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Monday, February 10, 2014

Two Quick Notes About This Morning's Microsoft Bus Protest

Posted by on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 1:34 PM

I'll probably have more to say about this morning's Microsoft bus protests later—at the moment, I've got a theater section to take care of—but a couple of initial thoughts:

First: While this morning's protest (which Christopher mentioned in the Morning News) seems to have been fueled and documented by some of your friendly municipal anarchists, it is not necessarily an anarchist-only stunt. The San Francisco Google bus protests, which this morning's event seemed to be modeled on, are also driven by union folks.

Second: Naturally, some of the early reactions to this will be puzzlement. "What exactly are they protesting," a Slogger asked in the Morning News comments thread, "the private transit that is replacing car trips?" Clearly, this protest isn't a literal-minded complaint about carpooling. Think of as a conversation-starter about our city, big business, and the influences they have on each other.

Will it be a successful conversation? That's a different question, but surely it's one worth having. The old debate about whether Occupy achieved anything is still going—even Occupy co-founder Micah White called it a "constructive failure" when he spoke at the Smoke Farm Symposium last summer—but it undeniably changed the national discussion about income inequality. It's hard to imagine the $15/hour minimum-wage campaign gaining much stability, for example, without the the foundation poured by Occupy. And it certainly made Mitt Romney look even more odious than he would've if he'd been the Republican contender in 2008.

We'll see where these small, token disruptions go—and whether the conversations they start will be worth the outrage they've already begun to provoke.


Comments (28) RSS

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raindrop 1
It must be tough not getting the groundswell you were hoping for.
Posted by raindrop on February 10, 2014 at 1:40 PM · Report this
theophrastus 2
A key, (possibly the key) to a successful protest is to have a simple well-communicated message. in the very beginning Occupy had that, then lost it. whereas these folks don't have it yet (but maybe will eventually find it?)
Posted by theophrastus on February 10, 2014 at 1:47 PM · Report this
PTrig 3
Should these workers move to the suburbs?
Posted by PTrig on February 10, 2014 at 1:48 PM · Report this
treefort 4
They seem to be protesting carpooling to decent paying jobs. Drawing divisions between the people who make 30k and the people who make 100k is really not in the spirit of the occupy. Everyone in those shuttles (as well as the public buses that were blocked) is part of the 99%, and not a part of the problem of extreme income distribution inequality in this country. This movement needs to get their priorities and message straight.
Posted by treefort on February 10, 2014 at 1:57 PM · Report this
Kinison 5
Hard to tell if its Union or Anarchists, both are not know to scatter like rats the second the police show up, but anarchists tend to get an erection (it sexually turns them on) when provoking the police.
Posted by Kinison on February 10, 2014 at 2:00 PM · Report this
hellbox 6
The situation in San Francisco is much, much different:

1. The buses are full-sized, such as Greyound, passenger buses that already are awkward on city streets.

2. The buses are from multiple companies, Google being the first and largest. They are all over.

3. The buses are using PUBLIC bus stops to pick up customers, due to the crowding of SF streets. This is the crux of the protest. MUNI commuters are often delayed or missing buses because of private companies using public resources.

By comparison:

1. Microsoft buses are much smaller (except in suburbs, where nobody seems to be complaining), and Seattle streets better accommodate them.

2. The buses are from a single company, and although noticeable, the are not demonstrably adding to the traffic in the city.

3. The Microsoft Connector doesn't use Metro stops. They at least try to be good citizens.

The protestors in San Francisco may be Union, but it's unlikely that in Seattle the Connector buses will annoy enough people to become a major issue.
Posted by hellbox on February 10, 2014 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Sorry, but I've been a union member since 1990, and I definitely don't support this short sighted asshattery!
Posted by Senor Guy on February 10, 2014 at 2:06 PM · Report this
John Scott Tynes 8
San Francisco union drivers are angry because Google uses bus stops for their system, complicating and delaying their work.

