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Out of Business: Private bus company Chariot to cease operations by March

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(Daniel Kim/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)

Private bus company Chariot will cease all operations by March, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

A company-wide email sent Thursday morning announced the company was shutting down, which a Chariot spokesperson subsequently confirmed.

“Chariot will be winding down operations,” said Erin First, a spokesperson with Chariot.

“As you know, the mobility landscape is rapidly changing, we’ve made the tough decision that Chariot is not going to be a sustainable business moving forward,” she added.

The company debuted in San Francisco as a private competitor to The City’s public transit system, Muni, in 2014, and was acquired by Ford Motor Company in late 2016.

It will cease operating its public available bus lines by Feb. 1, the company confirmed to the San Francisco Examiner.

The company also provides shuttle services for private businesses, a part of the business that will cease operations by March.

SEE RELATED: New rules to ban jitneys from competing with Muni

Chariot employs some 385 people in its San Francisco operations, and a total of 625 employees throughout the United States. The company has operations in Austin, Seattle, New York and Los Angeles, among other cities.

Roughly 300 of its employees are represented by the Teamsters Union. Doug Bloch, political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents 100,000 members across Northern California, the Central Valley and northern Nevada, said they will “work very hard” to find new jobs for Chariot drivers.

Those drivers have Class B licenses to drive buses, which are in high demand among shuttle operators for tech companies, school bus operators, and even Muni operators, Bloch said.

“People with commercial drivers licenses are in high demand right now,” he said.

Chariot offered rides in small buses the size of vans to the public, in a system similar to Uber where riders can request stops using a mobile phone app. The company mostly mirrored Muni’s most popular bus routes, ferrying riders from the Marina to the Financial District, and other neighborhoods throughout The City.

In early 2018 the company came into conflict with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which rebuffed Chariot for replicating Muni lines.

The agency’s Board of Directors passed new transportation rules prohibiting Chariot from replicating Muni lines in the future but grandfathered in its previously created routes.

Ed Reiskin, director of SFMTA, said it wasn’t a surprise that Chariot faced challenges.

“We know from our experience and needing to serve all the people of San Francisco that transit requires a subsidy,” Reiskin told the Examiner, Thursday. “The idea that mass transit can be offered under a private for-profit model I think is a questionable proposition.”

Notably, Muni has experienced an operator shortage of late. Reiskin said he “looks forward” to hearing from representatives of Chariot’s drivers.

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