Chariot “brand ambassadors” target Muni riders while they wait

chariot by sf citizen

In the spirit of “there’s an app for that,” we’ve seen a lot of Muni alternatives come and go with varying degrees of obnoxiousness. Remember the doomed shuttle called Leap that tried to sell you cold brew but only if you don’t need wheelchair-accessible seats? That was pretty bad, but we just heard about a new move that might win the douche award.

Muni rider Erin L. told us that private shuttle service Chariot has been sending “brand ambassadors” to Muni stops to chat up riders to get them to quit public transit. She ran into these Chariot reps twice at the 38BX stop just last week on Sansome and Pine. The rep asked Erin whether she knew about Chariot and has heard about the app.

Ick, right? This feels more aggressive than the Lyft ads we’ve seen on Muni shelters (at least some of those make reference to the “last mile” problem). We reached out to Chariot last week but the company hasn’t returned our inquiry. However, on Chariot’s website, it looks like Chariot is ramping up their efforts of on-the-street advertising. The company is hiring more “energetic, outgoing” brand ambassadors to “spread the word about Chariot,” mostly in SoMa and downtown.

Chariot lists about 25 shuttle routes that cost anywhere between $3.80 to $5 and up per ride in San Francisco, running the shuttle only between commute hours. The 14-passenger vans run on routes typically served by the 1, 30, 45, and other Muni lines. For having an iPhone and a nice-paying job, you get the privilege of crowd-sourcing your route and reserving a seat without having to stand next to or smell other people.

Chariot’s new move targeting Muni riders rings elitist, but can Muni compete against reserved seating with the ease of an app? Most Muni riders can probably attest the sardine-can crawl on the 30, 45, or the N when you’re commuting from your home to downtown. In a way, one can’t really blame Chariot for existing — if Muni is slow to make improvements, it just leaves room for apps that want to “disrupt.”

Crowdsourcing and creative tech solutions are well and fine, but making transportation better only for some people just makes my skin itch. And sending brand reps on the street to target Muni riders? Maybe some things are just too gross to do even if it makes business sense. But that isn’t going to stop Chariot for now. In addition to hiring the Chariot foot soldiers, the company just posted an opening for a “brand ambassador manager” to lead the “recruiting machine” with a “persistent, win-at-all-costs attitude.”

Photo via SFCitizen

6 comments

  • A Vuncular

    Chariot will be hiring more lawyers soon, I bet.

  • Alai

    Oh and get this. There’s a company called Ford which is going hyper-exclusive, charging people thousands of dollars so they can have a totally private ride away from the bums. Oh and the disabled need not apply. Outrageous!

  • Alison

    Chariot was really hitting the 1bx stop at California and Presidio hard about a year ago – people handling out fliers for free rides, etc. I thought about trying their competing line, but it wasn’t worth it. More expensive than the BX, More Stops than the BX and further away from my destination. Their shuttles were always empty as far as I could tell. Hopefully they’ve upped their game, because in my opinion the problem was the routes and pricing, not the reps.

  • CB

    And they illegally use the red transit lanes and don’t abide by the turn restrictions onto and off of Market Street. Can a company which relies on illegal practices last long?

  • Marc Mahoney

    I get your point about making transit better for some/not for others, but doesn’t taking people out of those crowded lines (1bx, 30x, 38’s [plural]) incrementally make things better for those who will continue to ride? I know that 3-5 people less on my commute would be great. Let them pay to ride, I think it’s a net positive for all involved.

  • Dexter Wong

    I just read that The Verge has reported that Ford has bought Chariot with hopes of expanding service to other cities.

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