Using Real Time Information to Make Better Travel Decisions
By providing information about traffic, routes and travel mode options, smartphone apps like RideScout are rapidly changing transportation.
In fact, the ease with which such apps collaborate and make use of real time information is facilitating mobility so well that we may be seeing the future of transportation taking shape before our eyes.
Joseph Kopser, CEO and Co-Founder of the travel app, RideScout, has a particularly good view of the change that is coming. RideScout provides real-time information about transportation options including transit, bus, bike, taxi, car share, ride share, parking and walking in one view.
Mr. Kopser joined IBTTA Executive Director and CEO Patrick Jones on this month’s #TranspoChat Twitter chat to discuss the topic, “Using Real Time Information to Make Better Travel Decisions.”
For more, see our summary of the chat, below.
Joseph Kopser will be a featured speaker at IBTTA’s upcoming 82nd Annual Meeting and Exhibition September 14-17 in Austin, Texas. Click here for registration information.
Read my uncle’s note that reminds me to “keep it real”
My Uncle Robert is one of my mom’s older brothers. He has spent his whole life in service to country and community. Today, he and my aunt live in Washington, DC. When I was in the 4th grade, I got to spend a week with him taking in every site in DC. It was that moment I fell in love with American History and the Red, White, and Blue took on new meaning that has never left my heart. It’s largely the reason I chose to serve in our military and attend West Point. While Congressional politics struggle today, I am reminded of my trip in the 4th grade and how wide-eyed I was about the hope of promise of our country. And today, my Uncle teaches me a new lesson—- See the world through the eyes of others…. I got this note back in response to a note I sent him asking him what he thought about RideScout:
Hey Joseph, Great to hear from you. Congratulations on your enterprise (RideScout). I had no idea you had become an inventor and private entrepreneur. I listened to your interview with (I don’t remember his name and after an hour-long search can’t relocate the interview.). (He was not the greatest of interviewers; at times he seemed to be at a loss for what to ask you.) But you did manage to get across a very powerful point on the importance of teamwork and how to go about problem solving and not losing sight of the goal because of minor hiccups along the way. You continue to do credit to your Mom and Dad , and to the U.S. military.
Now for the cold water. Your Uncle and Aunt are real dinosaurs in the tech age. We still don’t have cell phones. We watch our TV on over-the-air broadcasts. (No cable.) I am still using a converter box and I listen to the Washington Nationals ballgames on the radio. A radio is one of those little boxes you can still find in some hotel rooms, not all, and which, if they are used at all, can be programmed to go off in the morning to provide an alarm for guests who may wish to get up early. (Like payphones and other species of dinosaurs I don’t think they will be around much longer as I understand it is now simpler to set your cell-phone to beep if you want a wake up call in the morning. (Even my computer indicates that “payphone” is not a proper term. Not a good sign.) Would you believe I can remember when you had to crank a phone in order to get an operator to place a call for you. Then, if you didn’t mind paying extra, you told the operator whom you wished to speak with and gave her the name of the exchange and telephone number you wished to reach, usually not more than three or four numbers. If the person you wished to speak with was not available at the time you called, the operator would try to find out where the person was and when he or she might return, all at no charge until you actually were able to complete the call. As people got more adept at using the phone, it was possible to convey information through the operator to the party at the other end of the line without ever speaking directly to the person or having to pay anything at all. In my day that was what was considered being “tech savvy” although the term had not yet come into use.
All of that is by way of preamble so you won’t feel bad when I tell you I have not previously heard of Ridescout let alone actually used it. Nor do I know the difference between an iOS and an Android who/which(?) I thought was one of the characters in Starwars. However, I think I may at one time have downloaded something from iTunes, so, as soon as I can locate my Apple ID, I will attempt to see whether or not your app can be downloaded into our computer in order to check it out as it sounds like a most useful package of information especially since we are a one car family and your Aunt Emma is not driving , and I am not always around to take her where she wants to go.
In the meantime, I have passed your message on to other, more tech-savvy, members of the family. As soon as I access the app, I’ll be back in touch.
My Uncle’s note reminds me that the world is a big place and it’s always important to see the world through the eyes of others…. and not always our own. The world changes and yet it stays the same.
