Q For the past year or so I have noticed large, white, unmarked buses loading passengers in downtown Campbell in the morning and dropping them off in the evening. I'm guessing that this is happening in other locations, too, because I am seeing more of these buses traveling the freeways. I counted six or eight heading north on Interstate 280 one morning.
Locals call them the Google bus or the Facebook bus. One shows a small sign in the window that reads "Cupertino/Campbell," suggesting it is an Apple bus.
Who is paying for these buses, who can use them, and approximately how many cars do they replace during our crowded commutes?
A These companies pay for them and use them as a perk to entice workers who live elsewhere in the Bay Area. Google operates a fleet of about 95 private buses serving 35 routes in seven counties that provide employees free transportation to their Mountain View headquarters. Most have Wi-Fi, allowing employees to work en route.
Google recently reduced the number of vehicles it is putting on the road by replacing a number of buses that seat 49 passengers with 31 double-decker buses that can seat 71. If Google were a public transit agency, it would be the seventh-largest bus operator in the Bay Area, according to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Google and Genentech alone carry roughly 8,000 riders a day and, along with other companies, save 14 million miles a year in driving. But not everyone is excited about them.
Q The big lumbering buses, the ones for Google, Facebook and probably a few other Silicon Valley companies, really gum things up when they become road boulders in the left lane in heavy traffic. They can't accelerate fast and leave huge gaps in the left lane in start-and-stop traffic.
A I can tolerate road boulders who are carrying as many as 71 people.
Q The San Francisco Airport has signs directing motorists to the cellphone lot as they approach from the north and south on Highway 101, but there is no sign as one drives east on the Interstate 380 connector from 280. The cellphone lot is quite useful, and I think that those approaching SFO from the west should be made aware of it, also.
A I agree. SFO officials say there never have been cellphone lot signs on this section of 380. Their traffic folks found that the cellphone lot message could not fit in the space of existing overhead signs. Caltrans may consider getting new signs, but this would not happen for a long time.
Q Some of us have dreaded the new white streetlights in San Jose for years. Does anyone realize how many of us will now be blinded in our bedrooms and backyards with the new lights?
Mark Del Secco
A I'm betting it won't be as bad as you fear. The new white LED lights can be positioned to shine more directionally than the amber sodium lights, away from homes and bedroom windows.
Also, the new lights can be dimmed at times, which saves money and may enhance the view of the stars.
Q Through the years of reading your column, I notice sometimes you contact animal control to help our animal friends. So I have a request along those lines.
On my bike ride home, there is a dead raccoon, apparently hit by a car, on the south side of Meridian Avenue south of Curtner in front of Central Christian Church. He has been there for a about a month.
I feel bad for this little guy, and was hoping that you might know the right agency to contact to help him off the road.
A Go to www.animalservicerequest.com and file a report.