Chariot, Van Company Hired to Enhance Transit in Denver, is Shutting Down

A Chariot shuttle in front of Union Station. The company will halt operations on Feb. 1. Photo: Chariot.
A Chariot shuttle in front of Union Station. The company will halt operations on Feb. 1. Photo: Chariot.

Chariot, the startup Denver hired recently to enhance the city’s transportation options, will shut down.

Today the Ford-owned company told employees that the app-based van service would halt U.S. operations on Feb. 1. The San Francisco Examiner originally reported the story.

It’s an embarrassing end to a service that, just two months ago, was enthusiastically hyped by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, who launched a pilot program with the company to provide rides in and around downtown, Capitol Hill and the Cherry Creek district.

“[The Regional Transit District] is the foundation of our mass transit system and does a fantastic job, but we can’t sit back and expect RTD to solve all our transportation problems,” Hancock said in a statement back in October.

Denver invested $250,000 in the pilot program after RTD planned several recent service cuts, including those that will start this Sunday. The University of Denver also uses the company to offer subsidized transit service to its students and staff.

Chariot has been operating since October in Cherry Creek North — but when contacted today by Streetsblog, the area’s business improvement district said it was unaware of the announcement by Chariot, which told Streetsblog that it will help customers like the business group to “develop a transition plan.”

The two-month-old pilot was off to a good start, said Stuart Anderson, executive director of Transportation Solutions, a foundation that promotes transportation alternatives in Southeast Denver and the Cherry Creek area.

“We’re quite disappointed,” Anderson said. “Our pilot at DU was tremendously successful and our pilot at Cherry Creek was growing.”

Ford purchased Chariot in 2016, one of many moves that appeared to show the company’s interest in mobility options beyond cars. But earlier this week, Ford also dropped its bike-sharing sponsorship, which emblazoned its logo on bikes in San Francisco. Chariot was also operating in New York; Seattle; Columbus, Ohio; and Austin.

  • Riley Warton

    Glad to know that the Capitol Hill-Cherry Creek chariot line thing was off to a good start. That just shows that maybe high population density means greater demand for buses.

  • TakeFive

    This is simply about Ford. While both Ford and GM have cut a fat hog for several years as vehicle sales rebounded following the Great Recession the profit was with their SUV and Truck sales. Despite nice profits both companies are now looking down the road and wondering how they are going to survive with Big changes coming in the industry. Ford simply decided this was a distraction they didn’t need.

    Transit in Denver is a whole other topic.

    • Dude Lebowski

      Good comment. I think of the two companies, Ford seems more committed to being a total transportation company. Ford created Chariot with the idea that it would be scalable. Once they realized it wasn’t, the right thing to do was kill it. Doesn’t change their commitment to alt.transport. Ford will redeploy resources. With a little luck, maybe the next idea will gain some traction.

    • Ford didn’t create Chariot, it acquired it. But your larger point is accurate, their “new mobility” efforts are larger. Alas, so are their SUVs and profits from SUVs due to a short-term dip in gas prices.

  • Gavin Prangley

    An astonishing waste of public money. Denverite reported that there were 110 passengers who used Chariot’s Cap Hill-Cherry Creek line in 6 months…

    It would have been more cost effective for the city to buy 250 people $1,000 junkers.

    • TakeFive

      lol, so long as they weren’t responsible for maintaining those junkers.

  • Tom

    I hope that there was some data gathering from the 110 people who used the service so improvements can be made next time. The Chariot business model seemed very half-hearted.

  • bggb

    Perhaps we should stop trying to privatize public transit.

    we can’t sit back and expect RTD to solve all our transportation problems,

    Incorrect. That’s actually the opposite of what you should be striving towards.

  • 🤔 San Francisco has a bus driver shortage, and the Mayor has reached out to Chariot drivers who’ll be seeking new jobs. For Denver, two months of data might be something to check out to make a case for expanding RTD, perhaps with new drivers (and perhaps with new shuttle-sized rolling stock).

    • George Joseph Lane

      “and perhaps with new shuttle-sized rolling ”

      Why?

      Most of the cost of transit provision is driver wages. Why on earth would you run small buses that can’t be put onto other services?

  • jcwconsult

    Transit programs must be very well designed to meet the actual needs. Poorly designed ones fail. https://pagetwo.completecolorado.com/2019/01/14/otoole-rtds-death-spiral/
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

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