Wealth gap widened due to upscale bus line

An Xpress editor wrote an opinion piece April 1, supporting Leap, a new transit option launched in San Francisco with the goal of providing a better public transportation experience. Leap is a luxury bus service that follows a Muni route to and from the Marina and Financial districts and boasts comfortable seating, drinks, snacks and onboard Wi-Fi.

To ride this shuttle one must cough up a hefty $6 each way which many, including my colleague, believe is worth the price to avoid Muni, the city’s public transportation service.

I, however, disagree. Not only are there cheaper and more convenient options, Leap is another representation of gentrification in San Francisco and the widening of the gap between lower and upper economic classes.

As of now Leap only provides service with one route, and while the company plans to expand, the current route speaks highly of where Leap wants to keep its customer base.  The Marina District is notoriously known for its high-end nightlife, expensive rent and for being a popular destination for young professionals, while the Financial District is the central hub for business executives and fine dining.

Leap CEO Kyle Kirchhoff said in a KQED article that he wanted his service to be used by all types of San Franciscans, not just a high-end customer base.  With no wheelchair access, discounts for seniors or reserved seating for disabled and pregnant riders, it’s not hard to be skeptical of Kirchhoff’s statement.  Muni provides all of these services as well as allowing children to ride for free. To board a Leap bus, you must be a least 18 years old.

Ridesharing company Uber recently launched UberPool, an offshoot of the service that lets riders go anywhere in the city for $7 if they ride with another party, making Leap’s $6 price tag seem inconceivable in comparison. Why pay only one dollar less for a limited service Leap ride when Uber will take you to any door in the city?

Leap launched at a time when tension between long-term San Franciscans and a new generation of tech workers is at a boiling point. The new found wealth by a young workforce has caused displacement of multi-generational families who can’t keep up with a skyrocketing rent market.  Between Google shuttle protests and fist fights over Google Glass, both sides feel alienated. Leap, however, is not an attempt to bridge the divide but a further estrangement of the two camps.

The announcement of Leap is more than just another startup entering the fold, it is a proclamation to outsiders of the tech world and high society that they are not welcome. If Leap and other technology companies genuinely want to provide services that will change they way we live, they need to make those services affordable or have them improve and work in unison with public utilities. As of now, they are only servicing their own inner circles.

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