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Stefani calls for hearing on impact of Chariot shutdown on riders

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(Kevin Kelleher/Special to S.F. Examiner)

How will thousands of Chariot shuttle riders get to work now that it’s gone?

Speaking on behalf of the riders in her district who used the private transportation service, Supervisor Catherine Stefani on Tuesday called for a Board of Supervisors hearing to assess the impact of Chariot’s January closure on other transportation throughout The City.

“It is extremely difficult to privatize public transportation, it requires a subsidy that obviously they cannot afford,” she said Tuesday. “Nonetheless, thousands of people took Chariot shuttles to commute to get around The City.”

The City “needs to learn why riders opted for Chariot of their other options in the first place, and what lessons we can learn from Chariot service to improve our own system,” including Muni, Stefani added.

Chariot announced in early January that it was going out of business, and would cease operations by March. While public attention has centered around finding new jobs at Muni for Chariot’s 300 laid off drivers, some of whom had Class B licenses, officials have centered little attention on the service’s riders.

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

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Chariot ran private shuttles that replicated Muni lines throughout San Francisco, but one of its oldest and most popular lines serviced the Marina District, which Stefani represents.

About 3,500 people rode Chariot’s two busiest Marina District routes, Stefani said Tuesday. Muni runs the 30-Stockton and 30X Marina Express from the Marina District to the Financial District, but Stefani wants to investigate why Chariot riders opted out of Muni in the first place.

Getting people out of cars is important, Stefani noted, to combat not only worsening traffic congestion in San Francisco but also to fight climate change.

Rachel Hyden, executive director of the San Francisco Transit Riders transportation advocacy group, said Muni has increased transit service to the Marina and nearby neighborhoods, including rolling out longer buses on the 30-Stockton route with more passenger capacity.

However, she said, “It’s very difficult for Muni to compete with a privately funded transportation service that does not have to meet the same requirements that Muni does,” and “Muni was further negatively impacted by the loss of ridership to Chariot.”

Notably, Chariot came under fire from various advocacy groups for its lack of wheelchair accessibility. Muni frequently must consider stop placement for seniors and people with disabilities, who cannot walk as far as more able-bodied riders.

Muni planning decisions frequently balance the needs of riders with limited mobility who ride buses throughout the day with those of commuters in a hurry. Chariot, by contrast, catered mostly to a younger, business-focused commuter clientele.

“Public transportation is cheaper, subject to public oversight, and required by federal law to serve all demographics equitably,” Sue Vaughan, a frequent critic of Chariot and a member of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency Citizen Advisory Council, told the San Francisco Examiner Thursday.

By contrast, she said, “private transportation services are only interested in making money, especially at the expense of public systems.”

joe@sfexaminer.com

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