Metro Magazine

NOV-DEC 2014

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6 < m ETRO m AGAZINE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 chusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) says they are pleased that Bri- dj will make it easier for some people to make connections with the MBTA sub- way system. Pesaturo does acknowledge MBTA of- fers Boston area commuters more op- tions at a lower cost. Placing the fares side-by-side, MBTA charges $1.60 for adult riders, while the current price for Bridj wavers from $1 to $3. Ware says fares will be slightly more than the subway but less than a cab. Shift hasn't run into any compliance issues. In fact, Ware says he sees both the regional transit commission and city planner as friends. Ware also clarifies that Shift users aren't necessarily the same as those us- ing public transportation. "We are going to cover the last mile problem, and the people using shift are moving in patterns that public transit doesn't cover, so we aren't deferring any- one from public transit," he said. While Bridj is proving to be a popu- lar form of transportation even during its beta phase, the company wants to ex- pand the service in Boston and refine the technology before launching in new markets, said Kelly. As for Shift, talks of expansion are un- derway. The company wouldn't disclose which cities they are eyeing specifical- ly, but Ware says this time next year Shift will be in one if not two more cities. Technology is playing a key role in changing public transportation in cit- ies. With smart phones, sharing our loca- tion can be as easy as logging into an app. And, pop-up transit companies like Bri- dj and Shift are taking advantage of this data and creating a flexible transit sys- tem that comes to the customer instead of vice versa. For Boston-based Bridj, the idea of pop-up transit started in the dorm room of Middleberry College student Mat- thew George. Bridj stemmed from a transit network George designed to take college students home for breaks called BreakShuttle. The system is now the largest provider of collegiate academic break transit services in the country. "He [George] had experience in the transit realm after BreakShuttle, and then realized there was this opportunity with- in cities," said Ryan Kelly, marketing manager of Bridj. Bridj has been in its beta testing phase for a few months, but has its jitney li- cense in Boston and Brookline and just got the green light for the Cambridge area. With $4 million in funding from At- las Ventures, NextView Ventures, Suf- folk Equity, Freshtracks Capital and a group of angel investors who were also early investors in ZipCar, the company's momentum will only continue to build. On the other side of the country, is Shift. Like Bridj, Shift started from anoth- er venture. Project 100, aka Shift, caught media attention after Las Vegas venture capitalist Tony Hsieh invested a whop- ping $10 million in the startup. Anoth- er noteworthy part of the company was the acquisition of 12 Tesla Model S vehi- cles. Although the flashy sedans are part of Shift's fleet, Zach Ware, founder/ CEO of Shift, insists that focusing on the Teslas would be like "focusing on the carpet or- der for a massive art museum." The breakdown of vehicles in Shift's fleet are 49 smart cars, 102 bicycles, 30 Chevrolet Volts, 12 Tesla Model Ss and one circulator trolley. Both companies have an algorithm combining data from users and social media to create routes in real time and pick up passengers on the fly. For Bridj, bus routes fluctuate based on demand and traffic. Once a user has requested a pickup location and destina- tion, Bridj lets the customer know where to meet based on the amount of com- muter responses, and sends one of its 14-passenger Mercedes-Benz Sprinters on routes in four areas of Boston. The premise of Shift is slightly different from Bridj's, in that the choice of trans- portation varies by what the custom- er needs to do. Also, Shift is based off a monthly membership. When a customer logs onto the app, the user answers a series of questions about their trip like how far they plan to go, and if they have a preference for how they want to get there whether it be bike, car or shuttle. Although the concept sounds similar to Lyft or Uber, Ware and Kelly empha- sized that neither companies inspired Shift or Bridj. "Lyft and Uber were trying to solve the problem of the taxi industry, but we are trying to figure out how people are mov- ing around in the city," said Kelly. "We think in order to keep up with the pace of city populations we need a dynam- ic transit system that doesn't cost a lot to build." Despite the heavy resistance from tax- is to Uber and Lyft, Joe Pesaturo, com- munications director at Boston's Massa- metro news Transportation startups create 'smart routes' to provide greater mobility options Bridj has been in its beta testing phase for a few months, but has its jitney license in Boston and Brookline and just got the green light for the Cambridge area.

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