Microsoft's buses do not use Metro stops. They arrange with property owners to use their spaces instead. In my neighborhood there's a Microsoft park-and-ride operated from a church parking lot, which is presumably underutilized on weekdays during business hours. Good for the church and good for commuting.

I doubt Metro's union drivers have a dog in this alleged fight, but that's a nice try there Brendan.
Posted by John Scott Tynes on February 10, 2014 at 2:13 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
@6 is correct
Posted by Will in Seattle on February 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM · Report this
More proof that the local anarchists are fodder for the police and are probabaly funded by them. They trash unions, threaten reporters with sniper fire, and now this. They could be fighting corporations, the the Gates Foundation clones in the schools, and the DPD if there beef is against the ruling class and their lackeys. But no, they instead wish to shadow box with mere spectacles and representations of actual power. And Brendan, you are pandering to these idiots by giving them attention.
Posted by hmmmmm on February 10, 2014 at 2:30 PM · Report this
"Killing you and what you represent is... a statement. I’m not one hundred percent sure exactly what it’s sayin’, but you know, Frankenstein killed Dr. Frankenstein."
Posted by also on February 10, 2014 at 2:31 PM · Report this
SPG 12
Back to the conversation this is supposed to be raising…re: gentrification.
I'm not sure that good jobs is the real problem here, nor should it be the target. These guys should be protesting the developers who avoid building affordable housing, the landlords who have gotten greedy, and the bankers who've turned housing into a financial market.
Posted by SPG on February 10, 2014 at 2:31 PM · Report this
Kinison 13
@6 >> 1. The buses are full-sized, such as Greyound, passenger buses that already are awkward on city streets.

To complain about the size of the commuter buses, is to also complain about the dozens of tourist buses that go all over the place downtown SF, but they don't complain about those and focus only on the tech buses. Weird eh?

>>3. The buses are using PUBLIC bus stops to pick up customers,

Yup and after the complaints, it appears those tech companies stuck a deal with the city to pay for use of those bus stops. For about a month, they have been legally allowed to use those public stops.
Posted by Kinison on February 10, 2014 at 2:36 PM · Report this
If you want to ease inequality, try letting the Microsoft people get to work and work on taxing their income.

Remember this?:…

Microsoft wouldn't need Connector off-campus if Metro wasn't dangerously underfunded.
Posted by unpaid reader on February 10, 2014 at 2:45 PM · Report this
landlords have always been greedy, housing has always been a financial market, and developers try to build whatever makes them the most money.
Honestly, I think the only thing we can do to try to keep SEA affordable is to build a LOT more apts. You cant keep the $100k/yr crowd from moving in, but you can build them an apt. next to yours so they dont take the one you live in.
Posted by JonCracolici on February 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Slight correction to my comment above @7.

Misunderstood the Union reference as being a reference to the Teamsters or whichever union covers the local transit drivers. That said, I am in a Union, and I do think these idiots are just that, idiots.
Posted by Senor Guy on February 10, 2014 at 2:59 PM · Report this
Doctor Memory 17
The claim that the corporate shuttles in SF are impeding MUNI busses is, to put it mildly, yet to be substantiated. Lots of anecdotes and tall tales, very little actual data.

SFMUNI's on time performance has been consistently dismal for the past decade, since long before the corporate shuttles became prevalent. One of the primary problems has simply been that SF has too many cars, thanks to minimum parking requirements for new buildings and artificially cheap on-street parking rates. Given the city's population increase over the last few decades, it's very likely that the shuttles are in fact helping rather than hurting MUNI's performance by keeping the number of private cars owned and used by commuters in check.

SF recently started a pilot program wherein the corporate shuttles will pay a small usage fee for the MUNI stops and the city will collect data about them, so we might have some actual numbers to look at soon.

