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Google employee shouts down protesters as they block private Google shuttle (sfbg.com)
85 points by sp332 on Dec 9, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 161 comments

"UPDATE 12:32pm: Various tips have streamed in that this shout-out was staged. Protest organizer Leslie Dreyer talked to us on the phone and verified that this person's identity was Max Bell Alper, a union organizer from Oakland. This person was not a Google employee."

It was completely staged and it was obvious - the guy is a terrible actor. Everything was perfect to create the perfect villain - especially the, "I've been here 6 months" line.

Right out of college I worked swing shift at a corn refinery doing dry starch QA for $12/hr. Later, I went to grad school and had to get a part-time retail job at $9.50/hr to supplement my TA stipend in order to make rent. Today...let's just say I make a lot more than $12/hr.

There are many jobs and not all of them pay the same, but not all of them are "career path" jobs either. Some simply require long hours, hard work, and putting up with horrible work conditions (and, sometimes, horrible people). Sadly, I think it is taken as given that some people will spend their entire lives working crappy jobs for low pay, while others get to enjoy high-paying careers. Underneath is a sentiment that some people "have it" -- whether "it" is talent, intelligence, or something else -- and others don't. But I think that's wrong...

If everyone left college to become a computer programmer, nobody would be left to cook the burgers, so obviously this is not a solution. But not everyone has to immediately leave college and dive straight in to the career they will someday retire from. I think a simple solution to much of what is wrong with the US economy (and the direction it's heading in) is to begin to expect newly minted graduates, or even high school seniors on a "gap year", to work the crappy jobs.

Because you know what? They may be crappy, but there are things you can learn doing those kinds of jobs that they don't teach in school, and that you will probably never learn if you jump straight from school to the cubicle. Yes, I realize I'm posting this on Hacker News, "Home of the Early-20-Something Entrepreneur"™. No, I didn't build a photo/ride/house sharing app in my 20s. I trudged through ankle-deep drifts of corn starch and waist-deep drifts of snow at 3 AM. But now that I'm nearing my mid-30s, I feel like if and when I do decide to start a company, I'll be able to approach the task with a maturity and appreciation for hard, and smart, work that I didn't have when I was 21.

So why post this diatribe here? Because without knowing a thing about the gentleman in the video, I can almost guarantee he never worked a day of retail, food-service, or manufacturing in his life...

> So why post this diatribe here? Because without knowing a thing about the gentleman in the video, I can almost guarantee he never worked a day of retail, food-service, or manufacturing in his life...

As you said, you don't know a thing about the man in the video. It could very well be that he spent the past 5 years working a shitty manual job, worked hard to get a CS degree and get a job at Google, and now he's pissed that people are preventing him from going to work.

I certainly know SF tech workers who have a past not too different from this.

The last paragraph of your post is incredibly condescending and doesn't add much to the conversation. In general, making assumptions about other people's intentions/backgrounds is rarely useful to a debate.

Let's all try to raise the bar here.

You know, you're right...I half didn't add that paragraph and I'm half tempted to remove it...but I'll let it stand. Anyone who knows me personally would know that I am not typically one to generalize in this fashion. I don't do so lightly.

We all have bad days, sure. Yes, this could just be someone having a bad day. Maybe he broke up with his girlfriend/boyfriend yesterday. Maybe he, himself, is having trouble with rent and is merely projecting. Any of these scenarios and a million more could be true.

What manufacturing taught me is that, even when all you can feel is pain and exhaustion, if there is still work to do the only solution is to do it, not complain. What retail taught me is that even on your shittiest day, when your girlfriend has left you for your best friend, that person looking for just the right pair of headphones still expects, deserves even, your grace and kindness.

You know what? I really hope I'm wrong and someone tracks this fellow down and finds out that he has a story of a long hard slog through menial jobs to make it to where he is today. If that turns out to be the case, I'll have learned something. As it is, thinking back on all the people that I worked with in manufacturing and in retail, I can't think of one that would both behave in the way this gentleman did and say the things that he said.

Thanks for your calm, humble response.

I've only been in the Bay area for a bit under 3 years, but I've learned that despite the appearances, no two tech workers are the same.

Sure, there are plenty of white 20-somethings Stanford grads whose parents paid for everything. But I have friends who went to community college and worked hard to get a job here, or who moved from far away for a better life here. One of my good friends is black, comes from a troubled family and was the first to go to college- programming was his refuge as a teenager when things at home didn't go so well and the pantries were empty. He's now a tech worker just like the guy in the video. I myself am a tech worker and have nothing to complain about- and I try to be conscious of my privilege, I volunteer teaching Oakland kids computer science & math over the weekends, etc. (and I live in Oakland, because even the SF prices were a bit too high for me :)

At the end of the day, tech workers or not, we're all humans and we all want to live in nice, safe conditions without fear of getting evicted or not being able to afford the groceries. Getting mad at each other will not solve anything.

Without extra info, one can only speculate.

I think most people who've had to hold a pretty "sticky" job would not have this sort of attitude towards people complaining about these sorts or issues. Especially considering that you'd realize that people in lower income brackets would have an even harder time just moving somewhere else. The state of the economy doesn't help much with that either.

Considering this person's reaction, and the fact that working in a minimum wage job can pretty easily reveal the facts above, and that this guy is at google, so probably not that dumb, you could meander a guess that he's either without sympathy or simply ignorant(as in: he isn't aware of the facts). Going for the latter is in his favor

You're right -- it's entirely possible that the fellow in the video has worked foodservice/retail/labor in the past, and learned absolutely nothing about hard work and the human experience from it.

There's certainly some ambiguity to it, but for the most part it's pretty easy to tell who's never had to work hard, particularly when they're interacting with people who do. In my opinion, it's one of the best reasons to go out to an interview lunch with a candidate -- to see how they behave towards the waitstaff.

+1000. Nothing is gained in this discourse by injecting a "I've worked harder than you for less" contest.


My parents forced me to work in a grocery store job at the age of 16. I was very resistant. Looking back, I am so very glad that they made me do it.

