Commuters who struggle with the crowded municipal bus service openly envy the spacious tech shuttles filled with their iPad-tapping passengers.I love San Francisco every time I go there, but face it, the city doesn't look tidy. Public transportation is barely above the "joke" level. Mentally ill people sleep on Market Street. BART is clunky. Plans for electrifying Caltrain are just starting to be concrete. I mean electrifying! Elsewhere, gas lines explode and take out an entire block. Roads have potholes. Power lines are on slanting wooden poles almost everywhere. Public schools are good or terrible depending on whether a city hosts wealthy residents or not. Some of this struck me right away when I moved to the area back in 1997.
The San Francisco Chronicle recently swelled the chorus with an op-ed denouncing the private shuttles as symbols of alienation and division: "San Franciscans feel resentful about the technology industry's lack of civic and community engagement, and the Google bus is our daily reminder."
To be fair, things have visibly improved a bit since then. But this in itself is not the main issue. The issue is the contrast between the amazing wealth created in this part of the world, and the relative lack of local impact of that wealth. Rich or ultra-rich residents do buy expensive houses and spend, I assume, a fraction of their money locally. But it is as if little of this manages to make it to anything that is shared, whether infrastructure proper, downtowns, or the public education system.
I am reminded of this quote:
I like to pay taxes.With them I buy civilization. - Oliver Wendell HolmesI am not sure what the local solution for this is, but I do wish there was more "civilization" in Silicon Valley.