5 Tech Ideas Making Multimodal Transportation Easier And Cheaper
Originally published in Forbes by Julie Walmsley on September 30, 2018
Self-driving cars and air taxis won't solve your urban travel needs for a good while, but a raft of tech solutions can help you efficiently mix public transit, bikes, scooters, car-share, and ride-hail right now. Here are five particularly useful ones:
It's somewhere between individual-focused Waze and Reddit in user-interface but aims to solve the broad public policy problem of transportation unknowns in disconnected areas. Tel Aviv-based Moovit helps you plan your trip, and you can provide input as a community contributor or "Mooviter." Those Mooviters are patching information together to create a coherent network, allowing underserved areas to connect with better-resourced areas. That is, people can get from here to there to meet personal needs, but their contributions showing who is moving where, in what mode and how fast, allow public agencies to craft better plans.
Moovit is free for Android, iOS, and online. It's not new on the scene or a secret. Its growth and fundraising have taken headlines. But a new Siri integration allows iPhone users to set their phones up so that Moovit gets them home (or anywhere) in the most efficient way possible when they ask Siri to do so. Moovit reports that it is now in 2500 cities across 83 countries and can be used in 44 languages. The tech community clearly believes in it: in February, its Series D pulled in $50 million in a round led by Intel. It has raised $131.5 million altogether, Crunchbase shows.
If you're new to public transportation, you're not sure yet what your nearby options are. That's okay. Transit is a smartphone app on both iOS and Android that shows you upcoming departures in your area before you touch your screen. Those departures are updated in real time in most areas. And it's not just public transit. When you work your way up to multimodal, Transit can also help you plan car-share, bike-share, and Uber. Some services have integrated payment. Transit is in 100 U.S. regions to help you orient yourself to bus and train, but does not have every micro-mobility partnership in every area. Some car-share partnerships include Car2Go in Austin, Denver, Portland, and Washington, D.C. For bike-share, the function integrates with Motivate, the largest bike-share in the country, among others. Transit offers integrated bike-share payment for its partners in Chicago, Minneapolis, Detroit, Columbus, Louisville, Chattanooga, and Aspen. That is, you can unlock your bike and pay for it in the Transit app.
Migo lets you shop how you'd like to move today, choosing among Uber, Lyft, Car2Go, Yellow Cab, Lime, Flywheel, and public transit. It is so far only on iOS (Android is coming) but is available in 75 areas in North America. It works as a kind of customer acquisition strategy for mobility companies wanting to garner new clientele and a market survey for urbanites wanting maximum choice and minimum price as they go multimodal. The mobility community believes in the Seattle-based startup. It just raised $9 million in an early round from the venture arms of Enterprise and Hyundai.
For transit riders wanting planning assistance for their chosen mode of transit, rather than a third-party app to help them plan between and among buses, Goleta, Calif.-based Connectpoint makes digital bus stops, signage, and interactive kiosks for transit agencies in the U.S. Its solar SmartStop displays real-time bus arrivals and departures at a given stop and allows riders to tap and swipe around a screen to plan an efficient trip.
You don't have to download an app or navigate to any site to use the digital tools; they are part of the infrastructure at the individual stop. Connectpoint has contracts with the Washington Metro, the Chicago Transit Authority, the Austin Capital Metro, the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Agency, and the Silicon Valley-centered Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority.
Remix isn't for commuter use, but one day it will probably make your morning rush much better. It is something like Moovit geared toward urban planners. Instead of gathering and synthesizing information on street traffic for various applications, the San Francisco-based company is itself a software system for the actual design of streets. That includes the creation of roads and managing public transit and new mobility on those roads. It has so far pulled in $12 million, including a Sequoia Capital-led first round.