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Google donates $6.8 million to San Francisco youth bus rides

Amid protests over high-tech commuter buses, the Web giant gives the city a massive donation to fund low-income students' transportation.

Protestors blocking a tech shuttle bus.
cjmartin via Flickr

It appears Google is looking to temper some of the backlash it's experienced over its high-tech commuter buses in San Francisco.

The Web giant has donated $6.8 million to the city to fund the Free Muni for Low Income Youth program for two years. This program, which launched last year, provides low- and moderate-income students free rides on San Francisco's public buses. Since it began, the program has assisted more than 31,000 students.

Google's donation is one of the largest private contributions toward direct city services that San Francisco has ever received, according to the mayor's office. And now that the city doesn't have to pay for the program, those tax dollars can be used elsewhere.

"With this unprecedented gift from Google, we can keep this successful pilot program running for at least two more years at no cost to taxpayers or Muni riders and free up critical funds for other vital Muni maintenance and services," San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. "Google is demonstrating with real action and real resources that they are a true partner in addressing our city's affordability crisis for lower and middle-income families."

Google and other tech companies have recently been under fire for increasing income inequality in the Bay Area. With high-paid tech employees moving in, San Francisco has experienced increased gentrification and rising rents.

The commuter buses that roam the city each morning and evening, picking up and dropping off tech employees, have become a symbol of wealth disparity and the target of a slew of protests.

Adding to some residents' resentment was the fact that the buses had been picking up passengers at stops designated for the city's official public transportation without paying the city. However, Mayor Lee announced last month that the city is now charging the tech buses for stopping at public stops. But the city apparently won't see increased revenue from this, according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian.

"San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don't pay more to use city bus stops," a Google spokesperson told CNET. "So we'll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund Muni passes for low income students for the next two years."

(Via The Verge)