Monday, March 09, 2009


Last Monday, sfgate said: “On Tuesday, a San Francisco company that runs luxury shuttles for the likes of Google and Yahoo will start a new, weekday bus service connecting Marin County, San Francisco and San Jose. The buses will be the same kind of tricked-out rides that Bauer's Intelligent Transportation uses for its corporate clients....” My coworker Andrew and I both attempted to register to ride the commute service online with various levels of frustration. Ultimately, I received an email response instructing me to just show up and ride the bus. (Andrew received a card in the mail but no instruction on how to use it.) On Thursday, I just showed up and rode the service, called Wi-Drive, to work.

Leaving my house at 7:24a, I waited for the 7:55a to Moffett Park at the Ferry Building. The bus arrived at approximately 8:15. We were waiting at the Amtrak stop, but the real stop is right in front of the Ferry Building. It's basically the same as the employer-provided shuttles I’ve ridden, same vehicle - a large coach with pleather seats and marble table tops.

Six TVs played throughout the bus - the news cut in and out due to "normal vehicle motion".

The Wi-fi was slow but mostly worked… surprisingly, not faster than the other shuttles I’ve ridden where 50 people are sharing it. (I thought the number of users was the reason it was slow.) Host gave me a donut; she said the coffee was cold. She offered water.

The bus arrived at Lockheed Martin Transit Center at 9:30.

Connecting with light rail, I got to work at 10. Traffic is bad this time of day. 4 people (including me) boarded at Ferry Building; 2 at the Park and Ride for a total of 6 passengers including myself. (I wonder if they are the kind of people who are riding the bus because it's free and won't once they have to pay.) Two guys waited at the bus stop with me - they rode the service home once already. They work at Lockheed Martin and live in Hayes Valley. I'm not sure they would ride normally since the Ferry Building isn't convenient for them. They didn't know about Caltrain’s bullet train. Normally they carpool. This indicates that any new form of transportation promotes awareness of all transportation options.

Andrew had a theory that Bauer's was doing this because they ended up with extra buses after the employers canceled their contracts. In support of that theory, the word on the street is that Google is phasing Bauer's out for another provider. I had another theory. Yahoo! recently canceled their Fremont and Oakland/Berkeley shuttle runs and replaced them with vanpools. Bauer's may be anticipating a shift away from employer-provided shuttles. These employees will still need to get to work and will still have the same transportation expectations. Bauer's may be looking to create a seamless transition from employer-provided shuttles to independent Bauer's-provided fare-based shuttles between basically the same locations and with the same level of amenities.

On a different note, I heard one employer pays them about $100/hour for the shuttle service. During this 4 hour shift, they can fit 3 runs (2 south, 1 north) given travel times and expected congestion levels.
Needed revenue: ~$400
Total potential revenue:
~50 seats
3 runs
$8.20 fare
So, the buses need to be 1/3 full to justify the service. I wonder if people will not ride if it is more than 1/2 full and they have to share seat rows -- since it isn't free and Bauer's is catering to choice riders.

If you want to ride the bus, just show up at the bus stop at the designated time. They do not have a formalized system for reservations yet.

Having been on many sides of this phenomenon (employer/provider, commuter, public transit worker), I believe the existing system of employer-provided transportation works because of the high level of customer support that the employers provide as the interface between transportation provider and commuter.


Brains said...

Wow - what a helpful post!

Anonymous said...

I too rode the service, when it was free. Do they charge now? I haven't seen or heard from anyone there and left a few messages and emails, with no response. This service seems like a nice theory but won't catch, especially if poorly executed. I heard from the driver that they have extra buses and need the revenue, but arent sure how to market/run things. ...we'll see. As far as I can tell a bus that is free will be taken, lacking the proper permits they might remain free.... hmmm

__ said...

I thought the Wi-Drive was fantastic! The Ridernet Wi-Fi was pretty fast - better than I have at home!

Anonymous said...

I wanted to ride with them so I called, and no one got back to me...?
I wonder if google and the other tech's that had used them are cutting services and now they are trying this? I wish it was more convenient to get a hold of somebody. Every time I call (around my commute, they are closed!