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New app-based commuter shuttle launches this week

Crowd-sourced service will operate during ACL Fest

Chariot, a commuter shuttle service that uses an app to crowdsource its routes, launched its transportation service in Austin Thursday, making it the second city, after San Francisco, to feature the service.

Starting today, interested users can “sign up” by downloading the app (currently available on iPhones only) and requesting that stops/routes be added in particular areas. Chariot will base future routes on demand determined by the input from that crowdsourcing. The company estimates rides will cost an average of $4, depending on distance.

To debut the service, Chariot will run pop-up routes to and from the Austin City Limits Festival this weekend. Commuters can open the app on Friday after 2:30pm or Saturday and Sunday mornings after 10:30am to sign up and grab a complimentary seat (which will be limited in supply, of course—early booking is recommended).

The rollout of the regular service will occur Monday; in partnership with the city of Austin, Rocky Mountain Institute, Movability Austin, and Capital Metro, Chariot will offer initial service catering to employees at Whole Foods Market and GSD&M, in the Sixth Street Market District. The first routes will be downtown circulators that pick up employees at the MetroRail Downtown stop and at Capital Metro bus stops at Republic Square. Shuttles will take riders the rest of the way to and from their offices in the west end of downtown, and then back at the end of the day.

Ultimately, the company plans to expand its routes based on rider input via its app. While currently aimed at employees of particular businesses, the service is open to all riders (unlike, say, SF’s Google buses). Ford Smart Mobility acquired Chariot as a wholly owned subsidiary last month. This is its first expansion as part of the Ford company.

Until now, the company has operated only in San Francisco, where it’s based, and touts that it serves thousands of riders per day in that area. According to the company, the support of the city and Mayor Steve Adler enabled it to open up shop locally.

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