There are some hopeful aspects to the explosion of private shuttle bus services and the new technology that drives them, but unless used wisely, they can put more fossil-fuel vans on the road and worsen a two-tier transportation system. San Francisco and other areas are trying to regulate them. This may be an action item for us.
Save Muni took a position calling on the SFMTA to “deny a permit to Chariot, based on its illegal operations and the lack of enforcement,” and in support of the SFMTA integrating a system of jitneys into the agency’s operations. Links here are to various sources.
SFMTA Proposed Regulations
This is a summary of a public feedback session held by SFMTA (San Francisco Metro Transportation Agency, which includes Muni) on their proposed regulations. It was prepared for 350 Bay Area Transportation Campaign.
Can private bus companies solve Bay Area commute woes?
If private companies can fill in the gaps to provide routes public operators aren’t offering and shift more people away from driving by themselves, that could help reduce traffic congestion, improve the environment and free up parking spaces in busy downtown areas. But it’s a problem when the services clog bus stops, making the buses even slower. Or when they duplicate routes and steal passengers, whose fares help pay for the taxpayer-funded operations, said Ratna Amin, a transportation planner at SPUR. Read article.
By Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News, November 27, 2017
The Lyft Shuttle – a Glorified City Bus with Fewer Poor People
Lyft Shuttle uses regular passenger vehicles that stop only at designated points along a set route and charge a fixed fare – a “jitney” service with cars instead of vans. The service appears designed to segregate transit customers by class. Read the article.
By Keith A. Spencer, Salon, 06.19.2017
San Francisco is attempting now to regulate Chariot. So far, the regulations appear quite favorable to the company (which is owned by Ford Motor Co.) and unfavorable to Muni.
Regulatory wrinkle: Taxis and jitneys are regulated by the city they serve, while TNCs are regulated by the state Public Utilities Commission.
Complaints about Chariot
Chariot petitioned the state in 2016 to expand its public service beyond the city. The county agencies complained the company’s vehicles were already wreaking havoc on public transit and other drivers by blocking bus stops, crowding driveways and stopping in the middle of the street, according to documents filed with the California Public Utilities Commission. Chariot ultimately pulled its application, and San Francisco officials agreed to let the company use loading zones for passenger pickup.
This document filed with the California PUC to argue against allowing Chariot to expand its public service beyond the city is written in such dense legalese that I provide a summary.
San Francisco has established street restrictions in Sections 501 and 503 of the City’s Transportation Code, which restrict certain types of vehicles from traveling on specified street segments based on vehicle weight and seating capacity. Chariot’s proposed routes include a number of routes that travel on streets subject to Street Restrictions.
When the Street Restrictions were brought to the attention of Chariot, Chariot contended that its vehicles are “vanpools” and thus not be subject to Street Restrictions. A vanpool is defined by the Vehicle Code as a vehicle maintained and used primarily for the non-profit work-related transportation of adults for the purposes of ridesharing.
Chariot’s has shown a consistent and ongoing disregard for other San Francisco parking and traffic laws:
a. Staging and stopping in residential driveways
b. Double parking, blocking traffic
c. Stopping in Muni “red zones”
d. Driver behavior
The SFMTA has repeatedly brought these and other issues to the attention of Chariot. Chariot staff have often responded to SFMTA complaints by pledging to resolve individual issues, but the SFMTA has not seen overall improvement in Chariot’s behavior.