FINAL UPDATE: Disabled train has been removed from service and cleared from Castro Station. We are resuming Eastbound #SubwaySvc. Residual svc gaps possible as we work to balance svc. Bus shuttles will remain in place btwn West Portal & Van Ness temporarily to assist. (More: 26 in last 48 hours)

SFMTA Issues First Private Transit Permit

Monday, April 23, 2018

Last week, the SFMTA issued the first private transit operator permit under the city’s recently adopted private transit vehicle regulations. These new regulations were enacted in October 2017 by the SFMTA Board of Directors.

The agency has granted a conditional permit to Chariot Transit Inc., a subsidiary of Ford Smart Mobility. While Chariot is currently the only private transit operator in San Francisco, the SFMTA’s private transit program was created with the future in mind.

The permit program applies to privately-operated transportation services that are open to the public, charge individual fares and generally operate on fixed routes in San Francisco.

A Chariot vehicle crosses Market Street

Creating a Framework for Innovation on Our Streets

Prior to the SFMTA’s adoption of the private transit program, private transit services operated in San Francisco with limited governance and oversight. As a result, the city heard (and observed) concerns about private transit vehicles stopping in unauthorized locations such as crosswalks, traffic lanes, and Muni stops.

Through the private transit program, the SFMTA established new requirements to ensure that private transit services operate safely, have minimal impact on public transit, implement business practices consistent with city policies and respond more effectively to the needs of our communities. Important permit conditions include: ensuring that vehicles stop in safe and legal loading zones, be accessible to people with disabilities and meet vehicle age standards that have stronger emission standards. They also require that drivers undergo training and allow the city to collect data from private transit operators in order to better understand their impact on San Francisco’s transportation system. 

Companies with a private transit permit are allowed to load and unload passengers in any legal curb space, including white passenger loading zones and yellow commercial loading zones.

About Chariot’s Permit

Today, Chariot is the only private transit service in San Francisco, operating 12 private transit routes in the morning and nine in the evening. It is also the only company that has submitted a permit application to the SFMTA.

As part of its application, the company proposed to operate the same service it provided at the time of the Board’s adoption of the permit program, with some minor adjustments to ensure compliance with existing Transportation Code regulations. The SFMTA will continue to enforce San Francisco’s transportation laws and will target permit enforcement efforts as appropriate. In addition to parking control officers on the street, taxi investigator resources will be dedicated to enforcing the terms of the program.

While Chariot’s permit was under review, the SFMTA successfully worked with the company to relocate more than 100 stops from illegal locations to safe and legal loading spaces. Chariot’s conditional permit requires that the company identify safe and legal alternatives for the remaining nine percent of their approximately 204 stop locations by the end of August 2018.

Under the permit terms, the SFMTA would review any new or altered routes and stops to ensure compliance with permit conditions and traffic laws. Private transit permits are granted on an annual basis and Chariot’s permit would be valid through April 20, 2019, at which point they could reapply for a new permit.

Key Requirements in the Private Transit Program

Through the private transit permit program, the SFMTA created application requirements, permit conditions, fines and fees. Ultimately, the program is an opportunity for private transit operators to operate in a way that supports the city’s goals of prioritizing street safety, mass transit and sustainability.

Some key requirements in the SFMTA’s private transit program include:

Stops & Routes

Stops allowed in legal curb space like white and yellow loading zones

New routes must complement Muni service, not replicate it

Data GPS and ridership
Licensing/ Insurance

Register with CHP for inspections

Insurance requirements similar to CPUC


No more than 25 feet in length

Newer models that meet more stringent emission standards

Drivers Training, including large vehicle urban driving safety video
Accessibility Equal access for persons with disabilities

Designated point of contact

Publicly accessible fare information

Service Disruption Prevention Plan

At this point in time, San Francisco’s jurisdiction extends only to private transit services that operate within city borders; intercity services are regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.