I also worked in a grocery store when I was 16 and it was a ridiculously cushy job. I did everything from bagging to grocery return to cart collection to being a checker.

My dishwasher job at 14 was easy peasy too. Scrape off plates, rinse them off, put them in the dishwasher. Came home filthy but the work was definitely not hard.

My work wasn't part of a character building exercise given to me by my parents though. The amount of work I did directly controlled how many holes my clothes had when I went to school.

I worked in a grocery store at 16 bagging groceries/pushing carts. My first job was working in the family restaurant at 13 for a few years washing dishes. I enjoyed the work, it gave me time to think. I definitely did not want to work these type of jobs for the rest of my life. I see this being the reason my grandmother pushed me to work at these places. It was not mentally challenging but physically challenging at times. In the summer it could get 100 degrees and pushing carts across hot pavement I thought my shoes were going to melt. While bagging groceries, I picked up how to use the register by just watching and also learned a lot product codes. The only one I remember now is Banana - 4011 only useful at Safeway self check out. I would take over a register when we got real busy. All this I can see now helped me vision my future and I thank my grandmother for the kick in the ass.

I forced my parents to let me work in a grocery store at the same age. I regret it to this day, and think they were right all along.

"So why post this diatribe here? Because without knowing a thing about the gentleman in the video, I can almost guarantee he never worked a day of retail, food-service, or manufacturing in his life..."

Your rant really doesn't raise any point. So what if he hasn't had a shitty job? That really is irrelevant.

The cynic in me half-expects that the guy was a plant and not an actual Google employee. It’s hard to imagine that someone could be that tone-deaf and blissfully unaware that they’re being caught on camera.

Unfortunately, some people really are that unaware.

UPDATE: apparently my cynical side called it correctly.

Or maybe he was having a shitty morning and really needed to get to work, and that made his morning even worse and he lost his temper.

Humans are, well, human.

First, the Google employee let his emotions get the best of him and should have avoided the confrontation.

Second, if these protesters think gentrification is so bad, wait till they get a load of anti-gentrification, like in my hometown of Baltimore, and elsewhere in places like Detroit.

If you want to keep the city vibrant, it is a delicate balance, and yes, if you swing too far towards gentrification you get monoculture, but if you swing too far in the other direction, you get a lot of problems I think are far worse than not being able to afford to live in a "cool" city.

San Francisco has a basic supply/demand problem. More people have a preference to live there than capacity, and the distribution of incomes of those with that preference form a wide gap, driving up prices. Thus the supply is rationed by price. Either they can increase supply, or they can decrease the number of high-end bidders somehow by making the city less desirable somehow.

But to blame the tech workers over this is the height of hypocrisy and irony. Many of the same people at these protest events also complain about suburbia, people driving excessively and not using public transport, etc. People used to avoid the cities, but now there is a trend towards reurbanization, and as more people move back into cities, the natural result of that is an increase in prices unless supply increases.

San Francisco is no different than New York, London, Tokyo, or Shanghai, in real estate trends and gentrification and to fixate on the tech workers or Google Buses, which are not the cause of your problem, and not your politicians, who need to figure out ways to mitigate the problem, I think is only likely to damage your cause by making you look like an angry mob.

> Either they can increase supply, or they can decrease the number of high-end bidders somehow by making the city less desirable somehow.

Another option (which the city pursues) is regulations like rent control, affordable housing, etc.

Rent control invariably just increases the evictions and reduces supply and many property owners opt to lease the space for other uses.

San Francisco is unable to build high density housing because many of the same people who don't want the city culture to change also don't want it's skyline to change.

Large parts of SF are suburb-like and could be replaced with high density high-rises, but it would then lose the "SF charm".

Someone else suggested Google shouldn't have built its campus in Mountain View, but Google built the campus there long before the craze of moving back to SF started. In the last .com boom in the 90s, it was Peninsula rents that were sky high. In 1999, I paid $3600 for a 2 bedroom in Foster City.

To suggest Google move its campus close to SF would only make things worse. Most Googlers don't live in SF, so you'd be asking a huge number of people who live in the South Bay to uproot and move up north. That plan won't pass go. I certainly wouldn't, for school district alone.

San Francisco's problems are bigger than Google. It cannot rescue San Francisco.

In addition to this anti-gentrification protest, San Francisco also has a fairly organized faux anti-gentrification cabal in league with SF Police, including "Homes not Jails".

considering that land (and property) is more or less in fixed supply, SF could justifiably implement price/rent controls. Or zone things better to have more apartments.

I have no experience with SF first-hand, but from what I hear it is extremely, extremely expensive to live in. In Tokyo you can get a 1 room appartment for $600 a month ( a kinda shitty one, but you can find one), and it's easy to find meager jobs (fast food joints or convenience stores) to make $10 an hour (comes out to $1600 a month). The jobs are more or less everywhere too, but the point is even in the downtown-y area you can live where you work.

It's possible to work there because the population density of the special wards of Tokyo (the actual "urban" part, there's a lot of mountain) is 3 times that of SF. I only have a cursory knowledge of what it's like, again, but looking at apartment listings, it seems like San Francisco has a pretty high amount of gigantic apartments. Like, apartments that could be cut into 4 separate apartments-type huge.

From the side of the people who are mad about this stuff, about the rent and the transportation:

Here's a guy who has an apartment that takes up half a floor, who takes his private bus to go work out in the countryside, asking me, the guy making his burgers/checking out his groceries, to go live out in the countryside and bus into work because he couldn't survive having an apartment with 200 sq feet less space.

Even worse, this is next to some of the most technologically advanced companies in the world. We're supposed to be the Jetsons. How is it that we can have a halfway-functioning public transit system in nowheres-bourg, France, population 100k , but we can't seem to get one running in an area with 3 times the density and 10 times the people?

I'm not necessarily agreeing with everything, but the rage is justified. And it can be solved by political means.

>but now there is a trend towards reurbanization, and as more people move back into cities, the natural result of that is an increase in prices unless supply increases.

