This past week, natural gas-fueled buses from private transport company Leap started making their way through San Francisco along the company's first route, dubbed the Lombard Express. Rather than squeeze as many people as possible into a mobile sweat box, the high-end Leap buses are decked out like a swanky coffee shop and include a number of technologies to support today's gadget obsessed commuter.
Leap says that its buses are specifically aimed at making the commute from home to office a stress-free and comfortable one. Its first route stretches from the Marina district to downtown San Francisco, with four stops along the Lombard Street corridor and four more between Clay Street and Howard Street.
The service doesn't follow a strict timetable, passengers can find the nearest stop and track each bus in real time using an iOS/Android companion app. Information on the number of available seats at any given time is also provided. According to Leap, there should be a bus every 10-15 minutes during peak commuting hours.
A one-way ride on a Leap bus costs a not insubstantial US$6, though there are bulk discounts available. To keep things moving smoothly, passengers won't be causing delay at the front by fumbling for loose change, they can either pre-print a paper ticket, scan a code into the system from a smartphone or use a Bluetooth-enabled mobile device to pay automatically.
Inside the big blue city bus, commuters are offered a choice of three seating areas – a booth at the wood-paneled rear geared towards social interaction, a section featuring laptop workspaces for checking social network feeds or putting the finishing touches to a presentation on the way to the office, and front-facing seats designed for spacious comfort.
There are USB ports for powering mobile devices and onboard Wi-Fi. If you get the munchies on the way to or from work, each bus also includes a snack bar. In addition to the driver, a company representative will be on board each bus to see to commuter needs.
You can see the kind of experience on offer in the short promo video below.