Photo: Stamen Design
Taking the bus isn’t usually considered a luxury. But Silicon Valley companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, eBay, and Electronic Arts transport their employees to and from work, no matter where they live in San Francisco, on Wi-Fi equipped private buses with cushy, leather seats. San Francisco-based design firm Stamen Design tracked those companies’ bus routes to figure out where their employees live and how many people rely on those private corporate buses, Geoffrey Fowler of the Wall Street Journal reports.
Stamen mapped out the routes to better understand the connection between San Francisco and Silicon Valley.
“Historically, workers have lived in residential suburbs while commuting to work in the city,” the Stamen blog states. “For Silicon Valley, however, the situation is reversed: many of the largest technology companies are based in suburbs, but look to recruit younger knowledge workers who are more likely to dwell in the city.”
That understanding of Silicon Valley’s topsy-turvy urban geography is itself a bit outdated. When Google pioneered the buses a decade ago, a few hundred employees rode them. Since then, companies like Salesforce.com, Twitter, and Zynga, as well as countless startups have sprung up in San Francisco. What started out as a nice productivity-boosting perk has become an essential weapon for companies based 30 to 40 miles away from San Francisco to court employees.
Regardless, the buses remain popular and essential. Since the routes aren’t marked, Stamen utilized Foursquare, the location check-in service, and Field Papers, an online mapping tool, to find the locations for some of the bus stops. Members of the Stamen team also took turns camping out at one of the known Google bus stops on 18th Street in San Francisco. The company even hired bike messengers to follow and track the buses.
Stamen’s research estimated that the buses transport roughly 7,500 tech employees a day, Monday through Friday, and concluded that the unmarked buses ferry a third as many commuters as ride on Caltrain, a commuter train that travels between San Francisco and San Jose.
Stamen founder Eric Rodenbeck told Fowler that he expected the majority of traffic to come from the Mission District, a young, hip neighbourhood in San Francisco, and was surprised to see how much traffic came from other parts of the city.
“That’s a conversation about citywide change,” he told Fowler. “Is the city a place where valuable work can happen, or is it just a bedroom for Silicon Valley?”
If you live in the Bay Area, you can visit the “Seeking Silicon Valley” exhibit at the Zero1 Biennial in San Jose until December 8. You can also check out more information about the study on Stamen’s blog.
Photo: Stamen Design