Supply can be increased pretty easily: by having companies build closer to the city center, thus expanding the radius of "interestingness". I'm sure that if Google had built closer to san francisco proper that the area of interesting things would have increased immensly. Instead they built their own little disneyland way out , with a huge suburb in between it and SF.

Obviously square footage is expensive, but what is money when you're apparently rolling in it? Building the Googleplex closer would've made it smaller but at least it would have helped SF expand its area of interestingness.

> considering that land (and property) is more or less in fixed supply, SF could justifiably implement price/rent controls.

> Supply can be increased pretty easily

First you say supply can't be increased. Then you say it can. No it's not Google's fault there is not enough supply. It's bad zoning laws that limit the number and size of buildings. And rent control that makes building less profitable.

Houston and Austin get a way bigger influx of people and even money (for Houston at least) than San Francisco but they don't have these problems.

In the video, a Google employee who hopped off the bus shouts down Erin McElroy, a protester who also heads the eviction mapping project. "How long have you lived in this city?" McElroy asked him. He shouted back "Why don't you go to a city that can afford it? This is a city for the right people who can afford it. You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job."

"What kind of fucking city is this?" he shouted, and then walked off.

That's the nut of the whole article/video if you are curious. Really bad move on the Google guy's point. I suspect he may himself be looking for a "better job" before long - as far as I know, no one at Google is critical enough that they can't be replaced essentially at will.

Update: as thrownaway2424 points out, the article has been edited to indicate this was staged.

I think the nut of the article is "and then walked off." If he was a Googler why didn't he get on the bus? Probably just some guy acting.

The bus was being obstructed, which was his main problem, so he couldn't get to work. But yeah, it could easily have been just some guy playing the part. If he is a Googler, he's got trouble coming. If not, Google will be able to say so - either way he'll turn up sooner or later, with consequences one hopes.

UPDATE 12:32pm: Various tips have streamed in that this shout-out was staged. Protest organizer Leslie Dreyer talked to us on the phone and verified that this person's identity was Max Bell Alper, a union organizer from Oakland. This person was not a Google employee, and Dreyer was not able to verify if Alper was there in the morning with the group of 20-30 protesters. The Guardian is attempting to contact Alper for comment. Dreyer said she, as an organizer, was unaware of that the "performance" had been planned. We are following this as it develops.


Well the guy was apparently on the bus to start with. I am not familiar with how google runs their shuttles, but I imagine you aren't allowed on unless you work for them.

I thought I read somewhere that Google's buses provided free transit to anyone wanting to ride them, bearing in mind many stops will be within / at / near the campus itself ... similar the bus system in some college towns. Am I mistaken?

If you've heard that, then you are probably right. I don't have any actual experience or knowledge about this shuttle system in particular.

Hey, yet again, citizens arguing at each other instead of focusing their anger towards the government.

If the bay area had decent public transportation, these buses wouldn't exist.

You know how google employees from Westchester get to work in Chelsea? They take the train + subway. Because it isn't completely terrible.

That being said, this guy is obviously doing himself or google no favors and looks like a douche.

Shuttles exist because their offices are not near any existing or feasible transit.

Urban areas have a lot more pre-existing transit, and transit that can be used by more people than just work at one company, than the Shoreline Amphitheater area of Mountain View.

If the company has it's offices in downtown, they wouldn't need to run shuttles.

AFAIK, there is no intra-city shuttle for their employees who work in their SF office, only Mountain View.

These are not "citizens arguing", it's professional protesting 101.

Isn't Google missing an opportunity here?

Provide some funding for regular public transit, fit them with WIFI, slurp the data and invade privacy, serve some ads, etc.

That way they get to continue running their buses. They pay an informal tax or money towards advertising, which they can possibly write off as some community benefit thing. They improve the air quality, which improves employee health. And it's a nice thing to do, and all people need to keep a bank of the nice things they do that they can point to when they're caught behaving like dicks.

Several people have mentioned this, but I don't think the scale works out. SMFTA's expenditures alone are nearly a billion dollars a year (and then there's BART and Caltrain).

Some of these companies (Google, Apple, etc) have that sort of capital, but short of going into the public transportation business, the jump from carting around a few (tens of?) thousands of people to making a significant impact on that number is not just "provide some funding".

They don't have to have any impact at all - all they need to do is provide the same number of public buses as private buses. Or not even that many.

Seeing the secret white Google buses will annoy some people. Sometimes for rational reasons, but also because people like being annoyed by stuff.

Pointing to a bunch of Muni transport with "This bus provided by Apple!" or "This carriage provided by Google!" will help raise the good-guy profile of those companies and offset against the drone-bus thing.

tl:dr - it's just an image problem.

A claim has been made that the "Google" employee shoutout earlier today at bus protest was staged by union organizer.[1]

[1] https://twitter.com/FitzTheReporter/status/41014399019373363...

If anyone's wondering, the bus is more of a symbol than a real problem to the protesters. The issues caused by rich tech employees changing the city and ignoring poorer people have been discussed here before. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5189580 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5665437

If there is one constant, it's that cities will change. You change the demographics, ethnicity, nationality, or language distribution, you get change. Where is it written that people have a right to live in an unchanging world?

The same things these people are complaining about are the same thing old Southern white racists complain about -- this becoming a minority majority country. These people wanted America to be a Ollie and Harriet whitebread nuclear family country, and diversity increased and changed the culture.

"Poor culture" is not intrinsically more valuable than "rich tech culture", it's just different, and there's no a priori justification that one groups has a set of preferences and rights that supercedes the others.

The anti - gentrification people are cultural conservatives and don't realize it.

I am not going to support much of what this guy said (and apparently the guy was a plant and the whole incident was a false flags operation?) but I have to say the "How long have you lived in this city?" line really boils my blood.

Maybe it is just because I am biased, having been born in a rural area rather than in a city, but I don't think growing up in a city gives you any sort of special rights. Nobody is a higher class of citizen just because they have lived in a city longer than others.

Their apparent false flags operation has succeeded in making both sides look bad.

