App-enabled luxury bus service widens community divide in San Francisco
Mon 18 May 2015
From the city that inspired smartphone-based taxi-hailing apps Uber and Lyft, a new internet-based transportation service is now being offered to San Franciscans – $6 (approx. £4) bus journeys complete with comfy relaxed seating, free Wi-Fi and snacks.
Leap Transit launched the service in March to target morning and evening business commuters, who can hail the buses from their smartphones or other mobile devices over the dedicated app. The company faces competition from a similar service Chariot, which owns a fleet of 35 15-seater vans to transport passengers for between $3 and $5 per ride.
Those in favour of the services claim that the app-supported buses are efficiently lessening the load of public commute routes in the city which tend to be unreliable and overcrowded. However, sceptics argue that the private transport option is only working to highlight the growing divide between wealthy tech bods and the rest of the community.
Currently a single journey on the San Francisco public transport network costs around $2.
Thea Selby, chairwoman of the San Francisco transit Riders, worries about these services exacerbating the divide. “We are very concerned that people will mentally disinvest in [municipal transport] when they take Leap, and that will create a two-tier transportation system,” she said.
However, others believe that Leap could be a positive environmental development. Susan Shaheen, co-director at the Transportation Sustainability Research Centre, University of California, commented: “People who can afford to ride these buses everyday are clearly people who could afford to ride a car everyday […] Getting them off their cars to go to work is a win-win situation for everyone, including the environment.”
Leap, founded by Kyle Kirchoff with $2.5mn in venture capital investments, runs five city buses each fully-refurbished community buses. The vehicles do not provide wheelchair access.
The service is not able to use public bus stops, instead drivers need to pick up and drop off riders from shuttle or loading areas.