Today at Berkeley Lab

Free Taxi Service To Be Discontinued

In 2010, the Laboratory contracted with Friendly Cab for an off-hours taxi service that provided free rides to employees and affiliates during the non-operational hours of the shuttle service. Effective May 31, due to budgetary constraints, this free service will be discontinued. Past this date all taxi rides will be at the expense of the rider.

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  1. I do not understand why lab can not keep continuing free friendly cab service. Lab have huge budget and running cost for free cab must be not expensive. Otherwise why will free cab service have to be stop? Considering safe, service should be continued, I think.

  2. Kevin Gagnon says:

    As a user of LBNL for 3 years now I have heavily depended upon this taxi service for weekend hours. There is more to the loss of this than simply not being able to get down the hill easily. Those individuals who work on the weekends often utilize this service to get food and/or supplies, will the lab be offering weekend food services or something similar to offset this?

  3. Up to 2010, an employee could call the Blackberry Gate after hours or on weekends, and one of the private security guards would pick you up in a Lab car and drive you off the hill. If you lived close enough, the guard would even take you to your door. Then the Lab switched to Friendly Cab. Now we have UC Police Dept. employees as guards–why can’t they drive Lab employees off the hill, like the private security guards used to do? The Lab is paying UC for these guards anyway.

    The Directorate imposed an increase in overhead charges to pay the salaries and office expenses of the newly created Associate Lab Directors. You think they will likewise find a way to continue to pay Friendly Cab or pay the UCPD employees?

    Anybody who wonders why Lab employees are reluctant to walk off the hill at night, try subscribing to the UCPD Crime Alerts at .

  4. Valeria Rustichelli says:

    this is really bad!I used the taxi a lot of times!!!

  5. As a young female graduate student starting to work on a research project up the hill, I’m concerned that this service has been discontinued for safety and scientific considerations. I expect to have some late nights due to the nature of my experiments and was looking forward to using the taxi service if necessary. Since grad students can’t get a parking permit on campus, it looks like now I will need to invest in a scooter or something of the like to accomodate productivity. Even if the taxi service is too costly, can’t the lab invest in a few late night shuttle runs? The late night bear shuttle and night walk on the UCB campus is extremely helpful for student and post-doc researchers. It seems like the lab should at least have something like this even if the runs need to be made infrequently due to budget concerns.

    just my two cents worth

  6. Sheraz Gul says:

    This is really a disappointing news for those who work in long shifts and use this service. Hope that authorities would reconsider this decision.

  7. I suggested to Lab transportation, who oversees that site, to put a notice on there.

  8. I’ve never had the opportunity to use this service, but it was good to know it was available if I ever needed it.

    To help with communication, you might want to add a “to be discontinued” notice on the After Hours Taxi website so people (who haven’t seen this TABL announcement) can start planning alternative means of transportation.

  9. I would like to react to some comments made below.

    It was sometime suggested that:

    - walking and biking is a good alternative to avoid gas emission and “be green”
    - in the end safety is your own responsibility

    While I generally agree with these two points, I believe that the circumstances here should be taken into consideration.

    Walking/biking from or to the lab in miday is fine. What about in the middle of the night, when you have an ALS shift starting at 5 am? Or when you come back after a 12h (or 24h) shift?

    Off-hours, the lab is an isolated place. It is an island that you cannot really reach without an appropriate transportation method. One would not go visit Alcatraz by swimming.

    The two arguments above are simply not compatible here. My own safety tells me not to come to the lab at these odd hours.

    I understand that individual taxi is costly. To me this means that we could try to find other ways to shuttle people around (hourly bus, car-pooling, reimbursment on a specific budget line, finding an extra funding for the service, etc.).

    But the need remains. Or this is the end of scientific productivity for lots of students, post-docs, visitors, etc.

  10. Ioannis Zegkinoglou says:

    This is probably the worst and most inefficient way of saving money that one could ever find. There are dozens of employees who regularly work till late in the evening. I am one of them. Even if I reduce my working hours and leave every day by 7:30 pm, how am I supposed to commute when I have experiments at the ALS or when I need to prepare samples for those experiments? Our work requires working late, doing night shifts, working on weekends and holidays. Scientists are no administrators, they do not work from 8 am to 5 pm. How can a Lab expect highest productivity and world-leading science when it cannot offer basic things to its scientists? I really hope this decision will be reconsidered.

