MOUNTAIN VIEW -- Google is proposing to fund four electric shuttles that will provide free community transportation in a two-year pilot program that could be extended.
If the Mountain View City Council approves Google's plan in September as expected, the company aims to have the buses available to help residents and visitors access recreational areas by late October.
"We're thrilled to be working with the City of Mountain View to provide neighbors a new -- and green -- way to get around town," Google's transportation manager, Kevin Mathy, said in a statement.
Google is the largest employer in Mountain View, with more than 20,000 employees at its campus on Amphitheatre Parkway and other buildings.
The tech giant is known for reaching out to communities as it expands. Past efforts have included free Wi-Fi for Mountain View residents and free transit passes for low-income San Franciscans.
Google's presence in the city keeps growing; the company has bought 24 properties since 2011. The shuttles in Mountain View follow community concern about increased traffic generated by the expansion.
If these company properties are rezoned to allow for employee housing, the shuttle service could also help connect employees working at the Google headquarters, located just north of the Cinemark Century Theatres on Shoreline Boulevard, to downtown. The shuttles might also be charged at the Googleplex until a more central charging station is built.
"To the extent that (Google has) a lot of employees who live here, it helps them," City Manager Dan Rich said.
But he emphasized that the company's effort is primarily intended to help residents get to and from recreational areas.
The proposed routes for the four shuttles haven't been disclosed, as the city is still working with residents on the location of bus stops. But city officials hope the service will reduce drive-alone traffic, as well as help residents get around town--the route will probably form a loop that connects its northernmost point, the movie theaters, with downtown Mountain View.
"It's really about picking up a prescription, heading to the park, hopping downtown for lunch and catching an early matinee," said Mayor Chris Clark in a statement.
The shuttles will probably run every half-hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and every hour on weekends and holidays from noon until 8 p.m. The company will give Mountain View a grant to work out route planning and marketing.
Google hasn't said how much it will cost to lease and run the 16-seat shuttles, which will be Ford E-450s, according to Shyam Nagrani, vice president of marketing at Motiv, the company that provides the shuttles' electric power systems.
While the service will use current signage and stops as much as possible, city traffic engineers are working with public transportation agencies, including the Valley Transportation Authority, to ensure that the routes don't get in the way of each other.
"We want it to be easy to find and easy to follow," Ranson said.
Los Altos resident Julie Tsoi, who frequently uses Mountain View services and parks, was concerned about the shuttles displacing existing transit services.
But, she said, "I love the fact that it's electric. I love the fact that they're promoting ... recreation districts."
Mountain View resident Amy Henderson said she thinks Google is "doing very good things" for the city.
"They have the money to keep Mountain View good-looking and safe and provide buses," said the stay-at-home mom. "I'm totally good with that."
A public meeting at which residents can comment on the shuttle program is planned for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 12 in the council chambers at 500 Castro St.