Even if the yelling was fake, the problem and the protest is real.

Part of the problem may be real enough, I don't live in that city or work for that company, so I am not going to say one way or the other.

I do have an issue with the "I've lived here longer than you" bullshit. If these protesters have a legitimate point (and if these buses really are the menace that people are saying, then I suspect that they do), they can surely make it without resorting to such elitist self-aggrandizing crap.

Are you really so "progressive" that you think people should roll over and die as soon as someone richer moves into town? There has been a recent rash of evictions by landlords hoping to cash in on the influx of Googlers. That means people are literally homeless heading in to the winter because they can't compete for housing.

It is not the fault of the people seeking the housing.

When gas prices went up a number of years ago due to a surge in demand from China,should we "roll over and die as soon as Chinese start driving more cars?"

Other people's demand for products drive up prices if there is a supply constraint, in what moral code can you blame them for desiring what you have?

In the case of SF, there are people who want to live there. That demand drives up the probability that landlords will want to raise rent, and if they can't because of rent control, arrange an eviction.

What should tech workers do? Realize that the people currently living in SF have some kind of nativist right to live there and new immigrants to the city are persona non grata?

I'm not even sure we should blame landlords for wanting to raise rents. I'm sure if you owned a house in the city, and someone was willing to offer you 10x the current rent controlled price you're collecting, you'd be seriously questioning how 'progressive' you feel towards your tenants.

San Francisco has demand that outstrips supply. Either increase supply, or recognize that the city is going to continue to get more expensive to live in. San Francisco cannot escape the fate of London and other cities in this respect.

Googlers don't even realize that things are changing so drastically. Instead of a "nativist right" how about some respect for the people who are there? Right now they don't even see each other.

I live in the suburbs and I don't even see my neighbors during the week. Tech workers work long hours, especially if you have kids, here's how it tends to work:

Drop off kids at 8am. Head off to work. Arrive at work by 9. Work until 6 or 7pm. Pick up kids from after school. Eat dinner. Do homework. Play with kids. Put kids to sleep. Catch up on work emails or emergencies. End up going to bed late.

Work life balance in tech is in someways worse than non-tech, because tech workers take their work with them everywhere.

There's not going to be a lot of time for socializing at block parties.

People with power (explicit or implicit) have chose to preserve the buildings of San Francisco over the people that live there. They're lovely buildings in a lovely city, and demand is rising. If people in power cared more about the people living in SF than the buildings, they would allow (lots) more building to keep rental costs down.

Yelling "this is the right city for the people who can afford it" is definitely not going to help. Maybe the recent real estate buys from Google aren't for office space but for private residences designed to house Google employees instead? Given the price for housing and the lack of decent modern housing in the South Bay (all the new condos for rent are priced as high as SF places), wouldn't having private below-market housing available to employees be a major perk that will also yield more work output in off hours?

I'm sorry but we live in a free market. I'm surprised that some of the posters here think the employee is the problem? The guy has a right to live wherever he wants. Where he chooses to live dictates where he pays his taxes, which funds directly to the city. It's irrelevant if he's been there a week or 30 years.

Having high income residents in an area is a GOOD thing. It has brought SF a more educated culture and cash for improvements the city desperately needed. Shared buses lower traffic and pollution.

Finally, it must be said that the female protester should have thought twice about putting holes in her face, that is a deal breaker for even entry level jobs.

"it must be said that the female protester should have thought twice about putting holes in her face"

Must that be said?

The guy was an ass, but I don't see how protesting the Google shuttle is going to help either.

Perhaps if San Francisco allowed more housing development it wouldn't be so expensive. If you live in a desirable place it's going to be more expensive, especially if supply is restricted.

Well, the protestors are asking for Google to pay the city for using city infrastructure (bus stops) - that money in turn could/would go to affordable housing. In theory.

That really isn't a significant sum of money.

draconian zoning laws and absolute stubborn against new development is, ironically, causing a vicious cycle that's driving up the price and increasing the rate of "gentrification" of the city.

You can't fight the changing time by stubborning holding onto what you are used to in the past, because in the end, as long as this remains a free country where people can live wherever, the rule of supply vs demand always wins.

I for one hope this gets blown out of proportion. And Google wises up and realizes if they fund public transit they can win public opinion and make the city they live in better for everyone.

The problem with public transport in Bay Area is not the lack of money. It's mostly politics and inefficient management.

Yeah that part is a pain in the ass in LA. But I am pretty sure Google has the chops to tackle that. And if they shame Apple and the rest of the Valley into it and they could lobby the hell out of the city. It works for the feds it will work on the local level.

What makes you think Google haven't tried reasoning with the local governments before starting it's own shuttle program?

I am sure they tried. It is just reasoning and politics don't go together very well. Even then the current time frame for muni infrastructure projects is decades before completion. Long term I would say something like a Silicon Valley PAC is setup to fight for its employees best interests. And lobby the locals as effectively as SV lobbies Washington.

What do you mean by "fund public transit"?

Google can't just magic a transportation system out of pocket; the (NYC) MTA's 2012 budget was $14.2 billion; Google's 2012 profit was $10.7 billion. Are you expecting them to cooperate with Facebook and Apple to work something out between themselves?

Do you want Google to just voluntarily send random checks to various city, local, and state governments, with "for mass transit" in the memo line?

The lack of mass transit is the fault of the citizens. Get off your asses, pass some legislation at the appropriate level of government, tax the living daylight out of whatever megacorps and billionaires are in your tax base, and build yourselves some mass transit with it.

Politics. SF is a mess, Google and the rest of the Valley will realize they have to do something about it. I think this is the point.

So you want a megacorp to start dictating your local politics to you?

Would I love to see Sheryl Sandberg be the mayor of SF? Yes.

Convince her that she wants that job, then vote for her.

I do not understand why people are protesting that a bus is being used to replace 50 cars that would take up parking, cause additional congestion, and be far more polluting.