  11. A reply to David Mustar’s comment.
    Dear David, dear others,

    I fully agree, that I don’t expect the lab to give sponsor my ride, but the comments rather express, how much we all appreciate this arrangement and how much we think a guaranteed ride home policy makes the lab a little more an ideal place to work at and to have in a community. As Frances Allen reminded above, hiring a taxi company is not the only way to do this.

    Although that point might be controversial, I would rather hire less scientists but bring the infrastructure of the lab (administrators, roads, buildings, workshops, food, shuttle, etc) up to level. So we will have a more diverse (in terms of skills) workforce and everybody is motivated and works efficiently.

    I always was proud to work at a place with shuttle bus and free after hours taxi. One way or the other it is the visible sign of an attitude. I have told many friends about these offers to the lab employees and guests, using it to debunk the myth of always energy hungry and car centered Americans, which does exist in other parts of the world.

    Let’s see, hopefully there is room for a continuation of the guaranteed ride home-policy, one way or the other.



  12. Zhi Liu says:

    This will affect those people who don’t have a car and cannot afford pay for a taxi. They need help the most. How about we (not students) all start to pay for our parking and use the money to pay for this?

    I drive and I will pay for my parking.

  13. As someone who work at the ALS on nights and week-ends, and often for long shifts, I believe this is going to endanger my future work and safety as well.

    How can I reach the lab in the middle of the night, knowing that there is no bus service (not even the regular buses from Berkeley)? How can I go to work on week-end when I have a beamtime scheduled? I don’t drive, and I am not going to come by foot in the middle of the night.

    This is really a bad news. I understand the strong pressure on fundings, but at the same time I hope that the ALS and the other divisions will help to solve this issue.

  14. I strongly hope that the lab reconsiders this decision as well. This is a service that is far worth the cost to the lab in terms of safety, security, and supporting the lab’s fast-paced world renowned scientific research. I do not have a car and have used the courtesy shuttle occasionally throughout the past few years. This decision does not “reduce costs” to the lab–it creates a slew of additional costs and problems (decreased productivity, increased security costs/measures, safety concerns, increased commuter traffic, etc.).

  15. As someone who mostly works nights and weekends I’ve come to rely heavily on the taxi service. It’s discontinuation is a short sighted decision that will increase congestion, decrease productivity and put the people who decide to walk home at risk. I truly hope you reconsider.

  16. Akihiro Fukabori says:

    To my knowledge, many workers are using free cab in night and weekend. In addition, many post-docs don’t have car. Free cab service should be kept continue.

  17. This is a very bad decision. We have to work late or in weekends sometimes, but we cannot afford the taxi fees by ourselves (the poor salary for students). What should we do? Walk for one hour from the lab to BART in the dark? Not to mention the danger from mountain lions.

  18. This could have a large impact on our after-hours users and impact our equipment use during daytime hours. Is there perhaps a way the Lab could negotiate for a reduced rate service if totally free is no longer an option?

  19. David Bunzow says:

    This change appears to be in direct conflict with LBNL’s desire to minimize the number of personal vehicles at the Lab due to very limited parking. It also authorizes a significant risk increase to the personal safety of our user community and staff who are trying to help LBNL meet its environmental obligations and goals. The User community at the Molecular Foundry does NOT support this unilateral decision.

  20. Kang Rae Cho says:

    I can guess that I will be influenced a lot when this service is discontinued. I am sure that it will put lots of impact on after-hour taxi users for conducting their science and also could reduce LBNL safety.

  21. Jeff Urban says:

    Safety is an institutional value here at LBNL. Shouldn’t this apply to employees as they transit from the lab to their public transport? I should think that would be critically important.

  22. I do not own a car, and rely on the taxi service to get home safely AND be productive at work. If we’re being forced to choose between safety and cutting-edge science, then I will opt for safety, and pursue career opportunities elsewhere. This is a terrible decision, standing in the way of scientific discovery, that disproportionately impacts employees who can’t afford (grad students, undergrads, postdocs) or don’t desire to buy a car.

