Thursday, March 15, 2007

Private Bus Systems

How long before the public transit authorities try to outlaw this? After all, if the public monopoly starts to lose ridership...well, there ought to be a law!

March 10, 2007 NEW YORK TIMES
Google’s Buses Help Its Workers Beat the Rush
By MIGUEL HELFT
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — The perks of working at Google are the envy of Silicon Valley. Unlimited amounts of free chef-prepared food at all times of day. A climbing wall, a volleyball court and two lap pools. On-site car washes, oil changes and haircuts, not to mention free doctor checkups.

But the biggest perk may come with the morning commute.

In Silicon Valley, a region known for some of the worst traffic in the nation, Google, the Internet search engine giant and online advertising behemoth, has turned itself into Google, the mass transit operator. Its aim is to make commuting painless for its pampered workers — and keep attracting new recruits in a notoriously competitive market for top engineering talent.

And Google can get a couple of extra hours of work out of employees who would otherwise be behind the wheel of a car.

The company now ferries about 1,200 employees to and from Google daily — nearly one-fourth of its local work force — aboard 32 shuttle buses equipped with comfortable leather seats and wireless Internet access. Bicycles are allowed on exterior racks, and dogs on forward seats, or on their owners’ laps if the buses run full.

Riders can sign up to receive alerts on their computers and cellphones when buses run late. They also get to burnish their green credentials, not just for ditching their cars, but because all Google shuttles run on biodiesel. Oh, and the shuttles are free.

But if the specifics sound quintessentially Googley, as insiders call the company’s quirky corporate culture, it is the shuttle program’s sheer scale that befits Google’s oversize ambitions. This is, after all, a company whose stated goal is to organize the world’s information — and whose founders’ corporate jet is a Boeing 767.

“We are basically running a small municipal transit agency,” said Marty Lev, Google’s director of security and safety, who oversees the program.

Not that small, really. The shuttles, which carry up to 37 passengers each and display no sign suggesting they carry Googlers, have become a fixture of local freeways. They run 132 trips every day to some 40 pickup and drop-off locations in more than a dozen cities, crisscrossing six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area and logging some 4,400 miles.

They pick up workers as far away as Concord, 54 miles northeast of the Googleplex, as the company’s sprawling Mountain View headquarters are known, and Santa Cruz, 38 miles to the south. The system’s routes cover in excess of 230 miles of freeways, more than twice the extent of the region’s BART commuter train system, which has 104 miles of tracks.

Morning service starts on some routes at 5:05 a.m. — sometimes carrying those Google chefs — and the last pickup is at 10:40 a.m. Evening service runs from 3:40 p.m. to 10:05 p.m. During peak times, pickups can be as frequent as every 15 minutes.

At Google headquarters, a small team of transportation specialists monitors regional traffic patterns, maps out the residences of new hires and plots new routes — sometimes as many as 10 in a three-month period — to keep up with ever surging demand.

Many employers run programs for commuters, including van pools, shuttles to and from transit hubs and subsidies for public transit and alternative modes of transportation, but several transportation experts say Google appears to have built an unparalleled transit network.


ATSRTWT

(Nod to Tofe. And good job with those Butterburgers. The grass looks greener already)