Thursday, July 25, 2013


Boinc just released an Android App that lets you use your Android device's downtime for science.

Monday, July 22, 2013

the "problem" of mega-busses in san francisco

In response to this article about the impact of "mega busses" in San Francisco, I wrote this:

That "article" calls the "tech elite" arrogant.  I think there's plenty of arrogance to go around, including with the Mission Street hipsters who are so quick to point fingers at big busses as the problem.

1. Public transit:  If the bay area had functioning public transit, the private busses wouldn't be necessary. But it's impossible to take reliable, efficient public transit anywhere in the bay area. That disfunction is unique to the bay area - most metropolitan areas our size have functional public transit systems. This is a direct result of poor urban planning that created non-dense, spread-out campuses far away from public transit hubs (i.e., Mountain View, Palo Alto); and a network of incomplete and unconnected transit system (BART, Caltrain, VTA, MUNI). Yes, the private busses are air conditioned and have WiFi.  Why doesn't public transit?

2. Public resources: The "tech elite" are paying significant taxes. Property taxes, income taxes, sales taxes are all benefiting San Francisco's general fund and schools tremendously. In exchange, the tech people get to share the public resources (roads) too.  Good luck having an economic recovery without the taxes generated by employees of these companies. And by the way, Twitter, Google, Zynga, Yelp and many other tech companies have very large offices in San Francisco.

3. Regulation: MUNI absolutely needs to regulate the private busses (commute busses and tour busses) if these busses are using the MUNI stops. Totally fair, and the fact that there has been no regulation of the tour busses and private busses using MUNI stops indicates someone hasn't been doing a good job.  Usage fees need to be paid, schedules need to be synchronized, waiting times need to be regulated, etc. MUNI should be benefitting from use of their stops, not being hampered by it.

4. Rents: It's easy to blame the "tech elite" for the rent increase. I'm skeptical. I think San Francisco's rent control laws are at least partially to blame. It's basically impossible to evict someone from a rental unit in San Francisco or raise rents to meet dramatically increasing property tax bills.  This has eliminated a lot of in-law units from the rental inventory. Also, foreign investment in SF real estate, where such units are being purchased and sit empty for "future use", has also taken a lot of rental inventory off the market. No doubt the tech workers are driving up rents, but that's true of the entire bay area, and there are multiple complex factors involved.

5. Tour busses.  I see them too, they drive crazy, and are sometimes mostly empty. But San Francisco needs to welcome tourists who spend a lot of money, and there are large parts of San Francisco that are very unfriendly to tourists. Clean up MUNI, the Civic Center / Tenderloin / Market Street area, and then maybe we can talk about putting the tourists on public transit instead of tour busses.

This is a complex problem that requires a complex solution. San Francisco telling the tech companies to "go away" isn't a good solution for San Francisco.