Chariot is working to transform the workday experience with its new, crowdsourced “microtransit” solution. We’re hooked.
We sat down with Chariot Founder Ali Vahabzadeh during Ford’s City of Tomorrow Symposium, held in San Francisco a few weeks ago. The unique “microtransit” service Chariot is changing the way commuting happens in NYC by letting users crowdsource its existence. Those familiar with NYC transit know there are regions of NYC that are deeply underserved (or not served at all) by transit (Maspeth, far Flatbush, Bergen Beach, so on). Chariot is working to alleviate that on all sides. Here’s our notes on using the service: Chariot’s got a pretty robust app for iOS, and the service is live in NYC, San Francisco/Bay Area, Austin and Seattle. Enter your home address and ending address/work. The app will determine a best option or will submit your data to build future routes. The NYC service currently has a few routes, both stepping in areas that are underserved by existing transit, a section of Brooklyn from Greenpoint to DUMBO and an east-side Manhattan route. I’m imagining them now and can see, on the web app, transit overlaid on Chariot routes. Super efficient! The East-Side Express seems wicked convenient as it rides a long an area that isn’t served well by existing transit.
I tried Chariot while in San Francisco. There are a ton of routes here, including corporate ones which serve employees. The drivers are incredibly friendly and make the trip a pleasure, routes going all the way to the outer reaches of Outer Richmond and even into Bernal Heights and Noe Valley. In app, a photo can be seen where the stop is located.
Here’s our chat with Chariot founder Ali Vahabzadeh:
The Knockturnal: How do you imagine Chariot in the context of a national implementation?
Ali Vahabzadeh: Ultimately, Chariot is creating a new category of how people can get around, called “microtransit”. Today, that means helping people commute in urban environments, but tomorrow that may mean first and last mile commuting to commuter rail stations so we can feed the trunk lines, like commuter rail and ferries and bus terminals, some of which have dedicated right-of-way. Chariot and micro transit may look different in different countries. We know commuting is an enormous problem that people are afraid to tackle. We’re here to meet where cities are heading in terms of solving those.
The Knockturnal: You’re not trying to shift so dramatically that you need to build new infrastructure or new regulation. You’re not going to tell people to “stop commuting”.
Ali Vahabzadeh: Do you know how many subways are being made right now, in the United States? I believe it’s two. The Second Avenue subway in NYC and right here in San Francisco, the Central Subway. The reason for that is the cost of labor and the cost of disrupting everyday life has gone up dramatically so subways are really hard to get by politically, as are light-rail. These are the most expensive ways to travel, per mile. So Chariot went from concept to reality in seven weeks. I mention that because it’s so easy for us to crowdsource a route and tell us where there’s a critical mass. From that, we deploy a twice-daily service to provide a reliable, accessible, and demand-responsive system.
The Knockturnal: What’s a great city?
Ali Vahabzadeh: From a mobility perspective, it’s one that the government and the constituents and other important stakeholders like large employers come together and say “enough with single-occupancy vehicles, let cars out of the city center” and incentivize good actors, those using bus or Chariot, and force bad actors to change ways. When the community has the will and guts to do that, you free up space and can re-pedestrianize centers.