The cars wouldn't block the lane of a major artery for long periods of time, as per https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=6876464

Applying his tactics.. maybe he should live closer to work then. If he can't deal with the realities of living in a city, he should go move to Mountain View and take a peaceful ten minute walk into the Google campus instead. No protesters down there and he won't waste an hour a day riding a bus.

This is one of those times that I can't decide whether or not pg's flamewar detector is doing the right thing. On the one hand, this story is generating vitriol and finger-pointing... but on the other hand, growing inequality in the techno-utopian playground of the Bay Area is a real concern and something this community should be discussing.

Unfortunately this particular discussion looks like it's doomed to fall off the front page fairly quickly. (EDIT: Yep, already gone.) I wish there was a way to have a constructive dialogue without degenerating into emotional chaos.

EDIT: Rumors are swirling that this guy might've been a plant. If that's true, I suppose burying the story might be epistemically virtuous, as a way to contain the spread of false information. That's a separate issue from the flamewar detector, though.

This is a fiction that was staged by the union organizers.


Argh. My entire office full of Googlers is cringing. This guy doesn't represent all of us (or really any of the people I have worked with at Google).

good news:

UPDATE: Rodriguez writes that the "Google employee" was in fact a union organizer, staging a confrontation.


Still doesn't solve the very real issue of relationship with SF community however.

He is not even one of you :) So of course he does not represent Googlers' opinion.



I feel sorry for this employee who created a PR disaster this early in the week...

He'll probably become a meme soon. I can already see a t-shirt with his face and "Let them eat cake" emblazoned over it.

huh? Allegedly it's a fake employee. https://twitter.com/torrez/status/410138380690022402

Eh? Torrez says "@edcasey If last week taught us anything it is that everything on the internet is fake. So I am covering my bases." Doesn't seem like he is seriously alleging that this guy is a plant.

I don't see how planting a fake would make sense at all to their cause. They might get a temporary bump from outrage at the insensitivity of the Google employee but once Google starts to investigate and figures out that this wasn't an employee you bet your ass the local protestors will lose credibility.

You would think that wouldn't you. Unfortunately anyone who followed the Tea Party or Occupy can tell you that the follow-up truth has a low chance of getting reported. Some of the most amazing "true" stories about both were proven false but not as widely reported. If it isn't the first tweet or video on youtube, then it doesn't really matter.

For an interesting example, follow the case of the waitress who claimed to have not been tipped and hateful message left. The initial claim was widely reported, the follow-up about it being a lie doesn't quite seem to have reached the same major outlets with the same coverage time.

"this wasn't an employee you bet your ass the local protestors will lose credibility"

I doubt they will. Its all about the noise and creditability isn't tracked very well. Too, many groups (or new names replacing the old) and not enough knowledge about the membership connections.

I think that's a person speculating, not with any actual knowledge. That said, the OP blogger obviously has their own agenda as they cover this.

I'm not seeing any proof there that he is a plant. Just some people speculating.

I am not seeing any proof that he is a Google employee as well. Just some dude walking about.

kinda depressing that all the money that companies pay for these buses couldn't simply be used to offer better service in the public system.

Maybe BART could offer bus rental services for companies wanting these lines? At the very least it would help to pay for infrastructure for the rest of us.

Maybe I'm biased by the fact that I've lived in cities with usable public transportation

There may be a bureaucracy problem rather than a funding problem. When Google pays a shuttle company directly, everybody is incentivized to make everything move smoothly: Google benefits from having its employees get to work on time, the employees benefit from having free wifi and not having to drive in rush-hour traffic, and the private companies that provide the buses get Google's money and have a strong incentive to keep their business. In the public system, the people who run the program are often very different from the people who use the program, and so if it's a mess, they're like "Eh, I get to keep my government job."

It's interesting that the cities with decent public transportation - Boston, NYC, DC - all have strong cultures of public transportation and large percentages of people that don't have a car. It's very likely that the transportation commissioner in NYC takes the subway to work; it's somewhat less likely that whoever runs the buses in SF takes them to work.

The problem is that BART doesn't go down to Mountain View. You have to do a transfer at Milbrae to Caltrain and your fares end up adding up to $20+ for a round trip which is more than the cost of gas for the same trip. When I lived in the Inner Sunset, trying to take public transportation to my job in Mountain View (not at the G) meant hopping on an N-Judah for 30 minutes to get to the Caltrain station then sitting on a Caltrain for 45 minutes to 69 minutes (depending on train) which adds to 1 1/2 hours each way not to mention having to deal with the Muni and having a Caltrain person wake you up to "see your ticket".

Public transportation starts looking a lot better if you have to pay for parking. It would take me roughly $12 in gas for the round trip in my car, so if I have to pay $10 for parking for the day (which would be cheap by SF standards, though I don't know how it would rate in Mountain View), I come out ahead monetarily taking Caltrain. It still might not be worth it in light of other inconveniences, though.

Caltrain is actually faster than the G-Bus with recent Bay Area traffic - it's not unusual to sit on 101 for 2 hours for the SF -> Google commute. A number of Googlers have recently switched from shuttle to Caltrain, eating the cost out of pocket, which may be more sustainable in the long run but in the short run is putting a strain on Caltrain capacity.

2 hours? Is living in SF really that great? Or is there just nothing interesting close to Google?

I don't personally think it's worth it - I live 2 miles away from the Googleplex, and bike to work weather/schedule-permitting. But a number of my coworkers just really want to live in the city. I think it's a generational thing - the majority of people my generation seem to prefer city living.

Are you sure about that?

I wonder how much the shuttle system costs Google. It's hard to say for certain, but its probably in the millions of dollars a year.

Now, let's contrast that to the BART extension to SFO, which was completed in 2002 and cost $1.5 billion for 8.7 miles of new track. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Bay_Area_Rapid_T...)

Extending BART service to San Jose (which is hardly a politically trivial affair) would cost a few bucks to say the least. There is also the east-side extension which would compete with a west-side extension:


Unfortunately companies can't really just give money to the government to do their pet projects. It's been tried before and it kind of ends up poorly.

isn't the answer obvious. Google can call a bus company and have a solution in place in a day, or contribute billions to a goverment project that will take 15 years to finish (just look at BART, SJ light rail etc etc)

I don't live in SF, and I really don't fully understand the issues at hand here. But from what I've seen, writing checks to public transit systems (like the MBTA here in Boston) is a sure way to make sure that nothing ever happens.

