Close on the heels of multibillion-dollar deals to acquire WhatsApp and Oculus and rumors that it may buy drone maker Titan Aerospace, Facebook announced a new long-term strategic alliance with the
San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District, better known as BART. It's intended to extend Internet connectivity and improve the customer experience throughout the mass transit system.
Under the terms of the tie-up, Facebook will invest at least $1 billion to install WiFi throughout BART’s transportation network, enabling riders to access free Internet service
via mobile devices during their commutes. Facebook will also make significant investments in related infrastructure, including station furniture, signage, ticketing, vehicles and maintenance
facilities. In return, Facebook will participate in strategic decision-making and provide operational guidance to BART.
BART chief administrator Richard Kaufman stated: “We
couldn’t be more excited to partner with Facebook, which will provide the long-term investment needed to maintain the high standard of service Bay Area residents have come to expect from BART.
We expect this merger will be a model for public-private partnerships for years to come.”
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg added: “I’m thrilled to be adding
BART to the Facebook family. In addition to improving the customer experience on BART, this acquisition will give us access to location data for millions of Bay Area residents, vastly improving our
ad-targeting capabilities. When an Oakland hipster secretly craves that Napa weekend, we’ll be there with the artisanal cheese.”
Some analysts believe the real motivation
behind the acquisition lies elsewhere.
In a brief aside, Zuckerberg noted that the deal clears the way for BART to extend its rail service to Menlo Park, where Facebook has its
headquarters. “Currently, BART doesn’t even serve most of Silicon Valley, the economic engine of the whole region. It’s like the rest of the Bay Area is shunning us because
we’re a bunch of engineering tools or something,” Zuckerberg observed with a high-pitched giggle. “I mean, have you partied at Stanford? Those guys are definitely not tools.
Bros are solid.”
The Facebook founder was quick to point out that BART service will not extend to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, “because of
local concerns about quality of life issues, or something.”
Separately, Google announced plans to acquire Amtrak, the world’s largest transportation network that nobody