Every weekday starting at dawn and continuing late into the evening, a shiny fleet of unmarked buses rolls through the streets of San Francisco, picking up thousands of young technology workers at dozens of stops and depositing them an hour’s drive south.
It’s an exclusive perk offered by Apple, Facebook, Google and other major Silicon Valley companies: luxury coaches equipped with air conditioning, plush seats and wireless Internet access that ease the stress of navigating congested Bay Area roadways.
The private mass transit system has become the most visible symbol of the digital gold rush sweeping this city, and of the sharpening division between those who are riding the high-tech industry’s good fortunes and those who are not.
“Some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us,” Rebecca Solnit, a longtime San Francisco resident, recently wrote in the London Review of Books.
Fueling the growing rift is a common belief that the vast wealth being amassed by the tech industry is not spilling over into the community.
Instead, activists say, the high-tech invasion is driving up the cost of living to levels that more San Franciscans cannot afford.
They say that a dramatic increase in rent, housing prices and evictions has sharpened income inequality and squeezed out more middle-class families, small businesses, artists and intellectuals, the people who gave San Francisco its rich and diverse cultural appeal.
Read more: Los Angeles Times San Francisco split by Silicon Valley’s wealth