San Francisco moves from Uber to Leap: $6 bus rides

The compact city that inspired ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft is offering a new way to get to work: fancy $6 big-bus rides with spacious seating, free Wi-Fi and attendants who deliver snacks.

A company called Leap launched the service in March with morning and evening commutes that follow public bus routes between the tony Marina district and the heart of downtown San Francisco. Leap joins a private shuttle service called Chariot, which operates 15-seat passenger vans over multiple routes within the city at a cost of $3 to $5 a ride.

Fans say the app-enabled buses and shuttles complement an aging municipal transit system that is unreliable and overburdened at peak times. Critics say the private rides are just another sign of the growing gap between wealthy tech workers and everyone else in a city where starter homes can easily go for $1 million.

A single-fare bus ticket on the citywide Municipal Railway is $2.25, amenities definitely not included.

San Francisco, with its picture-perfect views and steep hills, has a wealth of public transit options, including buses, light rail, historic trolleys and, of course, its cable cars.

But with a boom in technology jobs and development, thousands of workers – commuters and residents alike – have added to congestion on the often narrow streets. New ways of getting people around the city have created tensions.

Taxi drivers, for example, weren’t happy when Uber and Lyft launched in 2010 and in 2012, allowing passengers to connect with drivers via smartphone. Protesters blocked Silicon Valley commuter buses in 2013 and 2014, complaining that companies such as Google were hogging public bus stops to give their well-paid workers a hassle-free ride to work.