Chariot “brand ambassadors” target Muni riders while they wait
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