Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

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jserraglio
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Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:20 pm

Ford’s Chariot shuttles are expanding to New York City

BY DARRELL ETHERINGTON
Jul 27, 2017

http://snip.ly/3paoy?bannerid=10692488% ... york-city/

Ford is adding its largest market yet for Chariot, the crowd-sourced shuttle service that it acquired last September. Chariot began operations in San Francisco, where the former startup ran commuter routes of its branded transit vans, and expanded to Austin after that. In August, it’ll begin service in New York City, with two debut routes running from the Lower East Side to Midtown in Manhattan, and from Greenpoint to Dumbo in Brooklyn.

Chariot’s goal is to supplement existing transit solutions, addressing gaps in transit and completing commuter options with first- and last-mile additions, or with routes for underserved areas. Riders can check routes in the Chariot app, and even propose their own new routes that contribute to the company’s crowdsourcing efforts in determining how best to serve actual user needs.

Chariot CEO Ali Vahabzadeh told me in an interview that he believes this is “a pretty opportune time for Chariot to introduce its reliable and accessible services in New York,” hinting at the frequency and severity of service disruptions we’ve seen in the city this summer so far. Chariot’s goal is to supplement existing options with flexible, fluid routes that respond quickly to rider needs, servicing areas with shuttle vans that hold over a dozen passengers. Theoretically, the flexibility of its model allows it so help compensate for prolonged service outages on regular public transit lines.

The initial lines were chosen through partnership with Ford’s data analytics team, Vahabzadeh explained, which looked at multiple factors and ran a multi-step narrowing process to identify the best starting points for expanding to the city.

“LES and Greenpoint are two very high-growth boroughs that haven’t historically had a lot of public transit alternatives,” he said.

And while Chariot has been working with New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to make sure everything its doing is “licensed and above board,” Vahabzadeh also suggested the two are not working in any kind of close collaboration at this stage. He said Chariot’s first goal was to “get the service and the product out there and to prove to all stakeholders involved what Chariot is really capable of.”

“We like to do first and talk second,” he said. “We think conversations will develop and evolve after we launch.”

Ford’s Jessica Robinson, Director of City Solutions, noted that the automaker often encounters confusion about why it’s working on urban transportation solutions like this one that are normally left to city services. She said that the company actually has a long history of wanting to help people get around, and that all that’s changed is the form that goal has taken.

“It’s a natural extension of what we’ve always been out to do,” she said. “I think the shift that we’re making as the world changes is the understanding of what we can do in that space. We think that with our history as a technology integrator, and with our special place in cities, we have a key role to play there.”

Meanwhile, Vahabzadeh is excited about what this New York expansion could mean for Chariot’s evolution.

“I think the public is going to use Chariot and micro-transit in different ways [in NYC],” he said. “Using Chariot in Brooklyn when the L-train is shut down, or event-based transit, for example. We can keep these running around the clock, with high-participation occupancy rates, so we’re going to learn a whole new set of lessons we can add to our playbook.”

Chariot plans to have 60 vehicles on the road by this fall in NYC, and it’s currently operating over 200 in SF, and around 50 in Austin. The company still employs less than 100 non-driver staff, which is impressive given the size of its operation, but expect that to shift up as its New York presence grows.
Last edited by jserraglio on Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.

lennygoran
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:28 pm

Thanks for this alert-I never heard of Chariot-for me the more options for getting around NYC the better! Regards, Len

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jbuck919 » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:33 pm

lennygoran wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:28 pm
Thanks for this alert-I never heard of Chariot-for me the more options for getting around NYC the better! Regards, Len
This from someone who by his own admission hasn't even taken a taxi in NYC in many years?

