Google donates free community shuttle service

The free community shuttle that has been long desired by some City Council members and residents is going to become reality this fall, thanks to a large contribution from Google.

City officials announced Tuesday, July 15, that Google will pay for four electric shuttles to circulate throughout Mountain View starting this fall.

"This service isn't intended for commuting to work or school," said Mayor Chris Clark in a statement. "It's really about picking up a prescription, heading to the park, hopping downtown for lunch and catching an early matinee. It's intended to make the things we love about Mountain View more accessible to the people who live and work here without putting more cars on the road to do it."

Though intended to serve neighborhoods with limited public transportation options, a route and schedule won't be finalized until public input is sought, city officials say. It's been proposed that the shuttles run every 30 minutes on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and every hour on weekends and holidays from noon to 8 p.m. A public outreach meeting is scheduled for August 12.

The shuttles will have 16 seats, plus room for two wheelchairs, and include bike racks.

City officials say Google transportation manager Kevin Mathy proposed the concept to city officials last year.

"We're thrilled to be working with the City of Mountain View to provide neighbors a new -- and green -- way to get around town," said Mathy in a statement.

Google has agreed to pay for the service for two years, and has an option to continue for a third year. While the city will manage the service, Google will hire the drivers, said the city's communications director, Shonda Ranson. The shuttle buses would initially be leased.

City Council members have discussed a city-funded shuttle service several times since 2008, when city staff said the city was already well-served by public transit and instead recommended a campaign to tell residents to "dump the pump" and use alternatives to driving. Council members voted in 2012 to not pay a consultant $100,000 to see if residents would actually use a new community shuttle.

A 2012 report on a possible city-funded shuttle service put the cost between $175,000 to $1.6 million a year, depending on the number of shuttles and routes. The $175,000 option was a single shuttle running in a 30-minute loop from El Camino Hospital to San Antonio shopping center. City staff said that $1.6 million would pay for the operation of nine shuttles running every ten minutes. That option added a second route: from downtown to the Charleston Plaza shopping center near Highway 101 and Charleston Road.

"The community shuttle is only possible through a generous contribution from Google," said city manager Dan Rich, adding that it will "fulfill a long-desired community goal to have a shuttle for residents and to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips in Mountain View."


Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:19 pm

AC is a registered user.


You know my fellow neighbors, if Google takes care of everything, we won't have the right to complain if they take over everything.

It's a nice program, this shuttle service. Good for Google for doing such a thing. But if we rely on them too much, then we shouldn't be surprised much less complain if they wield undue influence on how things are done in our city.

I can only think that when people (myself included) complain about density, poor planning, or changes (welcome or not); we need to take a step back and own up to the fact (however unpleasant it may be) that it's not Google's fault or Merlione Geier's fault or Prometheus' fault. It's ours. We say we want things for the city, and none of those things come for free.

We didn't do it ourselves, we punted the problem to someone else, and now we have to play ball with them.

Neighbors, when I've posted comments here and there about my discomfort with "progress", it's not because I'm against progress; it's because I'm not comfortable with what it costs. The law of unintended consequences runs rampant.

To my neighbors who are running for City Council this year, I do hope that you might consider keeping this in mind: we are all going to have to live with the consequences of your administration; and that's more important than whether we agree or disagree. Every time you ask yourselves "what's the bottom line", *that* is the bottom line.

Posted by Love 'n hate, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Argh - I really want to hate Google for all the traffic and high rent they cause in MV, but it's really hard when they keep doing nice things for the city. ;-)

Posted by Alex M, a resident of Willowgate
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Looks like a good idea at first glance. However, remember when Google volunteered to install a city-wide WiFi service? It worked fine for a couple of years, but its reliability has degraded as Google's attention moved on to other things. When it's time for the city to pick up the tab for this shuttle service, what do you suppose will happen?

Posted by B Minkin, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Stupid Google, always doing something bad like this to...

Oh, wait.

