Jitneys like Chariot will now be required to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles, among other rules. (Daniel Kim/Special to S.F. Examiner)

New regulations for jitneys leave ban on Muni competition in flux

San Francisco transportation officials approved The City’s first-ever regulations for jitneys Tuesday.

The regulations will require private transit to provide wheelchair accessible vehicles and to submit operating data to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, among other new rules.

A controversial ban on allowing private transit routes to mirror Muni routes is still in flux, however, and SFMTA staff said the provision to curtail duplicate service needs more work behind the scenes.

The SFMTA Board of Directors approved the regulations Tuesday after a heated discussion, and asked staff to come back to the board with its final proposal to ban competition with Muni.

SFMTA staff told the San Francisco Examiner the agency intends to work with stakeholders on these rules, which may be strengthened — or weakened — as the result of those discussions.

Chariot is a private bus service accessible by a cellphone app serving between 3,000 and 4,000 riders a day, according to the SFMTA. Its 215 drivers recently unionized with Teamsters Local 665.

In draft regulations that were not approved, new private transit routes that match Muni routes “75 percent” or more would not be allowed, according to the SFMTA, and existing Chariot routes that mirror Muni lines would be grandfathered in.

Doug Bloch, political director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents locals across the state, advised that Lyft’s bus service competes directly with Chariot, but is not regulated by the SFMTA — and that strict regulations for Chariot may benefit Lyft.

More than a dozen Chariot employees also spoke on behalf of the company, and read statements from customers aloud to the board. One customer, Elizabeth Washburn, depends on Chariot as part of her commute from her Laurel Heights home to Caltrain.

“I took a significant pay cut last year when I moved into the social sector,” she wrote, adding that Chariot helps make her commute more affordable. She did not mention Muni.

Mona Babauta, deputy general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District, told the SFMTA board that Chariot vehicles “slow down and create obstacles” for Golden Gate Transit bus service by using unauthorized bus stops.

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