Sixty vehicles for the entire city? Why is this an enhancement of Uber, whose own problems are well know, in a city where every other automobile is a traditional taxicab driven by someone who is already desperate to make a living? It sounds very much like another end-run around regulation and labor justice.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:46 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:33 pm
This from someone who by his own admission hasn't even taken a taxi in NYC in many years?Sixty vehicles for the entire city? Why is this an enhancement of Uber, whose own problems are well know, in a city where every other automobile is a traditional taxicab driven by someone who is already desperate to make a living? It sounds very much like another end-run around regulation and labor justice.
John B, I think you have asked some excellent questions-I haven`t used a cab in decades in NYC-as for Uber a friend recommended it but my smartphone was too weak to support the Uber app-now I have a new smartphone but I really don't seem to need that uber app for NYC-it's the Metrocard for me! Regards, Len

jserraglio
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Fri Aug 11, 2017 10:27 am

Rightly or wrongly, the article does address issues of scale and regulation.
jbuck wrote:Sixty vehicles for the entire city?
QTD: ... shuttle vans that hold over a dozen passengers ... Two debut routes running from the Lower East Side to Midtown in Manhattan, and from Greenpoint to Dumbo in Brooklyn. 'LES and Greenpoint are two very high-growth boroughs that haven’t historically had a lot of public transit alternatives' ... goal is to supplement existing options with flexible, fluid routes that respond quickly to rider needs.
jbuck wrote:It sounds very much like another end-run around regulation and labor justice.
QTD: Chariot has been working with New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) to make sure everything it's doing is 'licensed and above board' . . .

John F
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by John F » Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:46 am

That's just what we need, still more vehicles to clog NYC's overcrowded streets and confuse the issues.

What will users have to pay? Not a word about that. On the Chariot web site, I see it will be $4.00 a ride, much less than a taxi but over a dollar more than public transit for those who pay full fare. (Seniors like me pay $1.35 per ride, including a free transfer.)

https://www.chariot.com/pricing

I don't see that this will be any use to me or to any other New Yorkers I know.
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Tue Aug 15, 2017 12:26 pm

Nobody ever pays the "full" MTA fare, although its riders do kick in a bigger share of the actual cost than transit riders in other cities. $2.75 / $1.35?--are these not discounted fares made possible by massive public subsidies? The true cost for a full fare is about double what a regular rider pays, quadruple what a senior pays. So businesses and residents gotta be footing a huge tax bill to cover 50% or more of the true cost of MTA's service. When you add in the subsidy MTA riders get, their rides might actually cost more than Chariot's.
John F wrote:
Tue Aug 15, 2017 10:46 am
That's just what we need, still more vehicles to clog NYC's overcrowded streets and confuse the issues.
If a Chariot van holds 15 passengers (as in SF) and its service is marketed primarily to those who would otherwise eschew public transportation, then the end result might actually be fewer vehicles clogging NYC's overcrowded streets.
Ali Vahabzadeh, Chariot CEO and founder wrote:This will allow us to address a lot of the pent-up demand for our services, and bring in people who’ve been driving cars or taking ride-sharing.
_____________________________________________________________________

SF CHRONICLE
By Carolyn Said
November 30, 2016

Chariot’s turquoise 15-passenger vans, already a familiar sight on San Francisco streets, are about to get even more ubiquitous. The commuter shuttle service, recently acquired by Ford Motor Co., is adding 50 new vans to its fleet, bringing its total to 150, and hiring 75 additional drivers.

“This will allow us to address a lot of the pent-up demand for our services, and bring in people who’ve been driving cars or taking ride-sharing,” said Ali Vahabzadeh, Chariot CEO and founder.
Some experts say commuter services like Chariot could ease budget strains if they reduce the amount of public transit needed. “We’re much better off having the private sector involved (in commuter transportation) because public transit services require so much subsidizing,” said Daniel Chatman, a UC Berkeley city planning professor who studies transit. “Not too many public transit systems make a profit or even pay for themselves.”
Chariot will expand the frequency of service on existing routes, starting this week with popular ones such as Cow Hollow to South Beach and Haight Ashbury to South of Market. It will add routes, including service to the Sunset District and Potrero Hill by January, when all 50 new vans will be on the road. The additions will nudge Chariot’s frequency to every four or five minutes during peak commute hours, it said.

Chariot is also adding reservations, allowing people to book their rides up to a week in advance. Currently rides are on demand, with most passengers requesting a ride two to 10 minutes before they want to depart, Vahabzadeh said.

Chariot, a 2-year-old company that had $3 million in backing before Ford bought it, serves thousands of riders a day across 33 San Francisco routes and is at 90 percent occupancy during peak commute hours, he said. About a fifth of its trips are to or from public transit links, such as BART or Caltrain.

“This is a private company producing a public good,” Vahabzadeh said. “We provide more commuting options for individuals and are 100 percent commuter-financed with no taxpayer funding.”