Posted by Konrad M. Sosnow, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 2:32 pm


You are right! There is no such think as a free lunch.
The cost is low compared with the potential of improving their image and convincing City Council that adding 15,000 to 20,000 additional jobs will not have a negative impact on Mountain View cost of housing or traffic.

On the otehr hand, it will good to get objective data as to the usage of the shuttles.

Posted by Jeff Muscatine, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 3:07 pm

My experience with various shuttle services in a variety of scenarios has been that unless the frequency of the timetable is ... well, very frequent, usage will be limited. For many potential users, time will be of the essence in considering their alternatives. Probably not that much to learn from a trial unless it is possible to get on a shuttle without a long interval.

Discussion of route concepts should be interesting. Long crosstown arcs and/or hubs and loops, or?

Konrad makes the very good point that we desperately need real data as these things are formulated. Is there any access to relevant info on the design and management of Stanford's comprehensive Marguerite system? What we have are a cross-section of the interested parties all going on what seems like common sense, but with a scarcity of facts and practical knowledge.

So, "we" are out of our depth. I'd reconsider working with the right consultant (and maybe Google would pay for this?).

Posted by Skeptic, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 15, 2014 at 4:46 pm

So Google reserves the right to hire the drivers! What's with that? Eventually, they would want to replace the drivers with machines, one would guess. Electric, self-driving vehicles that ply the streets in Google's backyard! That would be a good showpiece.

I agree with AC. The more you rely on a large company, the more you realize you depend on them.

Posted by Games People Play, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Chris Clark is playing checkers, while Google is play chess. He's just to young and inexperienced to be in the role of mayor.

Posted by B Minkin, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 15, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Here's a great idea: let's all start our own free shuttle service and hire our own drivers. Everyone will like ours better because they mistrust Google, too. That's sure to teach Google a lesson. "Stop offering your free services to us, Google! We know that it just make us rely on you, and you will never catch us falling into that trap!"

Posted by Hmm- off the map, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2014 at 8:23 am

Wanted to comment on the Google shuttle service but noticed that my neighborhood (Monroe Drive) is not only a geographically isolated pod in Palo Alto but doesn't even make the cut as a MV neighborhood. Feeling non-existent.

Posted by AA, a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 16, 2014 at 9:20 am

This sounds great to me. I will use it with my children, especially to ride to downtown or San Antonio center where I hate fighting for parking. I think the route will make or break it's success. We must carefully plan the route.

Posted by Del Medio, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm

@off the map:
Yes, that sux. Why doesn't the Voice have a Del Medio neighborhood? Quite a few people live west of San Antonio in Mountain View.

Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 1:34 pm

AC is a registered user.

@Del Medio and @Hmm- off the map

I'm afraid you are in a rough spot. You have Palo Alto street signs and Mountain View zip codes (on the other side of Del Medio, that is). I wonder what the actual status of your neighborhood is.

Posted by Maher, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Maher is a registered user.

Hmmm! Yes, I'm skeptical too. Wondering what strings will come with this civic service... in the future.

Sometimes, it is correct to look a gift horse in the mouth... so what restrictions are explicitly agreed to by Google re civic leverage.

I'd like to think I needn't worry but I am worried about undue private power vav a city's independent self-determination by residents.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Jul 16, 2014 at 3:39 pm

This sounds wonderful to me. True it sounds as if there may be a few catches, but overall don't complain since Google is trying to reduce the number of car trips.

I do however have a couple of comments.

Why shouldn't this service be used as a commute service for work and school? Wouldn't reducing cars on the road during the busy commute times make sense? A shuttle containing say 10 workers or students takes 9 other vehicles off the road in that particular commute corridor in that particular time frame.

Why should this be a Mountain View only service? Why shouldn't shuttles cross city borders? Commuters, shoppers, diners, etc. will be crossing city borders, so it makes sense to start thinking across city borders when looking at shuttle routes.

Posted by Google will only pay for 2 yrs, a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

I heard that google will only pay for this service for 2yrs, then guess who has to flip the bill.

