum of $2 to board a public bus. Citizens were angry that these corporate shuttles were paying a mere $1 to the city for each stop per day while the companies employing them were most likely making enough to give back a little more.
Some residents even saw the shuttles as a symbol of the growing divide between the upper and lower classes. Shuttle routes sometimes ventured into lower-income areas, where the residents aren’t fond of what they perceive as big tech companies “flaunting” their wealth in front of their faces.
A few Google employees have responded, saying that Google employs plenty of working-class citizens, as well as those who earn six figures a year in higher-ranking positions. Crystal Sholts, a Project Manager at Google and a regular shuttle passenger, told The Verge in 2014: “I just wanted to say that not everyone at Google is a billionaire. Like many people 10 years after the fact, I’m still paying off my student loans.”
Still, those who wish for shuttles to pay more to use the city’s public stops have the right to be upset. While it’s common to argue that providing a service to those who make an “upper-class” salary helps to stimulate the economy in the serviced areas, many people still point out that the everyday shuttle passengers don’t live in the areas that need economic stimulation the most.
Another concern is that, while a 40-passenger bus expels much less CO2 than 40 individual cars, the emissions are still a bit too heavy for low-density residential areas.
Considering the undeniable positive impact of shuttles on traffic and CO2 emissions, however, companies with the means to provide shuttle services to their employees should continue to do so. Private shuttles are a simple solution to a big problem that doesn’t have to cost taxpayers extra money.
Since many convenient public transit stops are already in place, buses should continue to use these to pick up and drop off passengers. A recent poll shows that 73% of Santa Clara County voters agree that privately-operated commuter buses should be able to use public stops after noticing their positive impact on overall traffic conditions. Jim Wunderman agrees, saying “the benefits of employer-run commuter shuttles are indisputable.”
A proposed solution in Santa Clara County states that employer shuttles would have access not only to public bus stops but also to other transportation facilities. A formal process for obtaining the proper permits will also be in place to ensure that shuttles aren’t just using these stops free of charge.
As for the shuttles’ nuisance to low-density residential areas, perhaps a nearby stop on the closest main road would act as a middle-ground between those who take the shuttle to work and those who don’t wish to see these shuttles cruising past their homes.
If you’re interested in scheduling your own corporate shuttle services, GOGO Charters offers long-term contracts for minibuses of a range of sizes, perfect for all offices. Choose from 18-seater, 24-seater, and 35-seater minibuses. Or, if you’re working with a larger office or shuttling for a shorter period of time, we can also provide you with full-sized charter buses.
For more information, call our reservation specialists any time, any day at 1-855-826-6770.
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