Some experts say commuter services like Chariot could ease budget strains if they reduce the amount of public transit needed. “We’re much better off having the private sector involved (in commuter transportation) because public transit services require so much subsidizing,” said Daniel Chatman, a UC Berkeley city planning professor who studies transit. “Not too many public transit systems make a profit or even pay for themselves.”

But will Chariot, as well as ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft, skim off passengers from public transit, causing it to spiral downward? It’s hard to tell without a detailed study of how riders previously got around, Chatman said, but he thinks the commuter-van model can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improves the overall transportation picture. Private group transportation is not common in the U.S. but is beginning to pop up in places like New York and New Jersey.

“It seems as though Chariot is meeting an unmet need because they’re succeeding, and attracting passengers” who payer higher fares than on public transit, Chatman said.

Uber and Lyft also operate popular carpooling services that the companies position as complementary to public transit, helping commuters get from their homes to trains or buses.

Commuter transportation is a hot-button issue in San Francisco, where the massive tech buses that whisk workers to Silicon Valley jobs have become a much-maligned symbol of gentrification, while taxi drivers and some residents resent the flood of ride-hailing cars.

Vincent Jones, a driver for Chariot commuter-van service gets out of his van to take a break, in San Francisco, California, on Monday, November 28, 2016. Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, The Chronicle Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, The Chronicle Vincent Jones, a driver for Chariot commuter-van service gets out of his van to take a break, in San Francisco, California, on Monday, November 28, 2016.

But Chariot seems to have sidestepped that sort of controversy. Its pickup and drop-off points are at legal loading zones — yellow and white curbs — in contrast to the tech buses’ use of Muni stops. Its $4 per ride average, ability to pay for rides with pretax commuter benefits, smaller van size and crowdsourcing of its routes all underscore its democratic approach, Vahabzadeh said.

And while it caters to workers, Chariot riders have a range of occupations. At the request of Fisherman’s Wharf-area businesses, it added a route from the Embarcadero to the northern waterfront, which is used by many hospitality workers commuting from the East Bay on BART. After noticing that some of those workers, who generally have hourly jobs such as housekeeping and waiting tables, lack smartphones or data plans, Chariot came up with fixes such as paper passes, Vahabzadeh said.

Chariot crowdsources its routes by asking prospective passengers to register with their home and work addresses in a “virtual vote” of where they need the service. Once it sees high demand for a particular area, it asks users to crowdfund that route, putting in their credit card details to purchase a pass if service is offered. It takes about 200 subscribers to inaugurate a route, Vahabzadeh said.

Chariot’s drivers are employees, in contrast to Uber and Lyft drivers who work as independent contractors and lack some of the benefits and protections of employment. About 30 percent of its 110 drivers work part-time; the remainder are full-time, albeit with split shifts, driving the morning and evening commutes with a lengthy midday break, something that drivers for other companies have said they find difficult. Drivers work the same route every day, allowing them to see the same passengers, which the company calls the “school bus effect.”

Chariot doesn’t disclose driver salaries, but Vahabzadeh said they are “well ahead of the minimum wage in San Francisco,” which now stands at $13 an hour. He said the 93 percent retention rate from month to month shows that drivers appreciate the work. Chariot emphasizes hiring from within, so drivers can work their way up to salaried jobs like route captains, for instance.

Ford, like all automakers, is looking ahead to a dramatic shift in transport with the advent of autonomous vehicles. It sees shuttle services like Chariot as part of “the whole ecosystem of moving people around,” CEO Mark Fields said in September after it bought Chariot for an undisclosed amount.

With Ford’s backing, Chariot is now poised for national and international expansion, and it plans to be in five more markets within 16 months. It started service in Austin, Texas, last month. The 22-person company plans to add 40 positions at its San Francisco headquarters within the year.

Other plans include adding bike racks to the vans and getting the cost closer to $3 per ride.