  23. Alexandros Lamprou says:

    This is a real productivity killer. I am sure there must be alternatives to save money, that would not impact the work of so many people. I fully agree that it also goes clearly against several broadly advertized Lab policies, like safety and sustainability. I hope more people will join our comments here, to hopefully push reconsider this short-sighted decision…

  24. I agree with all of the sentiments made above. I have been using this service for the last 5 years, and both the security and taxi drivers have really helped me get my work done without worrying about how I can get home in the middle of the night.

    The graduate student population is only supplied “after hours” parking permits (to control the parking situation, I assume), but we also work odd hours. Grad students don’t have extra cash to spend on the taxi. In my case, I would be forced to leave in the middle of my experiments to pick up my car so that I may get home safely late at night. This would add at least an extra hour of commute to my day, meaning I would have to work later (i.e. working fatigued). Additionally, I know that there will be days that I am forced to “rush” my experiment or not properly clean my bench to catch the last bus. This does not promote lab safety. Also, I am lucky that I own a car for working on the weekends. What about those who don’t?

    This is a step backwards in lab’s promotion of safety and green culture. I hope you reconsider.

  25. This also affects security as well as safety. Cab drivers from a contracted company seem much safer than random cabbies. Are you going to let grad students get unrestricted parking now or do they have to stop their experiments to go home and get their cars for late nights. Do individuals have to call down to the gate or get a gate pass for the cab of interest? Do we have to know their country of origin and email address? Gate passes are necessary for service contractors, but cabbies get to come on site because you want to save a few bucks. Security is an important consideration here.

  26. Alastair MacDowell says:

    The service was useful for several ALS user groups who were able to visit the lab without having to rent cars that would sit idle in the lab car parks. I note that this cost saving measure will result in shifting the expense back to 1) the users who will car rent and occupy lab car parking and 2) the lab, as employee effectiveness is reduced as they drive around trying to find a parking space.

  27. Guangye Han says:

    Off-hours taxi service helped me a lot. It will be nice to keep it.

  28. David Mustar says:

    I’ve worked nights and weekends at LBNL for over a decade now. Not once have I expected someone else to pay for my commute, nor should anyone, it’s your responsibility. In this economy, with state and federal budget problems, why should other already heavily taxed workers pay for your free cab rides? As for the “green/ sustainable” angle, most cabs up here are still gas powered. So if this gets more people walking then it is actually more “green”. Finally, as in all things, safety is ultimately your responsibility.

  29. Ruchira Chatterjee says:

    This is unfortunate and inconvenient. The taxi service has been very helpful for working late or on the weekends. What are we supposed to do? This step will make life very difficult for many people who rely got heavily on this service.

  30. This is quite unfortunate. As a student who does not own a car, I frequently rely on the after-hours taxi service when I am working on weekends or after-hours. This service makes a lot of sense and I don’t understand the reason to remove it.

  31. Sean Doris says:

    I also agree with those above. This will hurt my ability to safely work on nights and weekends as I do not own a car that I can use to get to lab during off-hours.

  32. Rosie Davis says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. Having the service has been important part of the amenities associated with the LBNL Guest House.

  33. Vittal Yachandra says:

    Everyone in our group thinks this is a bad idea. They all use the service extensively – not everyone leaves by 7.30 PM when the last bus leaves or drives a car to the lab, and they work weekends too.

  34. Might be good to let the “Sustainability Team”, announced in the same TABL issue, know how you feel on this!

  35. Frances Allen says:

    I agree that this is a huge shame. Will LBL Security be shuttling people to and from the BART station after hours, as was the case before LBL contracted with the taxi firm? While this generally involved long wait times, it would be better then nothing. Still, I hope the decision to end the after hours taxi service will be reversed.

  36. John Turner says:

    This seems like a poor choice to cut. We are a 24 hour user facility and a number of our users are from out of town. This cut them off from a safe commute off site.

