Published on February 12th, 2015 | by Cynthia Shahan1
Bridj — A “Popup” Bus That Learns Travelers’ Habits
February 12th, 2015 by Cynthia Shahan
Boston transportation has a new private transit app that learns the habits and locations of travelers as they shift around, thus improving its usefulness in a constantly changing world. Transit options become streamlined by the app itself.
“Bridj is your everyday transportation system that adapts in real-time to where you live work and play,” the app developers write with their own special spelling and punctuation.
Bridj has been tested in Boston since last June.
“The app is currently available for download on iOS and Android. With the the new Bridj app, you tell us where you want to go, select the trip that best meets your needs, purchase in-app and you’re on your way. The app will also allow you to track your Bridj in real time and you can book trips days or minutes in advance.”
The original version of Bridj was for the Bridj bus system in Boston, a popup bus service that shows up where people need it to.
Katharine Q. Seelye wrote in the New York Times about this new way of transport. Seelye explains the unpredictability of the subway according to “a typical Boston commuter.” This problem and the walking distance coupled with that makes it difficult as a reliable transportation for the busy worker with punctual needs. For example: “Katie Pasciucco, 34, an account manager at a software company, is a typical Boston commuter. Her door-to-door trip to work is just 4.5 miles but takes at least 50 maddening minutes.”
The problems with the T are the reason people will pay more for Bridj — instead of the city bus fare of $1.50 and subway fare of $2. Matthew George, Bridj’s main innovator, considers Bridj a “relief valve” for the MBTA – not a competitor. According to the Boston Globe, “He hopes to eventually reduce prices to $3 to $4 per ride for short trips — not that far off from the $2 to $2.50 cost of a single-ride T fare.
The company announced that it would restructure its service in December 2014, switching from a Web-based booking system with pre-determined routes to a model that’s driven by the app and more responsive to users’ needs. “It’s the first step toward creating the dynamic service that they had originally envisioned,” marketing manager Ryan Kelly said.
The app can be found in both the Apple and Android app stores. It allows users to book their trips hours or days in advance. “The app will find a trip that meets your needs,” said Kelly. “You select a trip, it will populate it with your closest stop and tailored walking directions to your destination.”
Bridj has also expanded its service to include evening trips between 4:00 pm and 7:00 pm. Kelly said users of the service will notice similar pickup and drop-off locations for now, but as the algorithm learns their habits, those locations may begin to shift.
Bridj is one of many means in this Boston market of transit services. Third in the country as far as cities not dependent on owning cars for transportation, Boston is full of transit options.
Perhaps Bridj might look at electric vehicles soon. In the world of electric buses, the big name is BYD, a Zayed Future Energy Prize winner, but there’s also Proterra, Motiv Power, and others. A new partnership between Google and Motiv Power works as follows: “In Mountain View shuttle buses will be free for the public and will travel all around town — neighborhoods, shopping centers, medical complexes, recreation areas, etc. They can seat 16, as well as 2 wheelchairs, and they also include bicycle racks.”
Or check out the ZeroBus being used in Louisville. Public transit, car sharing, Bridj and growing options of transit are all nice. One of the key advantages of electric buses, as James Ayre points out, is that they will keep (or make) the air cleaner. As he says, “it’ll be nice once they are ubiquitous around the country, not just select cities and routes.”