Riding First Class

Impacts of Silicon Valley Shuttles on Commute & Residential Location Choice


Employer-provided commuter shuttles have become a prominent part of the San Francisco Bay Area's transportation network. The "elite tech shuttles" have grown in the past ten years, ferrying at least 7,000 employees between San Francisco and Silicon Valley daily. While the shuttles provide substantial environmental and congestion reduction benefits, they have also engendered great community concerns.

David Weinzimmer and I researched the impacts of the shuttles on commute and residential location choice in San Francisco. We compared travel times by shuttle and transit, and developed and implemented a survey of shuttle riders. For our travel time comparison analysis, we found transit plus a last-mile shuttle takes about 1.3 times as long as shuttles on average, highlighting the time savings by private shuttles. For our survey, we intercepted individuals at nine shuttle stops and received 130 valid responses. Riders choose the shuttle because [1] it is free, [2] work productivity, and [3] to avoid traffic congestion. Nearly half (48%) of respondents would drive alone if the shuttle were not provided, 10% would resign, and 40% would move closer to their job. Respondents cited [1] ease of walking in neighborhood, [2] proximity to entertainment, culture, and amenities, [3] proximity to transit, and [4] living in an urban neighborhood as the top reasons for choosing their current home.

Our research supports the importance of shuttles as one part of a suite of TDM strategies that help San Francisco reach sustainability and environmental goals. The SFMTA's Commuter Shuttles Policy and Pilot Program is a crucial step in ensuring that the shuttles can fit coherently into San Francisco's transportation network system by minimizing conflicts with Muni buses and other road users, and ensuring a safe transportation system. However, it is important to recognize that the shuttles may exacerbate jobs-housing imbalances by enabling people to live farther away from where they work and allowing Silicon Valley cities to avoid dealing with the consequences of their underproduction of high amenity urban neighborhoods.

>> Download the working paper here.

>> Download the research poster here.


  • The Atlantic Cities: What Would Google Bus Commuters Do if the Google Bus Didn't Exist?
  • SFGate: Study: 40 percent of S.F. shuttle riders would move without chartered bus service
  • SFGate: Google bus backlash: S.F. to impose fees on tech shuttles
  • The New York Times: Buses for Tech Workers in San Francisco Will Pay Fee
  • CNET: Missed connections: Limbo in high tech's culture clash
  • Mission Local: Transit Experts Weigh in on Tech Buses