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Private bus company Chariot going out of business

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“We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause”

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

It’s the end of the line for Chariot, the SF-based transit startup that tried to leverage Silicon Valley know-how to make private bus lines viable.

The San Francisco Examiner reports that Chariot will close its doors in March, citing a company-wide email Thursday telling employees that the business “will be winding down operations.”

In a statement to the Verge, Chariot CEO Dan Grossman said:

It has become clear that the mobility services delivered by Chariot over the past five years will not be a sustainable solution going forward. We apologize for the inconvenience this may cause Chariot’s riders and our enterprise customers. We are committed to ensuring our customers are aware of the decision and have time to make alternative transportation arrangements.

Chariot started rolling on SF streets in 2014, based on a model of “crowdsourcing bus lines” to run private shuttles to and from locales riders wanted the most. Riders could petition Chariot to create new lines, which the company might add to their service schedule if demand was high enough.

Like many transit-based startups, Chariot butted heads with City Hall almost right away, with SFMTA pushing for regulations that would keep private companies from reproducing or replacing Muni lines. The city even briefly shut the company down in 2017.

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Ford CEO Mark Fields in 2017.
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

In 2018 SFMTA issued Chariot permits that gave the startup greater mobility on the streets but with a number of concessions, including relocating more than 100 Chariot stops and sharing ridership and GPS data with the city.

Ford Motor Company acquired Chariot in 2016 for $65 million. The company expanded service from SF to include Austin, Seattle, New York, Columbus, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, LA, and even London.

A ride on Chariot cost between $3.80 and $5.00, depending on the time of day, and monthly passes ran up to $119. The company operated more than half a dozen routes in San Francisco, spanning from the Outer Richmond to the Mission.

Public service will end February 1.