Case in point, the "Green Line Extension" has been talked about for dozens of years now, and funded many times. They keep losing/wasting the money. I don't think Google wants to wait 10-30 years for the Bart system to catch up with their needs (if ever at all).

But I also don't understand why a company providing private shuttles is such a polarizing idea. No one gets bent about hotel shuttles or ones at convention centers, and putting more people in a shuttle is far better than each of them individually driving.

Could the anger be that companies aren't paying as much taxes as they used to, and hence there's not enough money for BART to be fixed? I'm not saying this is or isn't the case, just trying to get inside the mind of the protesters.

kinda depressing that all the money that companies pay for these buses couldn't simply be used to offer better service in the public system.

Very different pools of money.

I've found, in my experience, the average person, no matter what level in society they have achieved or have not achieved, does not understand

1. People who don't live like them 2. How cities work

The fake "Google" employee is union organizer Max Alper http://www.makingchangemedia.org/about-the-team/

The title should be updated to reflect that this was not a Google employee, but the shouting match was staged by protest organizers.

See updated article.

Well, the protest holding up a bus was real. Only the google employee doing the yelling was fake.

Website is unresponsive. Direct YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yc6z2oSPdQ

I don't agree with the tactics used by these protesters at all. I don't see how this creates anything but animosity.

Obviously the explosion of tech and the intrusion of the industry in to the city is causing a LOT of problems. Obviously there are a lot of people being displaced who feel they have no say.

It seems like the tech industry is just shouting from a bullhorn. "LEARN TO CODE IF YOU'RE POOR" seems to be the message. "WE'RE THE SOLUTION PEOPLE" seems to be the message. "TECH AND CAPITAL WILL SOLVE EVERYTHING" seems to be the message.

And yeah, part of the fucking problem is that everyone in tech is a "solutions" person. People have their spiritual energies, their moralistic energies, just blindly and naively stowed away behind some screen, literally and figuratively. It is ethically bankrupt and it is total fucking bullshit. It is basically how a teenager envisions the world. So yeah, I'm just as fucking pissed off at all of these newcomers.

I think Radiohead summed it up pretty well:

Karma Police, arrest this man, he talks in maths, he buzzes like a fridge he's like a detuned radio. Karma Police, arrest this girl, her hitler hairdo, is making me feel ill, and we have crashed her party.

Or how about The Flying Burrito Brothers:

This old earthquake's gonna leave me in the poor house. It seems like this whole town's insane. On the thirty-first floor your gold plated door won't keep out the Lord's burning rain.

So maybe you're getting my drift here... kidnapping a bus full of people, no matter how strongly you feel about things, is NOT the fucking answer. It is just more SHOUTING. All we end up with is people SHOUTING and SHOUTING.

Well, fuck all you people, on both sides. We should be SINGING to each other and with each other. And yeah, tech industry, you need to shut the fuck up. But you know what? I'm just gonna SING.

This is madness. The tech companies are not the issue. The supply and demand imbalance is the issue. If development regulations were relaxed more, then more housing could be developed. The same protestors would probably object to further development.

In addition it is counter productive protesting around mass transit. Would they prefer the employees drove, putting immense burden on the already stressed transport infrastructure?

The whole argument is terribly misguided.

> If development regulations were relaxed more, then more housing could be developed.

This is often tossed around and is often a canard. SF is currently in one of its biggest building booms in history. Building is likely occurring as fast as it can.

It has not been confirmed that the person works for Google. It would be best to update the Headline to reflect this

  (UPDATE 12:12 PM -- The Guardian amended the headline 
  to reflect our story more accurately, that though this 
  man exited the bus and claimed he was late for work, 
  we have not yet verified his employment at Google)

People aren't allowed on the bus in the first place if they're not employees or at least contractors. So how much verification do you need?

Edit: whoops

UPDATE 12:32pm: Various tips have streamed in that this shout-out was staged. Protest organizer Leslie Dreyer talked to us on the phone and verified that this person's identity was Max Bell Alper, a union organizer from Oakland. This person was not a Google employee, and Dreyer was not able to verify if Alper was there in the morning with the group of 20-30 protesters. The Guardian is attempting to contact Alper for comment. Dreyer said she, as an organizer, was unaware that the "performance" had been planned. We are following this as it develops.

Isn't there any parking lots[1] that Google can purchase a space at to use as a loading zone? It seems like they should be able to pay a fee to some store or building owners to create their own stops.

1) Since the only time I've been in SF was when the car I was riding in broke down in 1988. Yeah, let's send the North Dakotan to find a wrecker.

Parking lots? In SF? Surely you're joking.

Well, like I said, I was last there in 1988 and it wasn't exactly a non-stressful experience.

Where the heck do you park all those cars then?

The secret is to not own a car.

Its an honest question, I see a lot of cars in the photo, there seems to be shops in the photo, so where the heck do they park in the city and why can't Google buy some spots?

I have heard a statistic before that at any given time 50% of the cars in SF are looking for parking. I could easily believe that.

It is not unusual, when going up to the city outside of rush hour, to spend 45 minutes driving and then a further 45 minutes looking for parking. Whenever possible I try to park at Daly City or Millbrae and then BART/Caltrain in, but that won't get you to all destinations...

That is Max Bell Alper of Occupy SF.

I think I've mentioned it before, but I'll say it again: I'm pretty happy not to live in that area any more. I loved the weather, but everything else just seems so... bonkers.

Word on twitter is that there was an update saying it was staged, but I can't get to the actual article. Can anyone verify?

The media is going to have a field day with this.

And this is employees' fault how?

I regularly drive down 19th Avenue in SF. Just south of Geary, the Google bus regularly parks blocking one lane of 19th Avenue for extended periods of time (tens of minutes) apparently waiting for employees to board, and creating a traffic jam on 19th Avenue behind it.

