SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A new public transit system described as a hybrid between a Muni bus and an Uber taxi is launching its first route in San Francisco Wednesday.

Private transit company Leap’s buses feel more like a cozy cafe rather than a city bus, with wood panel facades, work stations and attendants on board to serve riders Blue Bottle coffee and Noosa yogurt for an additional fee.

CEO and founder Kyle Kirchhoff said the redesigned transit concept can help commuters start the day feeling relaxed instead of stressed out and anxious.

“Although San Franciscans have more options for getting to work than ever before, the headaches remain,” Kirchhoff said. “During peak hours it can be difficult to find a seat on public transit, and private car services are expensive and increasingly unpredictable.”

Leap’s inaugural route will take commuters from the Marina to the Financial District, arriving every 10-15 minutes during peak commuting hours. A one-way ticket costs $6, or about $4 if using pre-tax commuter benefits.  Riders can view Leap’s stops and track buses — equipped with free Wi-Fi and USB plugs — in real-time by downloading the app, or signing in from the Leap website.

Competitor Chariot launched last year, boasting an on-time performance of 94 percent with routes that are “twice as fast as Muni and seven times more affordable than taxi and Uber,” according to its website.

The bootstrapped startup launched with a line from the Marina to downtown. A second route was added on in August that connects the Marina, Cow Hollow and Pacific Heights with SoMa and Caltrain.

Some critics have raised concerns that Chariot and Leap will cause the public to disinvest in the city’s municipal transit system.

But Chariot’s founder says their daily ridership is a small percentage of what Muni does on a daily basis with nearly 700,000 commuters per day in 2013. Instead, Chariot says it’s there to give commuters another affordable option to the overcrowded rush hour buses.

 

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