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March 12, 2007

Richard Florida

Google Motion

« Fake Lofts | Main | London Calling »

Google_travel Guess what Google's  biggest perk is?  Nope, not the gym.  Nada on the chef prepared food. Not  the flexible schedule.  Or the ability to work on stuff you love. It's the Google shuttle, according to a New York Times' report. 

Google's shuttle service covers the entire Bay Area moving roughly 1,200 employees over 4,400 miles a day aboard 32 buses with wireless access, bike racks and room for dogs. Reflecting those flexible schedules, the morning service picks up workers from 5:05 to 10:40AM, while evening drop-offs start at 3:40 and run all the way 'til 10:05PM.

The Google shuttle confounds the idea that Silicon Valley is a separate and unique island in the broader Bay Area. Squelchers and skeptics like Joel Kotkin try to put the kibosh on the creativity thesis by saying essentially that Silicon Valley is a self-contained "nerdistan" filled with techies, a far cry from the more outlandish lifestyles and culture of  San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley home to those ever-so-troublesome "yuppies, sophistos, trendoids and gays."

So much for that nonsense. That's the route of the Google shuttle, as the map above shows. It's a point that that did not go unnoticed by the Times which writes: "the hopping cultural and social life of San Francisco remains a magnet for young workers, even though the commute to offices in Silicon Valley, some 35 miles to the south, can take well over an hour." And for older workers with families, the shuttle enables them to live in areas which offer more affordable than Silicon Valley.  Like I argued in Rise, the only way to understand the Bay Area is a as a broad commuting shed, labor market area, and set of lifestyle communities which offer something for everyone. Or for the regional analysts out there: that's why the CMSA is the relevant unit of analysis.

One last thing:  transportation remains a vital component of quality of place.  In doing the research for Rise, young creative-tech types told me outright that the ability to live somewhere with accessible mass transit and the ability to get around without a car was a central factor in their location decision.  Google is in effect privatizing this for its people. If anyone still can't figure out why, guess what the No. 1 concern for Bay Area residents has been for 10 years running. You got it - traffic!  Or as Bent Hagemark, a 44-year-old software engineer who boards the shuttle in Cow Hollow, an upscale neighborhood in the north end of San Francisco, told the paper:  Google could cut just about any other perk. But, if  "they cut the shuttle, it would be a disaster.”

The full story is here (hat tip: Kevin Stolarick).

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Comments

Ryan Zelnio

Google is not the only one doing this. A similar service is offered by Cisco, Lockheed, and Apple. Probably others too. When I worked at Loral in Palo Alto, we had many employees commuting in from Sacramento (via the ACE train) and Gilroy (via Caltrain). Once when they cut the commute subsidy, many people threatened to quit over it. They quickly reinstated the program.

Everyone has to deal with the traffic. When a company goes the extra step to ease the burden a bit, it sends the message not only that they care about their employees, but also show that they are an environmentally conscious company. Both of which attract talent.

Michael Wells

I saw the Times story and wondered if Google will do a reverse commute in Oregon. The company recently announced that it will be building a monster "Googleplex" computer facility about 70 miles up the Columbia River from Portland in The Dalles. The location is to take advantage of cheap land (30+ acres) and cheaper electricity from the BPA dams. But I'm guessing their estimated 50-100 employees are going to want to get into the city on the weekends (although there's great windsurfing and hiking in the Columbia Gorge.) One of those vans coming into Portland would be a great perk.

DJM

How cool.. public transport without the PUBLIC. that is a great perk. perhaps Gulfstreams are next.

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