San Francisco MUNI's New Competition (in the Marina District, at Least)

Live in the Marina District and work downtown or SoMA? You now have more transit choices thanks to two new startups, Chariot and Leap. Think of the two private shuttle services as Google buses for the public, except they are not quite so large.

March 28, 2015, 7:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Unlike the imposing tech buses that shuttle San Francisco residents out of the city to their offices in Menlo Park, Mountain View or other Peninsula cities, the smaller buses or vans used by Leap and Chariot, respectively, go from the city's outer neighborhoods to downtown and South of Market Area (SoMA) employment centers.

Another huge difference is that these services are open to anyone who can pay the $3-$6 per ride, far less than Uber but more than $2.25 on MUNI, San Francisco's public transit system, though costs are reduced with multi-ride tickets and the use of transit commuter benefits. You might need a smartphone to pay your fare though, as cash and Clipper Cards are not accepted.

"We just don't want to get in the way of other operations, our goal is to make the city work better overall," Kyle Kirchhoff, (Leap’s) CEO, told Ars at a Starbucks on Chestnut Street in the Marina neighborhood on Tuesday (March 17) morning, writes Cyrus Farivar. "We have tried to design an experience that takes the hassle out of commuting, and part of that is not having a crowded space."

"While some see elitism in the new services, entrepreneurs see a need: especially in areas like the Marina and South of Market where transit options are less abundant," writes Greta Kaul of the San Francisco Chronicle. However, the elitism label is hard to dismiss.

You’re trying to make money, and you’re creating a two-tiered transportation system in San Francisco,” San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos charged.

And a third transit startup, Loup, will soon be joining MUNI's competition for those who can afford the higher price but prefer a less stressful ride. "Loup's drivers have pick-up and drop-off spots, like a bus route, except passengers hail a ride through the app," writes Nitasha Tiku of The Verge.

For San Francisco residents who don't live in the Marina District, "Chariot announced expanded routes Wednesday (March 18), a new effort to reach people who work and live in more neighborhoods (it has been operating for 11 months in the Haight, Marina, Pacific Heights, downtown and South of Market areas)," writes Kaul of the Chronicle.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 in Ars Technica

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