San Francisco's much-maligned Muni has some obvious problems that we needn't get into. Yes, I'm alluding to the lack of WiFi, Blue Bottle Coffee, and cold-pressed juice. But all that and more has been addressed by Leap, a private bus service whom TechCrunch tells us is at last here to rescue us all from public transportation.
SFist had word of the coming Leap rapture in 2013, and at the time, comparisons were drawn to luxury corporate shuttles. But now, let's consider some subtle differences. Does the Google bus cost $6 for an individual ride (or $5 when purchased in packs of 20)? Does it have bluetooth or QR code check-in access? A single route from the Marina to the Financial District? I thought not. Leap doesn’t even use existing Muni stops, and that certainly isn't the case with tech shuttles. Last, Leap is a great way to make friends like you, as there's even a designated app to share information about yourself to fellow riders and vice versa.
Yes, Leap begins with a single route on weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Its vehicles are used NABI buses that run on natural gas and have been refurbished with plush interior seating, Wi-Fi, USB ports, and bar stools. Per co-founder Kyle Kirchhoff, “This is kind of a blend between a coffee shop, a workspace and something that feels like your living room.” That, of course, is a subtle dig at Muni, which he perhaps is saying is a blend between a dive bar, a toilet, and a zoo.
As Kirchhoff puts it, "San Francisco faces some very real challenges. Taxis are impossible to hail. Private car services are extremely expensive at peak times." And, invoking the Private Jitney system and origins of SF's streetcars, TechCrunch positions Leap within a local history of transportation entrepreneurship. "We take a really long-term view of this thing," Kirchhof elaborated, "there’s a sort of invisible boundary if part of a city is not accessible to transit.”
So, that's what Leap is about. Access for all:you don't even need a smartphone for Leap, since you can print your tickets. See you all on the bus — or under it!
Of course, Leap isn't the only private alternative to public transit. There's also Chariot, which has been operating for almost a year and announced today that they're expanding their routes. And there's Loup (not to be confused with Leap), the funded-by-Twitter-money service that "was experimenting with black cars but now has gone back to the drawing board," the SF Business Times reports.
But while we wait to consider whether such services are good, bad, or evil, many will indeed take the leap. Venture capitalists already have, with $2.5 million bestowed on the company by Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Slow Ventures, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.