Leap drives fast and breaks things, so to speak, with the Chronicle reporting that the private bus company has outmaneuvered regulation at every turn and currently occupies a "gray area" in which it is operating "under no regulation at all."
After it was slapped with a Department of Justice complaint for allegedly removing wheelchair capacity on its fleet — in favor of a bar seating, where Blue Bottle coffee and Happy Moose juice are served — the Business Times reports that Leap reinstalled one wheelchair ramp on a single bus. Then, adding insult to injury, Leap CEO Kyle Kirchhoff said, "We're sorry to anyone we've offended and we hope to do a better job next time."
To be clear, the "offense" would be discrimination, and further, Leap doesn't seem to be trying much harder to stay on the level. The service, which had a test-run in 2013, inspired San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos to call the start-up a “crock of shit" that fosters “a two-tiered transportation system in San Francisco.” Now in its second incarnation, Leap runs its shuttles from the Marina to the Financial District for the price of $6 a ride with plans to expand to the Mission District, Pacific Heights, the Caltrain, and the Daly City border within the year.
Why Daly City? That's a clever move, because it justifies Leap's claim that it should be state-, not city-regulated, which basically translates to more loosely regulated. At a state PUC hearing Leap was denied eligibility for a state permit because it only had SF plans, so it refiled its application to indicate that it would expand to other counties. The company’s application was granted several weeks after it re-launched its services in March, and, as the Chronicle writes,
Until Leap receives its final permit to expand outside San Francisco, the PUC said, the company still technically falls under the regulation of the city. But the city says it has already handed over regulatory authority to the state — meaning, for now, Leap continues to operate under no regulation at all.
For its part, Leap CEO Kyle Kirchhoff wrote in an email that “We went out of our way to work with the city and state so that we can operate fair and square. In the meantime we are able to operate legally and in our opinion, are helping people get out of private cars and back onto mass transit, which I think we can all agree is beneficial to the city.”
Some, including Supervisor Mark Farrell, have called on San Francisco to pass regulations for just such private bus services, while others shrug off the latest round of complaints and point to the jitneys of SF's past. But until something gives, maybe Willie Brown would enjoy using Leap, since he's declared Muni DOA.