Posted by not google, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 16, 2014 at 10:54 pm

If Google runs it and only pays 2 years won't that make a burden in transferring management?
Google really doesn't have experience running a local transit system for a city--it is not the same as chartered buses to take employees to and from work.
After milk pail losing a deal when the city council didn't approve the project immediately for San Antonio center, i wonder if this is really a bribe to get approval for their planning projects? If rejected, will they cancel it? Also, the wifi is not a good precedent for letting them run a service they want to give the city.
And yes, the shuttles need to be integrated into Palo Alto, Los Altos, Sunnyvale, etc. to be useful. Current bus system in Mountain View by VTA and Caltrain is really not often enough, with routes that don't connect places well, costs a lot, often has delays, and is way too slow. It is cheaper and much faster to go to San Jose or San Francisco (including parking costs) to drive.
This would not solve the general transportation problem.
It seems Mountain View is heading on a path to be quite dense, quite crowded, quite congested without any real city identity.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2014 at 1:58 pm

I think the city better get moving on marketing, increasing ridership to places and bringing other firms onboard. Yes not all of Mountain View can be served by shuttles but the more popular and populated places would.

Think San Antonio District connected with few key offices, apartment buildings and a transit stop, make a loop

Posted by Donald, a resident of another community
on Jul 17, 2014 at 2:27 pm

"Google really doesn't have experience running a local transit system for a city"

Actually, Kevin Mathy, the Google guy in the article, used to run Stanford's Marguerite system so he has lots of experience at running a shuttle system. However, that really doesn't matter because MV is going to manage the system, not Google. Google will pay for it and hire the drivers, but the routes, schedules and maintenance are up to the city.

Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 6:01 pm

@PA Resident-

My understanding of why these shuttles are not suggested for kids going to and from school is because students are supposed to walk or bike all the time, in all kinds of weather, with no cars involved, so no cars would taken off the roads by these shuttles if they served students.

The City of MV cannot ever think of students getting to and from their many schools in any way other than on their feet or on bikes, or all the road diets so far (i.e., Cuesta, Phyllis, etc.), and all the many, many to come, i.e., California, South Castro, Miramonte, Shoreline (?), San Antonio Road, & possibly ECR (unless we arise to stop it as unfit/unsafe in any form for bikes, etc.) will be of less value. If we don't leave California as it currently is (alright for bikes with a good bike lane and still 2 lanes for vehicles each direction), then imagine how much more gridlocked ECR will be!

Posted by Susanne, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 6:07 pm

It now takes me about 30 minutes from my street on Sylvan to San Antonio shopping center at 5:30 pm and 9:30 am. That is too long, so, I will be driving south to Sunnyvale in much less time and shop at there Sprouts,Trader Joe and Target. Much larger parking areas and less stressful. I drive on Evelyn as not as many stop lights or long stop lights. So no business in Mtn. View except Walmart only once a month if needed. Been here a long time since I graduated from Old Mountain View High on Castro Street.

Posted by Linda Curtis, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 17, 2014 at 7:21 pm


Sounds better than doing much business in MV. I live on the other side of ECR, just off Castro. I've always loved shopping & dining in the old downtown area, but if there are coming parking charges and limits and shortages of parking availability, then I'll stop doing business there, at the detriment to the small business owners that have made this area so vibrant for so long.

I'm not able to walk very far, nor is my spouse, due to severe physical limitations, so the whole "walk it" or "bike it" philosophy doesn't hold up for folks like us.

Now would a free shuttle be available up & down Castro St. on a freguent basis? This could really help. I'm envisioning little hop on/hop off electric vehicles resembling classic cable cars (without the tracks or electric lines), that go slowly so folks can grab & hang on, like the real cable cars up in SF. Make them fun, frequent, and quiet EVs = all very different than anything yet discussed by those in power of such decisions.

