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Google, other tech companies to pay to use San Francisco bus stops

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SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco will begin charging the operators of private shuttles that ferry technology workers from the city to Silicon Valley, Mayor Ed Lee said Monday.

Under a new pilot program, the shuttles will pay the city fees to use public bus stops. In the first 18 months of the program, they are expected to pay about $1.5 million to San Francisco.

The shiny fleets of private shuttles have become very visible symbols of the growing income disparity in San Francisco.

Technology investor Ron Conway says the companies have been working with City Hall to craft a solution for months. The issue took on added urgency in recent weeks as protesters blocked Google and Apple buses in San Francisco and Oakland. One group of protesters broke a window of a Google bus at the West Oakland BART station.

“Hopefully that will take the issue off the table,” said Conway, who heads up sf.citi, a nonprofit group.

The shuttles will be limited to 200 specific bus stops and must operate according to certain guidelines, such as yielding to public buses.

The private shuttles currently use 200 public bus stops to load and unload passengers from three dozen technology and other companies. They make 4,500 daily round trips. Proponents say they take thousands of cars off Bay Area roadways, easing congesting and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"We see this pilot program as a good first step," said Veronica Bell, manager for public policy and government affairs for Google.

The fees will cover the cost of running the pilot program as well as some upgrades to certain bus stops. The city is not permitted to collect more money than the program costs to run.

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