It turns out that a private bus startup catering to Financial District workers might not care about everyone. As the Chronicle reports, a complaint filed last month with the Department of Justice alleges that Leap, which launched in earnest last month and is not wheelchair accessible, violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Worse, it sounds like Leap actually replaced wheelchair accessibility on previously wheelchair-equipped buses in favor of bar seating and leather armchairs.
Leap purchased its four 2001 and 2002 North American Bus Industries vehicles through an auction house from the Riverside Transit Agency, and a representative from that agency said any buses it used would have included wheelchair-accessibility. Further, the buses' manufacturer confirmed that the purchased and resold models originally came equipped with a wheelchair ramp and interior wheelchair space.
“This is a step backwards,” Said 26-year-old Chris Pangilinan, the former transportation engineer for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency who filed the complaint and has used a wheelchair for most of his life. “If they had put up a sign that said 'no whites’ or something like that there would be national outrage," he said, calling it "the same kind of violation."
Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures, Slow Ventures, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff have together invested $2.5 million in Leap, whose $6-per-ride service provides Wi-Fi, USB ports, and sells cold-pressed juice and Blue Bottle Coffee.
The ADA does not include specific requirements for used vehicles, but neither does it explicitly exempt used vehicles from requirements for accessibility. It also has different requirements for companies like hotels that run shuttles but aren't primarily transportation companies.
In a statement to The Chronicle, Leap said that its “understanding is that used vehicles do not have the same accessibility requirements as new vehicles.” It declined to comment on whether or not it removed wheelchair accessibility. And finally, it maintains it “does not provide transportation services,” and that it is “not a transportation carrier.” Wha?! Is it a juice company?
Ironically, in pitching his business to TechCrunch, co-founder Kyle Kirchhoff said, "there’s a sort of invisible boundary if part of a city is not accessible to transit.”
Well, perhaps now we know what he meant.