A group of protestors in Seattle attempted to block several Microsoft employee shuttles from leaving their pickups earlier today and accused the company of gentrifying a local neighborhood. That shuttle service brings Microsoft employees from nearby areas to its headquarters in nearby Redmond, though that process was held up for about 45 minutes by the group, reports Capitol Hill Seattle. The protestors were holding large banners reading "gentrification stops here," a double entendre cracking fun at the shuttle stops and the demonstration itself. They were also handing out printed material accusing Microsoft of driving up the cost of living and creating deep socioeconomic rifts. Police eventually arrived on the scene and broke up the demonstration.
Upset over gentrification and cost of living
Microsoft has more than 40,000 employees in Washington State, with most of those living near its campus in Redmond. The Connector shuttle service began in late 2007 with pickups in five residential neighborhoods, and has since expanded to about a dozen. Like Google and others, Microsoft has touted the program's environmental benefits, and used it as a perk to both lure and maintain employees.
Today's situation mimics others that have occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area, where locals claim that Google, Facebook, and Apple have driven up housing costs and are taking over public bus stops by using them as pickup locations for employees. A recent pilot that was approved by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency last month will charge tech companies for rights to share the spots, as well as require permits and limit routes. Google has also explored other options, including a private ferry service, though larger concerns remain about rising real-estate prices.