  37. I wish this policy change weren’t going into effect! As a grad student, I often stay late at night and come in during the weekends. Without owning a car, I frequently rely on the after-hours taxi service (and previously, the after-hours door-to-door service that Security used to provide). I don’t have the budget to afford multiple $10 taxi rides each week, meaning I would be forced to walk home, which I am especially uncomfortable doing late at night.

  38. really bad decision……..

  39. This is very unfortunate. People won’t be able to work late or on weekends anymore if they don’t own a car, which is a definite disadvantage and will decrease productivity.

  40. Will we be able to reimburse students and postdoctoral fellows for the taxi fare from our research accounts?

  41. The Lab promotes biking and walking on paper and the dependence on individual car transportation in practice. The Bus shuttle service is the _unique_ exception. Biking and walking (that includes walking to the bus stop) is something which people do despite the conditions provided by the lab.

    What we actually should do is to make walking and biking obvious choice.

    This can be done by installing walkways on which you can actually walk while having a conversation. At can be done by improving signage for visitors. It can be done by making sure our employees are not dependent on their car, when they are here. Taking the car is like smoking: you start on the weekend or when it’s getting late and after a while you find yourself doing it all the time.

    The fact that so many employees which live close by still use the car, despite the parking situation and the obvious silliness of moving 1 metric ton of steel to carry one person to the lab and back or even to move around on site just shows that people are desperate. And now a little bit more desperate.

    Let’s try to be better than this!


  42. Andreas Schmid says:

    Our traffic system design continues to focus on automobiles as the primary users while systematically marginalizing pedestrians and bikes. We have huge opportunities to improve walkability and bikeability, ultimately we’ll be rewarded with savings not cost. A bunch of wonderful ideas were brought up in Glenn Kubiak’s excellent ‘traffic safety forum’ []. We should follow through and make our Lab a better place to move around in, not only by private car.

  43. Jeff Johnson says:

    Was this really a large enough expense to cut? Don’t we want work to get done even under “budgetary constraints?” Why place more obstacles in the way of people doing their jobs?

  44. Lara gundel says:

    Could LBNL arrange to get affordable rates with Friendly Cab for rides to/from each current shuttle stop? I think a regular taxi costs between $10 and $15 one way to bldg 50 from the Berkeley Bart station. This is a huge burden to many people who put in long days/nights and use the taxi off hours and weekends.
    Besides the impacts on employees and guests who work late, especially for ALS schedules, many more cars will need to be accommodated during regular work hours.
    This is a shortsighted decision; ironic and it contradicts LBNL’s policy “Sustainable Berkeley Lab”.

  45. Paul Barton says:

    I agree with the opinions above.

  46. This is very unfortunate. Off-hours taxi service helped me a lot the last couple of months, and I wouldnt be working late if it wasnt for it.

  47. Tyler Troy says:

    Who is the policy maker that has made this decision? I’ll bet someone who does not do weekend/night shifts and someone who owns a car!

  48. Helen Prieto says:

    This is unfortunate to our guests that visit the lab (as I know some of them have taken advantage of it). I used this as a “selling-feature” to help convince people to stay at the guesthouse (vs. staying in the downtown area that’s surrounded by restaurants, activities and BART).

  49. Kymba A'Hearn says:

    So now if I’m asked to work late on a deadline project, I have to walk or ride my bike down Strawberry Canyon, which is unlit and at several corners pitch black and subject to falling rock, uneven surfaces, and loose gravel hazards?
    Do I get to decline all future overtime requests because if I do not drive it is a hazard to my life?

  50. Announcing this during Earth Week is a real bad joke! This move will prompt employes who tried to commute to the lab without their own car to switch back to their own car and disencourages them from the use of public transportation. I’m sure this decision was made by people who anyway do all their commuting with their private car and have no idea how it would be to walk from the lab down to BART in the late evening or how difficult it is to get up to the lab without your own car on a Sunday.

  51. Christine Beavers says:

    This is unfortunate. This was probably the only thing we had left to offer our users that was above and beyond our European competitiors. In Europe, the synchrotrons offer cheap or subsidized housing and cheap or subsidized food. We offer expensive housing, non-existent food on weekends, and no easy way of getting back!

  52. Rick Kelly says:

    This is very unfortunate and a step backwards for the LBNL safety program.

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