I'm not sure why the bus has to stop on 19th Avenue, as there are numerous side streets it could stop on -- and not one of the major north-south thoroughfares in west SF.

The difference with Muni buses, of course, is that they stop, let people off/on, and then get out of the way almost immediately. I'm not sure why the rest of us are waiting on Google employees for extended periods.

EDIT: I'm not sure how some of the peanut gallery here is reading anti-public-transportation sentiment into my comment. I'm a big fan of BART and Muni and use them regularly.

What I'm marveling over is why Google employees and/or their bus driver(s) can't seem to tell time sufficiently well to not require illegally blocking a major SF thoroughfare for extended periods of time. The Google bus blocks and delays Muni and other forms of public transportation on 19th Avenue just as effectively as it blocks autos. Muni doesn't do that.

I hope whatever comes out of this mess, is some positive change for everyone.

I'm annoyed at shuttles (not sure which company) at the Caltrain station which park in the townsend st. bike lane every single evening, making it dangerous for cyclists. This intersection is sufficiently messy as it is.

If there's a law that says that private vehicles can't Stop, Stand, Park, etc. in the right lane, then it should be enforced.

If you think there should be a law, then that's also a fine discussion.

But from my standpoint, people are complaining about the lack of enforcement of a law that doesn't exist.

Does everything in life need to be controlled by laws. I'm sure I don't succeed all the time, but I always try to just be considerate of the other people around me, even if there is no law preventing the thing that I want to do.

That's because you're a person. Companies do not act with such civility -- they're not structured to do so. That's why companies need to be regulated far more than individuals -- basic human decency reduces the need for a lot of laws.

A company is not a living being. There is a person driving the bus. His boss who told him to park in the middle of traffic is a person. And so on all the way up the hierarchy of bosses and stakeholders.

We should expect civility from people even if they are acting from behind the shield of incorporation.

Regulation is ok, but its not the best. Ideally we could talk face to face with some humans and ask if they realize the consequences of their decisions.

But I understand this isnt the way things work.

You seem to be under the impression that a system cannot have emergent behavior beyond that of its components (i.e., a corporation is made of people and thus a corporation can be expected to behave and respond like a person).

This is incorrect. For example, you are "intelligent," but this does not imply that there is a "little man" inside your brain which is also "intelligent."

> A company is not a living being. There is a person driving the bus. His boss who told him to park in the middle of traffic is a person. And so on all the way up the hierarchy of bosses and stakeholders. We should expect civility from people even if they are acting from behind the shield of incorporation.

Does the Milgram experiment ring any bell ?

If you are a passenger in a vehicle that stops in a lane of traffic long enough to cause a traffic pileup, you speak up and fix it.

That's what you do.

Is the parent commenter suggesting that nobody riding the google bus has the gumption and the decency to sanity check an obviously ungracious and impolite behavior ?

It would be much worse for the city, if all of those people drove their own cars to work.

Have these people done the ground-work of asking Google to move the route? To consider that they might be blocking traffic?

Or did they show up one day and decide to make Googlers late to work with no warning?

There's no laws preventing kids from pressing every button in an elevator, but that's pretty irritating when it happens. Now imagine the same kid doing it in the elevator that you have to use every day.

Yeah sure but that doesn't give you the right to say, slap the kid. You have to go through formal channels like talking to his/her parents.

New people people coming in to a city have to learn to live in that city. But the opposite is equally true. The people in the city will have to learn to live with those new people. You don't get extra privileges for 'being there first'

I don't know, slapping sounds good. Too many have an attitude of no one is going to do anything. Changing their paradigm a little could be helpful. :O)

Also, the MUNI buses are authorized to stop in the bus stops. I'm not opposed to private buses, but they should have to pay for the right to use public streets to transact their business, just as businesses operating in Central Park have to pay for their locations.

I don't get how shuttle buses haven't already paid for their right to use public streets the same way a business can deliver something w/o paying an additional fee. Using this logic, FedEx and UPS should be paying even more fees for flashing hazards and double parking all over the city. The city should either bake in the fees into shuttle licensing or just recoup it by having a traffic officer ticket the Google shuttles at every Muni stop and generating a nice revenue stream. The other option is for Google to rent a space at their stops either inside a private lot (it's temp anyways) and not have these problems.

Double parking for commercial delivery is already authorized by SF city ordinance. If the city decided that enabling Peninsula tech workers to live in the city is a good thing (and there are many reasons in favor and against doing so), then they could similarly authorize private buses. Until they do so, these buses are breaking the law and should be fined.


There's a pilot program that's set to start next summer that charges the corporate buses. It's halfway down the article.

"but they should have to pay for the right to use public streets"... Do you suppose there are no regulatory costs to operating a bus?

I do think it's sensible they use side streets to board/offboard.

That said, what do you think about MegaBUS and the sort which also park and use regular bus route stops and shelters for minutes at a time while passengers board? There are also chartered buses which do the same.

Or are those okay, or are they also problematic?

If people made the Google buses and other private busses more difficult for employers to have, what would happen is people would cram into cars creating a bigger problem. Or businesses could take their employees back to the suburbs and you could have new Detroits at the extreme. And then people decry the flight of wealth out from the cities...

You can't have it both ways.

Good question.

I fail to see how these buses are any different from:

* Megabus / BoltBus / other private bus companies that park on city streets (mentioned in the parent comment)

* privately chartered bus (for a school or community group)

Is the issue that they are crowding out actual city buses? Because I could see that would be a problem if the Google bus waits X minutes at a bus stop and people need to walk around it to get to the "real" city bus.

But if it just shows up to pick up a handful of people and then leaves, without disrupting the regular public transport, I don't see what the issue is, or why these "activists" are so butthurt about it.

At least they utilize mass transit. You, in your car, do not. Cars are an inefficient burden on the city and the economy. Would you rather the entire company drove?

