L.A.'s tech scene gets first Google-like luxury bus

Fancy buses with Wi-Fi and power outlets become a perk for tech workers commuting to YP's Glendale office

Bay Area tech companies are known for offering their employees luxury bus rides to work.

But in a new coming-of-age sign for the Los Angeles-area technology industry, YP, formerly branded as Yellow Pages, has been shuttling about 25 workers each day from their homes on the west side of the county to the company’s office in Glendale.

The service, operated by San Francisco start-up RidePal, has been operating for five weeks, but the companies officially unveiled Tuesday the first RidePal partnership in the L.A. area.

For the past decade, technology companies in Silicon Valley have provided luxurious, Wi-Fi-equipped buses to their workers as a mode of commute.

Local search giant YP reached out to RidePal to bring the perk south because the competition for technologists in Los Angeles has become “more fierce” in the last two years than any stretch during the past two decades, said Darren Clark, YP’s chief technology officer.

The Glendale office is the technology headquarters for the Tucker, Ga. company, with about 500 employees working on apps, websites, advertising mechanisms and a search engine. About half the staff reported commutes of more than 45 minutes one way. The daunting highway time scared off recruits and sapped retention rates.

“We ramped up hiring this year, and plan to continue to next year, so we had to do something to cast a wider net for talent, especially people from the Santa Monica patch of start-ups,” Clark said.

Last year activists in the Bay Area attacked “Google buses” and other tech companies' shuttle buses as a symbol of the gentrification that was pumping up housing prices and forcing many longtime residents from their homes. San Francisco officials eventually reached a deal to charge companies for using public curbs as a loading zone.

Clark expects little uproar in the three spots the YP bus stops: Venice, Mar Vista and West Los Angeles. Though expensive, housing prices aren't at insanity level in Los Angeles and RidePal is using public park-and-rides as pickup and dropoff locations. The service stops at each pickup location once in the morning and arrives in Glendale at 9 a.m., and then departs once at 5 p.m. It has the backing of Go Glendale, a nonprofit organization aimed at forging public-private partnerships around transportation issues.

In lieu of company-subsidized parking benefits for employees who don't use their cars, YP covers the fare, which RidePal says is about $10 a ride before discounts. The bus holds up to 40 people, so independent travelers are welcome, RidePal and YP said.

“The more we create options to make transportation not a factor is good for the technology ecosystem here,” Clark said, adding that YP is committed to “re-creating a tech footprint” in the Glendale-Pasadena area.

RidePal is ironing out deals with several technology, entertainment and biotechnology firms in Los Angeles, spokesman Bob Martin said.

“The recruiting and retention challenges are just as significant [in L.A. as in the Bay Area], and the pains of the drive-alone auto commute are more significant, so word definitely gets around among the savvy tech HR folks when a solution like RidePal presents itself,” he said.

Last week, RidePal marked 100,000 rides, estimating that 3 million miles of driving have been spared.

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