So let's have these, I'm suggesting, drive up and down Castro, with all the big ones elsewhere, including routes to get employees to places other than right along ECR (since the VTA 22 does that & pretty much only that), and right to the Northern side of 101 & back (as Google & the other big employers are already pretty much doing that).

Posted by AC, a resident of another community
on Jul 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

AC is a registered user.

@Linda Curtis,

I'm not positive on this, but I think there are a whole slew of legal/liability concerns for transit where minors are involved.

"Not intended for school transportation for kids" could mean "They could use it if they wanted to, just like a VTA bus, but we are absolutely not signed up to follow the same rules and liabilities as a school bus".

Posted by DC, a resident of North Whisman
on Jul 18, 2014 at 11:09 pm

Google hauls 30 buses to Mtn View filled with workers and offers to drive them around the city the rest of the day. It's a win win but what are the bus route? Are there tax breaks, perhaps a new bridge, sharing VTA bus stops? When VTA budgets are cut and community car service reduced who will pays after the 2 year experiment is over.

Posted by Dylan Carlson, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 18, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I'd rather see Google invest in infrastructure, not workarounds.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2014 at 7:54 am

Bus routes, shuttle routes, public transportation, etc. are all infrastructure.

Posted by Dylan Carlson, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 19, 2014 at 1:10 pm

No, buses run on infrastructure, they are not infrastructure.

An example of infrastructure is an overpass/underpass at Castro & Central to avoid the rail crossing.

Posted by PA Resident, a resident of another community
on Jul 19, 2014 at 1:51 pm

Here's an article on Wiki about infrastructure. Web Link

Scroll down to the section about transportation infrastructure. It includes the following

Mass transit systems (Commuter rail systems, subways, tramways, trolleys, City Bicycle Sharing system, City Car Sharing system and bus transportation)

Posted by Dylan Carlson, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 19, 2014 at 3:14 pm

OK, if buses are "infrastructure" ... then allow me to rephrase my earlier comment -- if your point in saying so is purely semantic:

I'd rather see Google jointly invest in road improvements & structures to ease congestion and safety concerns, not vehicles. Geek analogy: it's better to improve the network instead of changing the size of the packets.

Posted by To be fair, a resident of Shoreline West
on Jul 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm


In most cases Google can't just build infrastructure. Because these are public streets they need to go thru the public process. However they can donate money for infrastructure projects and they have been doing so. Here is an article about how they donated $1M to MV this year for bike projects (and $400k last year) ll

Web Link

Also, Google has volunteered to enhance the section of Permanente Creek trail that runs through their property at Charleston.

Posted by Dylan Carlson, a resident of Whisman Station
on Jul 19, 2014 at 9:31 pm

I know they can't just build infrastructure. I said invest, and I said that should be priority.

They volunteered to enhance Permanente Creek because they want easier road access to Moffett Field from the Googleplex.

Also I don't find these numbers of Google's contributions particularly amazing. I could point to a lot of large corporations in other towns (e.g. Intel, IBM, etc) who have invested in schools, and surrounding infrastructure to support their growth.

Other companies were also more carefully planned than Google is, in that Google in my view grows somewhat ad-hoc, repurposing a lot of existing construction as opposed to companies like Intel which made bets in outlying areas, bought hundreds of acres years in advance and gradually developed on them.

Yes, I do expect Google to do a lot more than they're doing. The wi-fi, buses, and bikes are nice, but they are not especially meaningful in the long run.

Posted by Ridiculous , a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 19, 2014 at 11:07 pm

Comparing Google to Intel and IBM ???? How ridiculous.

IBM: 194 Billion
Intel; 167 Billion
Google: 404 Billion

In other words , young Google is more valuable than IBM and Intel combined! Apparently doing things the "old school" way is not working out so well.

Posted by Molly, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 24, 2014 at 3:21 pm

You know what I would really like to see is a reasonable city bike share program. You can't really get anywhere in 30 minutes, except up and down Castro. In Paris and Barcelona, there were no time limits and plenty of docks - and all for a very low annual fee.

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