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Technology

Google to pay for free bus passes for San Francisco kids

Google employees board a bus in San Francisco bound for the company’s Mountain View, Calif., campus.
Looking to defuse controversy over its shuttle buses in San Francisco, Google has agreed to donate $6.8 million to the city to fund free bus passes for low- and middle-income youth.
(David Paul Morris / Bloomberg)

SAN FRANCISCO -- In a move to quiet the controversy surrounding tech-driven gentrification in San Francisco, Google has agreed to donate $6.8 million to the city to fund free bus passes for low- and middle-income kids.

The donation was part of a deal brokered by Mayor Ed Lee, who is working to address the backlash against the technology industry from residents angry about the rapidly rising cost of living in San Francisco. The Internet giant will cover the projected cost of the program for two years.

The “Google bus,” the commuter shuttles ferrying technology workers to Silicon Valley, has become the target of protests.

Google is funding a program that lets 40,000 low- and middle-income San Francisco kids ages 5 to 17 to ride Muni for free. It costs about $3 million a year.

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City leaders and community members told the San Francisco Chronicle they hoped this was just the first in a series of efforts on the part of the technology industry to give back to the city.

The city reached a deal with shuttle operators and technology companies in January that require them to get a city permit to use public bus stops and to pay $1 per day per stop.

Last week, a coalition of community groups appealed the program, saying the companies should pay more.

“San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don’t pay more to use city bus stops. So we’ll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund MUNI passes for low income students for the next two years,” a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

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