Those aren't the two possible outcomes. The third outcome is that without the buses, the employees choose to live closer to work, not in the city. I don't had an opinion on whether that's a better or worse outcome.

Well, I guess that solves every transportation planning problem ever.

Some would; However, many would not. There is a reason they endure the 40-60 minute commute as it stands.

There are so many different reasons that people might (at this exact moment) live 50 miles from their job. To simply say "move closer" ignores so many of them.

It's very clear that many more Peninsula tech workers have chosen to live in the city after the advent of private shuttle buses. It doesn't explain all of them (for example, some dual-career couples have one person in the Peninsula and one in the East Bay -- SF is a good point in between), but it certainly enables many of them.

The fact that so many people opt for a 90-minute commute because they think it will make their social life more interesting is much more burdensome than whether they make that commute in a car or a bus. If you want to rail against someone for something, rail against that.

I don't necessarily have any problem with people doing that myself (long commutes or driving themselves). I just repeatedly see this bizarre cognitive dissonance in the Bay Area where some of the people who spend 3 hours a day riding a bus up and down the peninsula try and assert some sort of moral high ground over the people who choose to have a reasonable commute but drive themselves, because cars.

Because cars, and suburbia. Suburbia is inherently less efficient than cities (where resources are shared). So yes, there is moral high ground.

When the south bay can compete with the cities amenities, then we will see those who value those amenities move south. Until then, the problem will perpetuate.

You are waiting because no one bothered to build sufficient mass transportation.

Now that it's bad enough, maybe people can try to cure the disease instead of treating the symptoms.

Having dual modes of transportation does drive people nuts. In NYC it's the black SUV motorcades that sometimes double park on streets.

I would love to see the solution being Google using Big Data to improve SF traffic.

Google employee has a point...

No, he doesn't. Although I suspect here on HN there will be a segment - hopefully a small one - of people who agree with him. Gentrification is not always bad, but this guy's arguments are.

Breaking down some of them:

> You can't afford it? You can leave. I'm sorry, get a better job

That isn't how it works in the real world. People can't 'just leave'. If you seriously think moving to a more affordable city is an option for everyone you are sadly mistaken. I don't think I really need to go into why "just move" is very naive argument.

> "I'm sorry, get a better job."

Again, this isn't how life works. If it was so easy to 'get a better job' we'd all be out doing it.

> "This is a city for the right people who can afford it."

Who are "the right people"? Who gets to dictate who can and cannot live in a city? Many people being priced out of San Francisco have lived there for generations, far longer than people moving to work in tech. Why are the latter "the right people" but not the former?

I am not saying I totally agree with the protestors, either. Gentrification in general brings many positives and negatives. It's a tricky balance. There are good arguments to be made on either side - "if you don't like it, just move" is not one of them. "You're not the right people" is even worse.

The "right people" are the ones who can afford it, its not anyone's god given right to live in a particular place of their choosing.

He phrased himself very poorly, admittedly.

That being said, I disagree with the notion that simply because you live somewhere, you get a automatic right to live there forever.

Can I get that deal in Aspen or Malibu? Of course not.

San Francisco has without dispute the best tenant protections in the country. San Francisco (now) has without dispute the most expensive real estate in the country.

You can go ahead and say correlation isn't causation here, Just like you can also believe in the easter bunny

> "Can I get that deal in Aspen or Malibu? Of course not."

From what I can grok from this, their idea is that this deal should only be extended to people who were born in the area. Well-off parents raise you in SF? Congratulations, you now get to live there forever and it is the responsibility of other people to ensure that you can always afford it. Get raised in Smalltown, Kansas? Well I hope you like Kansas, because you will forever be relegated to second class "transplant" status. ...or something.

> Who are "the right people"? Who gets to dictate who can and cannot live in a city?

Not that I agree with the guy in the video in any way, but I 100% •guarantee* the protestors (and the writers at the Guardian for that matter) have their own ideas about who the "right people" people are to live in SF, and that these ideas are not exactly absent from their motivations when protesting or discussing these issues.

Why can't they move? They're not entitled to live in San Francisco just because their parents live there or whatever. That's life.

This is a complicated issue. I think he has a point but he could probably have said it more tactfully.

Many people have a lot of attachment to their cities and neighborhoods. They do not just want to move to another city (and that may not be an option at all if there job is fixed to the city being gentrified). They probably have friends and family that are probably also located in San Francisco. They see a new power rising and threatening there way of life and it frustrates them. People don't like change.

Boston has a similar problem. Our science and tech industry is almost as bright as San Francisco's and the workforce has to live somewhere. Traditionally working-class neighborhoods like Southie and Dorchester are being changed and it's forcing rents up and driving long term residents out of the city.

Unfortunately, both long-term Boston and San Francisco residents have done this to themselves through NIMBYism. If these cities had been encouraging developers to build new housing stock at the correct rate over the last 30 years or so rents would have stayed relatively stable. Instead they're skyrocketing up.

Everything is going fine for this Google employee right now, but someday he may be facing the same problem. I only hope his group of peers learns the lessons that the previous generations failed to about continuing to build high-density desirable housing.

Maybe, but it's shortsighted. Yes, currently the Google Employee is able to provide enough value to Google that they pay him a nice salary that allows him to live in relative comfort. Though, perhaps in 10 years, his job will be automated away by better tools, or AI. A good chunk of what programmers and even technical people do could possibly be automated at some point. At which point this employee might find himself in the same situation.

The real question is, as David Simon I believe asked in a post over the weekend, are we in it together, or not? If we're not and everyone is off to fend for themselves, then you better be okay with it when you're put in the weaker position.

And the point is that he's a huge entitled asshole.

He is not entitled, he pays his rent. Protesters on the other hand feel entitled to stay in the city even if they cannot afford it.

Until Google employee's job is downsized, and he's unable to find work at $startup_flavor_of_the_year. I'm sure he can then pack up and move to a cheaper city.

He might as well have said, "Let them eat cake."

Which point is that?

The guy who posted that video:

NEW INFORMATION: "Google" employee shoutout earlier today at bus protest was staged by union organizer.


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