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."