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It’s like a MUNI bus, except fancier.

Meet Leap, the startup that’s putting your commute to shame

Sam Colt
Sam Colt
Mar 25, 2015 · 3 min read

Tech companies want to disrupt your ride to work, especially if you take the bus. That’s the idea behind Leap, which runs a bus service from the Marina to SOMA and the Financial District.

For $6 a ride, you can step aboard a Leap bus and be ferried across the city without any of the congestion or discomfort of San Francisco’s MUNI buses.

Objectively, Leap buses are pretty slick. The leather chairs, USB ports and WiFi evoke the sensibilities of a laid back office without the burden of actual work.

For a few bucks more, you can order coffee from Blue Bottle or Stumptown — both very much in vogue these days — and have it delivered straight to your seat.

Leap CEO Kyle Kirchoff told The Verge’s Nitasha Tiku that it was “handling some of the overflow” from MUNI, which charges $2.25 a ride.

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Welcome to club Leap.

But the implication that Leap and MUNI serve the same community is misleading. Commuters traveling between the FiDi and the Marina (and paying for transportation) had two options before Leap: MUNI or Uber.

Compared to UberX with surge pricing, Leap seems like a bargain. But compared to UberPool, which will take you pretty much anywhere in San Francisco for $7, it’s not exactly price competitive. I can see how some people might be turned off by sharing an Uber, but I don’t see how that’s much different from sharing a bus (even a nice one).

I’m sure I would enjoy riding on Leap. The buses are so cool-looking, they almost remind me of the club (albeit, with a lot more natural light) in “The Social Network” where Sean Parker (Justin Timberlake) tells Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) an anecdote about the founder of Victoria’s Secret, Roy Raymond.

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You get the feeling that people taking Leap might see it as just another service ferrying them to eventual Silicon Valley riches, like the company that does their laundry or delivers organic meals.

Leap is a private company, and it doesn’t have any obligation to be affordable or accessible. Other startups have already proven there’s a viable market for servicing the San Francisco tech community. But one could argue that companies like Leap are also augmenting the class divide here.

At Tiku points out, my concerns about Leap might be overblown. But when so many companies still talk about wanting to “change the world” with their products and services, it’s worth asking: who are these startups really for?

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