Google ferry

Facebook is following Google's lead in running a ferry service on a trial basis for Silicon Valley workers who live in San Francisco. Above, a catamaran used in Google's pilot program, which ended last week. (Ben Margot / Associated Press / February 12, 2014)

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SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco Bay is getting even friendlier to tech companies.

As fleets of luxury shuttle buses that transport San Francisco employees to and from work in the Silicon Valley continue to make waves, technology companies have been searching for alternatives.

Facebook is the latest company to offer its staffers in San Francisco a free ride to work on a catamaran.

The giant social network began testing the private ferry service, which it is calling a "water taxi," on Feb. 4. The catamaran holds 30 people and is outfitted with Wi-Fi, coffee and snacks.

Right now the service runs two days a week and is part of a pilot program that will last 90 days. If the program is successful, it could be continued or even expanded.

Employees hitch a ride on the charter boat near AT&T Park and hop off in Redwood City, where they catch a shuttle bus to Facebook’s Menlo Park campus.

A Facebook spokesman confirmed the service. 

Google launched a similar service from San Francisco in January and another from Alameda in February but both pilot programs ended last week.

Google and other companies have been trying to calm growing tensions over buses that transport workers from the city to Silicon Valley. The buses have become a symbol of the tech-driven gentrification in San Francisco that is being blamed for surges in housing costs and evictions.

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