(Bluntly, the real issue in SF is a rent and housing availability crisis, and the busses are just a handy dog-whistle for people to use. If and when we get the bigger problem sorted out, I expect that the manufactured OUTRAGE!!! over BUSSES using BUS STOPS will quickly vanish.)
Posted by Doctor Memory on February 10, 2014 at 3:03 PM · Report this
A couple of years, Central District residents complained about the noise coming from an illegal anarchist run nightclub. The anarchists responded by saying "if you want to live in a quieter neighborhood, move to one that is farther from the center of the city."…

To the anarchists I say if you want cheaper rent, move to a less expensive part of the city. Or a different state. Quit being whiney little bitches.

Posted by drshort on February 10, 2014 at 3:08 PM · Report this
Microsoft also pays for all of its employees to have Orca cards. Even the ones who use the shuttles or drive. I am not sure how much it costs them, but I feel pretty certain that Microsoft is helping to subsidize Metro which as we know is more important than ever now.

Comparing this to Occupy is dumb: the 99% is everyone making less than $343K/yr, which is the majority of tech employees.
Posted by wxPDX on February 10, 2014 at 3:15 PM · Report this
These private buses allow workers to live far from their jobs without incurring any of the hassle and expense of commuting. If Microsoft employees wanna feel hip by living on the Hill instead of close to their job the suburbs, I think they need to bear that inconvenience.
Posted by couchetard on February 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM · Report this
The enemy of affordable housing isn't people with good paying jobs, it's "view corridors" and people like Sally Clark and Mike O'Brien pandering like hell in the face of looming district elections.
Posted by Westside forever on February 10, 2014 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Gus 22
When the upper middle class doesn't depend on public transportation, they are more willing to accept cuts in public transportation.

The Microsoft Connector buses here, and the Google buses in San Francisco, are creating a split between those who use public transportation, and those who do not (but without corporate subsidies, would). All this at the time Metro is going to have to cut routes if they cannot get funding.

If Microsoft employees were more dependent on public transportation, I think Microsoft would be more involved in helping pressure Olympia to fund the buses.
Posted by Gus on February 10, 2014 at 3:42 PM · Report this
seandr 23
Think of as a conversation-starter

When these kids muster up the chutzpah to target super-wealthy conservatives in their protests, they'll have started a conversation worth having. I think most Americans would be sympathetic towards a bunch of kids who somehow found a clever way to ruin the Koch brothers' day.

As it stands, they're only demonstrating that the far left is just as stupid as the far right.
Posted by seandr on February 10, 2014 at 3:44 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 24
@6 and 8,

What stops do you expect those buses to use? You do realize how congested San Francisco streets are. If those commuter buses used other stops not designated *for buses*, it would likely slow transit down even more.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 10, 2014 at 3:45 PM · Report this
The problem is these kind of protest risk pushing left leaning tech works to the right. A lot of tech workers support left causes in Seattle, especially the younger tech workers living in Seattle. Start making this about bringing down the upper middle class instead of bring up the lower middle class and you're going to lose support from the upper middle class. Want to bring the 15 buck min wage to a vote in Seattle? Start making life hell for the upper middle class and see how it affects support. Look at San Francisco where there's a us v them mentally.
Posted by j2patter on February 10, 2014 at 4:16 PM · Report this
SchmuckyTheCat 26
@22, Microsoft did and does lobby for public transportation. When local gov't couldn't meet demand, they started their own.
Posted by SchmuckyTheCat on February 10, 2014 at 4:27 PM · Report this
@ 23. And the conversation has begun! (See Dom's post above.)
Posted by Brendan Kiley on February 10, 2014 at 5:35 PM · Report this
@25 "A lot of tech workers support left causes in Seattle, especially the younger tech workers living in Seattle."

Which tech industry are you working in, because most of the young dudes I encounter in work circles are among the most knee-jerk, unreflective libertarians I know. Worse, they are poorly socialized and uninterested in caring for other people.
Posted by Wouldn't Vote For The Teachers Who Kept Them Out Of Lockers on February 10, 2014 at 5:46 PM · Report this

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