Google to Run New Ferry from Harbor Bay

Internet giant’s transport plan draws wrath of protesters

Google launched a private ferry service from the Harbor Bay ferry terminal last Monday.

According to the Water Emergency Transportation Authority (WETA), the agency that operates San Francisco Bay Ferry, the Internet giant is providing a trial private ferry service for five days between the Harbor Bay terminal and Redwood City. WETA stated in a press release that announced the service, Google is paying $275 per landing. The trial runs through tomorrow.

This is not the first ferry service that the company has offered its employees. On Jan. 6, Google started morning and afternoon service for as many as 150 of its employees aboard the Triumphant from San Francisco to Redwood City. Google has a contract to run the San Francisco-Redwood City route. The contract expires tomorrow.

According to a WETA press release Harbor Bay ferry riders’ parking will not be affected, nor will the service impact the normal ferry schedule there. "The Google private ferry service can be a complement to the public service provided by WETA and other Bay Area ferry services," stated Nina Rannells, WETA’s executive director.

In an online release announcing the trial run, San Francisco Bay Ferry stated Google ferry riders are not permitted to park in the Harbor Bay ferry lot or on adjacent neighborhood streets. Google will provide separate, off-site parking, the release stated.

Google has begun transporting its employees by water in the face growing tensions over buses that carry workers to its headquarters in Mountain View. For some San Franciscans buses transporting employees from their city to Silicon Valley have come to symbolize tech-driven gentrification. They are targeting these buses as a symptom of what they consider an unwanted change in their neighborhoods. These changes include a spike in housing costs and evictions as the "haves" move in and the less fortunate are forced out.

Protesters have complained about the Google buses using MUNI bus stops to pick up passengers. Last month, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted to charge a $1 fee each time the tech companies use one of these stops. The fee, which goes into effect on
July 1, could cost Google as much as $100,000 a year.

The attitude about these buses has not been confined to San Francisco.

On Dec. 20, 2013, tension spilled over into Oakland when protesters showed up at the MacArthur and West Oakland BART stations, where private buses were picking up Google employees to take them to Mountain View.

According to one eyewitness more than 50 protesters swarmed a bus picking up Google employees at the MacArthur BART station. These protesters successfully blocked the bus for more than 30 minutes before officers from the Oakland Police Department arrived and cleared the street. In an incident at Seventh and Adeline streets near the West Oakland BART station, protesters halted a bus and one protester hurled a rock that shattered the bus’s back window.

Oakland protesters issued a manifesto that read in part: "In case you’re wondering why this happened, we’ll be extremely clear. The people outside your Google bus serve you coffee, watch your kids, have sex with you for money, make you food, and are being driven out of their neighborhoods. While you guys live fat as hogs with your free 24/7 buffets, everyone else is scraping the bottom of their wallets, barely existing in this expensive world that you and your chums have helped create. You are not innocent victims. Without you, the housing prices would not be rising and we would not be facing eviction and foreclosure."

Google buses are not the protesters’ only target. They have also stopped buses that are carrying Apple employees. These protests date back to last May when protesters at Union Square destroyed a piñata shaped like a Google bus.

Contact Dennis Evanosky at
editor@alamedasun.com.