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Sunset residents try to entice Chariot out west

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Proposed route would connect west side to SoMa

An aqua colored Chariot van on a San Francisco street. Photo courtesy of Chariot

Chariot, the private bus outfit owned by Ford Motor Company, mostly sticks to neighborhoods like SoMa, the Mission, and the Financial District. Now Sunset residents would like for the company to extend westward, but first they have to round up 50 potential riders in the next three weeks.

The company’s “proposed routes” program crowdsources potential expansions by asking users to come up with new routes for themselves and then drum up interest.

Chariot explains:

Through Chariot’s website, individuals may suggest new transit routes. [...] Proposed Routes are then posted on Chariot’s website for 30 days, along with the minimum number of Supporters (defined below) necessary to support the route.

[...] If a proposed route receives the needed number of supporters, Chariot expects that it will launch the route within two weeks thereafter on a trial basis to evaluate customer interest and ridership.

Supporting a potential route means pledging a fee so that the company knows you’re serious; however, the charge only happens if the route launches.

Chariot frames the system as a way for its customers to have say in where the service goes—but, of course, it also pushes some of the company’s market research and planning onto users.

Right now, one San Franciscan is trying to convince Chariot to start a route connecting the Outer Sunset to SoMa. The expansion has attracted a dozen supporters but needs to get to 50 in total within the next 22 days before Chariot will consider it.

Chariot supporters often prefer it to Muni and other public transit systems because they claim it’s a more efficient and pleasant ride.

“I use Chariot because it saves me about 15 minutes during my commute,” rider Tiffany Lam wrote in a 2017 petition.

“With buses packed to the gills and Uber and Lyft adding more cars to the road, chariot [moves] a lot of people,” adds a signer named Mike McGinley.

Chariot’s present public SF routes.

The catch—Chariot only drives to where the money is. Presently, the company’s only public route that extends more than a few blocks west of the Haight and Golden Gate Park is a Geary Boulevard line that connects 35th Avenue to the Financial District.

Chariot has no public routes servicing neighborhoods like Bayview, Portola, the Castro, Dogpatch, Bernal Heights, Glen Park, Ingleside, or the entire vast swath of the Sunset. Riders have to incentivize those neighborhoods themselves by ginning up grassroots support, which might then translate into service.

The company does run a route in the Sunset already, but it’s a private line.

“Private routes are [...] for companies or other organizations who wish to operate Chariot routes designated for their employees,” spokesperson Erin Simpson tells Curbed SF.

Presently, Chariot’s San Francisco riders pay up to $119/month for a 30-day pass or up to $5 per ride, depending on the time of day.