Many of the tech firms in the San Francisco Bay Area are located in an area called the Peninsula, on a narrow strip of land that stretches from San Francisco itself to just above San Jose, and includes cities such as Redwood City (home of Oracle), Menlo Park (home of Facebook), and Mountain View (home of Google and Linkedin). While the downtown areas of the cities on the Peninsula are charming, they tend to be rather suburban in feel, and lack the grit and energy of San Francisco or the cities across the Bay such as Berkeley and Oakland. So, many workers at technology firms in Silicon Valley, especially younger ones, choose to live in those urban areas and commute to their jobs even though the commute can take an hour or more each way in rush hour. In an attempt to cater to this highly desirable workforce, and to make them more productive during commuting time, many high tech firms on the Peninsula have taken to running daily bus service that ferries employees to and from their homes. The large buses are comfortable and are equipped with wifi, so that they are like rolling offices. They are also a conspicuous presence, once that has become the unlikely target of protests, including vandalization of one of Google’s buses on December 20th.
It’s not that the buses are hurting anyone or making noise. Rather, it’s what they represent. Writing in the New Yorker, journalist George Packer called the tech company buses “a vivid emblem of the tech boom’s stratifying effect in the Bay Area.” An article published in San Francisco Magazine this fall called them “metaphor for whatever we feel about the tech industry in our midst: annoyance, resentment, paranoia, even something like hate.”
The fact is that in the Bay Area, there are the techies (employees at technology companies) who earn very high salaries, and everyone else. And because housing stock is limited due to historical and political reasons as well as the lack of available land due to the odd geography of the Bay Area (with a big Bay in forming a giant empty space right in the middle), the recent influx of these highly paid employees of the tech industry has been driving up rents and forcing many middle and lower class residents out of their homes. Hence the resentment of those lucky people on the bus.
Japan Intercultural Consulting www.japanintercultural.com