All Aboard San Francisco's Hipster Bus for Leather Seats, Wi-Fi and Iced Coffee

April 9, 2015
New private bus service Leap boasts spacious seating, a general air of calm cleanliness and a steward serving coffee, cold-pressed juices and granola bars. With tickets costing almost three times as much as the regular bus, is it a welcome new addition to the marketplace or a step towards two-tier transit?

The bus stop, outside a pancake restaurant in San Francisco’s upscale Marina district, is like any other. The bus is not. Sky-blue, minimally branded, advertisement-free, it pulls up to the curb, where a handful of young, affluent people wait, phones in hands. As we step through its doors it feels like we’re entering some sort of a mirror world, a bizarro version of a bus where crowds, security cameras, rule signs and the dusty soot of city commuting have all been replaced by polished wood, black leather, spacious seating and a general air of calm cleanliness.

Passengers hold up their smartphones to scan QR code tickets on a mounted tablet at the front of the bus, and move into the seating area. A few rows of plush leather armchairs face a row of stools at a laptop-friendly bar. One woman opens a laptop. The others – there are just seven riders on this recent Friday morning commute – are deeply engrossed in their phones. The bus attendant, like a steward on a plane, mans a mini-fridge stocked with drinks and snacks for sale. He’s got two varieties of iced coffee, cold-pressed juices, yoghurts and granola bars. You can buy them via credit card through Leap’s app, and he’ll hand-deliver them to you in your seat.

This is Leap, a new private express bus service that began operating in March under the presumption that some people will pay $6 – not including snacks and drinks – to ride a bus in style. Leap runs from the Marina to the tech-core of the central business district, a few miles away, and pitches itself as a nicer alternative to Muni, the city’s public bus service, which costs $2.25 a ride.