Commuter shuttle bus Chariot halts services in SF

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Chariot, the commuter shuttle bus network that Ford Smart Mobility acquired in 2016, has halted its services in San Francisco, the San Francisco Business Times first reported. On Wednesday, the California Public Utilities Commission suspended Chariot’s operating permit after the service didn’t pass three consecutive California Highway Patrol inspections.

“On three separate inspections of Chariot Transportation, Inc. it was discovered drivers without valid Class B California Driver Licenses were driving passenger buses which required a Class B license,” CHP Public Information Officer John D. Fransen told TechCrunch. “This resulted in an unsatisfactory rating for each inspection. The carrier was advised that continued unsatisfactory ratings would result in denial, suspension, or revocation of the carriers California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) operating authority.” 

Fransen went on to say that these inspections are meant to “prevent passenger bus traffic collision related deaths,” which is why it’s imperative that Chariot bus drivers are properly trained and have the right licenses. Yesterday, the CPUC requested the CHP initiate a re-inspection today.

“The CPUC has a responsibility to suspend a carrier’s operating permit for failure to maintain a vehicle in safe operating mode, other violations related to transportation safety, and/or failure to comply with the DMV’s employee Pull Notice Program,” CPUC Public Information Officer Christopher Chow told TechCrunch.

Chariot positions itself as a flexible mass transit service that falls somewhere in-between public transportation and Uber/Lyft. Chariot, which costs about $4 per trip, was completing 4,000 rides a day across its 13 original commuter routes last August.

At the time, Chariot said it was in talks with San Francisco to officially supplement public mass transit with Chariot’s flexible mass transit. Earlier this week, officials approved the San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency proposed rules that would prevent Chariot from running its shuttles along public transit routes.

While Chariot cannot currently operate in San Francisco, it’s still up-and-running in New York City, where it launched its services in July. Chariot also operates in Seattle and Austin.

When TechCrunch reached out to Chariot for a comment, a spokesperson directed me to the email they sent to customers:

We are temporarily pausing our commuter service beginning this afternoon. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and will alert you immediately once we reopen service, as we expect to resolve this disruption quickly. In the meantime, we recommend you use an alternate means of transportation and we will refund pre-paid passes for any missed rides.

We are committed to always providing our riders with safe and reliable service, and we comply with regulatory orders even when we disagree with them. Even though Chariot is in full compliance with all regulations, we have received an order from a regulator to temporarily suspend service. We are working to resolve this matter as quickly as possible using appropriate legal processes, and will provide updates to our riders as soon as we are able.