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by John F » Fri Aug 18, 2017 4:02 pm

jserraglio wrote:Nobody ever pays the "full" MTA fare, although its riders do kick in a bigger share of the actual cost than transit riders in other cities. $2.75 / $1.35?--are these not discounted fares
What you're talking about is not really the full fare - you recognize that by putting the phrase in scare quotes - but what you suppose to be the per capita cost per ride. These are two entirely different matters. The price of a subway or bus ride, like the price of a ticket to the Metropolitan Opera, is calculated to maximize revenue consistent with the organization's mission and its intended public image. Both make up the balance from other revenue sources. So?
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:12 pm

I know that riders do not shoulder the full cost of riding public transit, and I'm not suggesting they should, though I read somewhere that MTA riders do pay a much larger percentage of that cost than riders in most other cities. MTA rates, surprisingly, are about the same as RTA rates where I live even though the RTA is far inferior. And of course, riders are paying more than their fareshare when you factor in taxes. Not to mention those who do not use the transit system but still are taxed for it. IIRC, the MTA takes in in riders' fares about 50% of what they have to spend/yr.: $7 vs. $14 billion. Staggering numbers.

What interests me is how private transportation companies compete with the public system, since they obviously have to charge what a ride costs and tack on a profit. Lower labor costs, cherry-picked routes, offering better service and a better ride experience, snob appeal, etc. So too, Fed Express and UPS can compete with the USPS. Private, parochial and independent schools compete with the public school system. It's all pretty unfare but somehow it works.

When I lived in NYC, I prided myself on getting almost everywhere via subways and loved them because they were efficient and dirt cheap. I was fascinated by their complexity and tried to memorize routes. Whenever possible, I avoided busses and cabs. Additionally, I could board a train at GCS and ride to work in Tarrytown for almost nothing. Amazing system. Boston's was somewhat comparable but obviously not on the same scale given the small size of the city.

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:48 pm

jserraglio wrote:
Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:12 pm
When I lived in NYC, I prided myself on getting almost everywhere via subways and loved them because they were efficient and dirt cheap. I was fascinated by their complexity and tried to memorize routes. Whenever possible, I avoided busses and cabs.
Why put busses and cabs in the same category-Sue and I pride ourselves on getting all over NYC using our metrocard for subways and busses-busses can be great when used properly. Regards, Len

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:53 am

lennygoran wrote:
Fri Aug 18, 2017 6:48 pm
Why put busses and cabs in the same category
They are rail-less and utilitarian rail-free travel provides no thrills. I would walk thirty blocks just to hook up with a train. Romantic notion, but there it is.

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 19, 2017 6:57 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Aug 19, 2017 2:53 am
They are rail-less and utilitarian rail-free travel provides no thrills. I would walk thirty blocks just to hook up with a train. Romantic notion, but there it is.
Not the case for me-riding a bus like the M72 through Central Park blows the subways out of the water. Even in London we took the double deckers many times when the tube would have gotten us there faster--for example a wonderful ride from Queensway just to the south of Kennsington and Hyde Parks and on to Oxford St. Regards, Len :D

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by jserraglio » Sat Aug 19, 2017 7:47 am

Come to think of it, for me nothing beat WALKING in Manhattan. Taking off from my perch on the n/w corner of 2nd Ave and 19th St. I could get almost anywhere. Loved to head south to that magnificent harbor then reverse direction and travel as far north as I could, or alternatively cross the Bridge into Brooklyn. When I got lost, friendly folk would take me wherever.

Recently, my wife and I were waiting in Cleveland for a flight to Charlotte and somehow stuck up a conversation with a gentleman from Long Island who claimed descent from original Dutch settlers! So not everybody in NYC came from someplace else (I had forgotten learning about New Amsterdam as a school kid). We talked for an hour about life in New York.

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 19, 2017 9:43 am

jserraglio wrote:
Sat Aug 19, 2017 7:47 am
Come to think of it, for me nothing beat WALKING in Manhattan.
Absolutely-Sue and I love walking in different parts of the city-there's always something new and interesting to see! Regards, Len

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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by John F » Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:31 pm

For several years now, my legs and back have been punishing me if I walk further than a city block. So I'd prefer any other transportation to my feet.
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Re: Ford's Chariot shuttles hope to fill public transit gaps in the Big Apple

Post by lennygoran » Sat Aug 19, 2017 5:44 pm

John F wrote:
Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:31 pm
For several years now, my legs and back have been punishing me if I walk further than a city block. So I'd prefer any other transportation to my feet.
Sure can understand that-I've had a few bouts of sciatica when walking was very tough-blame it on my gardening over the years. I try to be very careful when lifting things especially on my right side. Regards, Len

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