Unhappy with paying $60 to $80 to get back to Palo Alto from the city via Uber, a couple of Stanford seniors have launched a new app called Fleet that ferries people along the Caltrain route from San Francisco to San Jose during hours that the trains aren't running. The service is somewhere between an airport shuttle and a Lyft/UberX, with vehicles that seat five to fifteen people and pre-determined stops at various Caltrain stations, but as the Examiner reports, the service has no state permits or proper insurance as of now, and is operating with a group of self-insured private drivers. Terrific!
Fares are about double those on Caltrain but structured via the same travel zones, with $6 for travel within one zone, $10 for two zones, $14 for three zones, and $18 for four zones. The service now runs between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., with three departure times each going northbound and southbound, filling in for the hours when Caltrain isn't running. Advance reservations are required, with shuttles currently departing San Francisco nightly at 1 a.m., 2:20 a.m., and 3:42 a.m. The app is currently only available for the iPhone.
The project is the work of Stanford computer science majors Isaac Madan, 21, and Shaurya Saluja, 20, who both saw, along with all their friends, what a pain in the ass it was getting to and from San Francisco late at night.
As TechCrunch pointed out this week, Caltrain has been standing-room only during peak hours in recent years, and it points to the stupidity of a couple of counties (ahem, San Mateo and Santa Clara) when they decided to opt out of the BART system back in the 1960s.
San Mateo County argued that a rail line operated by Southern Pacific in the 19th century was sufficient and turned it into what is now today called Caltrain, the main train route connecting San Francisco with Silicon Valley... Caltrain also doesn’t operate much past midnight, leaving younger tech workers who live in the South Bay with few options to get home after going out in the city.
So we’re seeing some more entrepreneurial approaches to handling regional transit.
The state still will need to figure out if Fleet is a transportation network company or a passenger stage corporation. And let's hope the insurance thing gets worked out before there's some sort of accident.
Also, Madan says that drinking and smoking aren't allowed in the shuttles, just as they aren't allowed in taxis, but, "these things are up to the discretion of the driver." Obviously, a vanload of 20-year-olds coming from the city at 2:30 a.m. is going to be sober, quiet, and well behaved. No liability there at all. Nope.