December 2012

Boosters Sponsor Shuttle System Study

Keith Burbank

Last month the Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association voted unanimously to spend $1,500 to examine the potential to expand privately operated shuttle systems to help address Potrero Hill’s public transportation needs. “I think this is a great proposal–≤” said Keith Goldstein, Potrero Dogpatch Merchants Association (PDMA) president and the Boosters’ corresponding secretary, of Oakland-based Silvani Transportation Consulting’s study submission. PDMA has pledged $500 toward the study, with the rest of the $5,500 project budget paid for by SFMade, Dogpatch Neighborhood Association, California College of the Arts, and Bridge Housing. Study results are expected to be issued in February. 

A survey of participants at last year’s Potrero Hill Festival indicated that the highest community priority was to improve the Hill’s public transportation infrastructure. According to Boosters president Tony Kelly, as developers build new residences and office buildings, increasing demand for parking, public transportation will become even more important. “We’ve seen more than a dozen major development projects come to the Boosters in 2012; they are all seeking approvals in 2012 or 2013, and would be completed sometime in the next five years,” Kelly said. 

Silvani’s proposal would “assist the Eastern Neighborhoods in advancing key concepts and goals for community transportation services. The geographic area includes Northeast Mission, Potrero/Showplace Square to the Central Waterfront, with a goal of how to improve commute options for both employees and residents in these districts.” Sixteen years ago Wendy Silvani, owner of her eponymously named firm, designed and subsequently operated the Emery Go-Round, a free shuttle service that transports people from the MacArthur Bay Area Rapid Transit station to shopping areas in Emeryville. According to the Emery Go-Round’s website, “The vast majority of funding for the...shuttle is provided by commercial property owners in the citywide transportation business improvement district.” The Boosters are interested in replicating the Emery Go-Round concept on the Hill. 

Once the study is completed, the Boosters may ask Sunnydale-based consultant, Mike McLean, owner of McLean Consulting Services, to present the idea to technology companies located in the Potrero Hill area. McLean has designed shuttle systems for a number of tech companies. “We basically design programs for employers that encourage the use of alternatives to driving alone,” McLean said. 

At least seven shuttle lines operate near the Hill, ranging from smaller systems sponsored by companies such as Zynga, to larger networks funded by companies like Google and Apple. A Mission Bay shuttle traverses the Hill a couple of times an hour, taking people from San Francisco General Hospital to the University of California, San Francisco. The smaller shuttles are rarely full.

De Haro Street resident Maria Cristini wondered whether the Boosters should gauge technology companies’ interest in supporting the concept before spending funds on a study, given that they pay for the shuttles, and may also need to finance added insurance under a publicly accessible system. Kelly speculated that the City and County of San Francisco might be willing to help fund the added insurance costs, and noted that such issues would be addressed in the study. In the end, roughly 33 Boosters members voted in favor of spending the monies. 

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