Ford expands Chariot shuttle service to Seattle
The city with the 10th-worst traffic in the country is getting a little help from Ford Motor Co. Seattle will be the next city in the expansion of the shuttle service Chariot, which Ford purchased last year.
It’s the second expansion since Ford acquired Chariot in September 2016 as part of a series of “experiments” under the Ford Smart Mobility arm. In October, the shuttle service launched in Austin, Texas. Former CEO Mark Fields said when Ford purchased the service that he intended to expand it to five new markets, some outside the U.S.
The shuttle service is part of a transportation ecosystem that Executive Chairman Bill Ford and company leadership hope to create. The shuttles would work in tandem with connected vehicles, autonomous cars, electric vehicles, ride hailing services, bike-sharing and existing infrastructure like rails and buses.
The main objective: change the way people move.
The Seattle launch targets one of the most popular cities for millennials and young professionals. The influx of people to that city is clogging roads, which increases the need for transportation alternatives, John Kwant, vice president of Ford City Solutions, a part of the Smart Mobility arm, wrote in a Thursday blog post announcing the expansion.
“Chariot will offer Seattle residents an additional option for commuting to work,” he wrote. “Its shuttles can hold significantly more commuters than a typical single-passenger vehicle, with the same physical and carbon footprint, and it’s a fast, reliable and affordable transportation alternative. Going forward, we’d like to see Chariot become available to a larger population of commuters.”
Chariot started in San Francisco in 2014, operating 100 Ford Transit vans along 28 routes. The company crowd-sources its routes based on ride demand, and eventually will use real-time data and algorithms to determine the most efficient routes.
The shuttle service has grown since Ford’s investment to operate 200 vehicles in San Francisco, and 50 in Austin.
The Seattle service will let companies shuttle employees around, and provide “direct service to and from under-served neighborhoods.” All of this serves to tamp down the amount of vehicles and pollution.
Kwant wrote that Seattle residents have increased ridership on buses, trains and bicycles, but the city still has some of the worst traffic in the country, ranking 10th-worst on a traffic scorecard. For comparison, Detroit ranked 24th on that same list of U.S. cities. Los Angeles ranked first.
“We see shuttles as a meaningful way of easing the burden on a transportation infrastructure that’s challenged by increased ridership,” wrote Kwant. “Shuttle services can help ensure smooth operation of the entire system.”