The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency [SFMTA] announced Monday that startup bus company Chariot will be the first beneficiary of its new program granting permits to privately-owned transit companies.
The San Francisco-based company, owned by Ford Motor Company and founded in 2014, has been operating in San Francisco for a long time.
But as SFMTA spokesperson Ben Jose points out, the company has always “operated in San Francisco with limited governance and oversight,” leading to allegations of “vehicles stopping in unauthorized locations such as crosswalks, traffic lanes, and Muni stops.”
Now the transit agency wants to give riders the idea that it brought Chariot into line. According to SFMTA:
While Chariot’s permit was under review, the SFMTA successfully worked with the company to relocate more than 100 stops from illegal locations to safe and legal loading spaces.
Chariot’s conditional permit requires that the company identify safe and legal alternatives for the remaining nine percent of their approximately 204 stop locations by the end of August 2018. [...] In addition to parking control officers on the street, taxi investigator resources will be dedicated to enforcing the terms of the program.
Most of the stop changes aren’t significant—relocations will be moved a block or less from the original stop.
Among other rules: Chariot stops will be reviewed by the SFMTA, the company “must share GPS and ridership data with the SFMTA,” and (the big one) that “routes must complement, rather than compete with, Muni.”
In exchange, Chariot no longer must worry about butting heads with City Hall or about the looming threat of potential shutdowns like the one that briefly curbed the private buses in October of 2017. (The suspension came because some of the company’s drivers turned out not to have the proper license.)
Via email, Chariot spokesperson Erin Simpsons says the company is “proud to have collaborated with SFMTA.” As of now, Chariot is the first and only company to receive permission to operate as a private transit network in San Francisco.