Vets in Tech: Resources to Enlist Your Inner Programmer
RideScout was founded by four Army veterans who simply wanted a better way to get around the cities where they work and live. The team is always looking for ways to help and promote an improvement of the quality life of veterans and their families. The following post is from our friends at Think: Fulfilled.
In the midst of one of the highest unemployment rates for military veterans some amazing organizations and people have found ways to make a difference by helping military veterans succeed in the tech startup world. While history tells us that vets often have a hard time reacclimating into society and finding jobs, there have been many recent success stories of military veterans in tech. Whether you are a veteran looking to find a job, learn to code, or launch a startup there are many companies out there interested in helping you succeed.
Angel Investment group, Hivers & Strivers, focuses on early stage investments to support start-up companies founded and run by graduates of U.S. Military Academies. They give military veterans a platform to bring their businesses to life with mentorship and support along the way.
RideScout, an awesome startup in the Hivers & Strivers portfolio, was founded by two army veterans Joseph Kopser and Craig Cummings. Joseph thought of the idea for RideScout when he was living in Arlington, Virginia and commuting just five miles down the road to the Pentagon. He wanted a tool to show him the best way to get to work depending on his circumstances and time of day. When he couldn’t find a tool like that, he decided to take matters into his own hands and, with some convincing from co-founder Craig Cummings, RideScout’s journey began. Check out their app that shows you real-time information about transportation options that are available to you. RideScout is also the first startup to be incorporated into the The Bunker, a tech incubator specifically for military veterans housed within River North startup hub 1871.
Many members of this unique community of military veteran-run start-ups are specifically devoted to improving the lives of the veteran community. Hirepurpose is a startup that matches talented veterans with great American companies. Committed to closing the gap between the transition from military service to civilian career success, Hirepurpose is an excellent example of a veteran-run tech startup working to improve the quality of life for many veterans.
If you are a veteran looking to learn to code and transition into the tech world there are many excellent programs available. Veteran’s scholarships vary from $500 to as much as $8,500 and extend to immediate family in some cases. Below is a complete list of all coding bootcamps offering scholarships to veterans or relatives of veterans.
- General Assembly (London, Sydney, Boston, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Los Angeles): For the Web Development Immersive program they offer the Microsoft Fellowship for Veterans which is a $8,500 tuition subsidy with a $4,000 housing stipend from Hirepurpose, 8 available at the New York campus.
- RefactorU (Boulder, CO): They offer a 20% tuition discount ($2,700 value) to students of the Web Development bootcamp for retired and active U.S. Military personnel or spouses.
- Mobile Makers (Chicago): Mobile Makers offers a $2,500 Mobile Makers Diversity Scholarship for their iOS bootcamp to exceptional candidates from groups underrepresented in the software engineering field. You may qualify if you are female, a US military veteran and/or are part of an underrepresented ethnic minority.
- Metis (New York, Boston): All veterans or members of the U.S. military are eligible for a $2,000 scholarship to apply toward their tuition for their Ruby on Rails immersive bootcamp.
- Codecore (Vancouver, Canada): Codecore offers a Ruby on Rails Bootcamp as well as an iOS development bootcamp. They currently award a $500 dollar scholarships for Canadian Forces.
- Dev Bootcamp (New York, Chicago, San Francisco): Dev Bootcamp focuses on Ruby on Rails and they currently offer a $500 scholarships if you are a veteran of the U.S. Military.
- Launch Academy (Boston): There is a $500 discount available for veterans with Launch Academy’s Ruby on Rails bootcamp.
- Coding Campus (Provo, UT): Their program focuses on Python due to the language’s popularity in Utah and they offer individual scholarships for military personnel.
- The Iron Yard (Atlanta, Charleston, Durham, Houston, Greenville): At Iron Yard you can choose to study either Front-end, Mobile, or Ruby on Rails. They currently offer varying discounts to military personnel, including scholarships, awards and payment plans.
If you are in the military and involved in tech we want to hear your story! Feel free to get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @Thinkful. Thinkful currently offers a $50 discount for all veterans. Thinkful’s courses are entirely online and provide 1 on 1 mentorship to help you learn either Front End Web Development, Python, Ruby, Swift, Node or Angular.
What ridesharing really is (from the @HiBandwagon Blog)
At RideScout, I’m a big fan our of partner, Bandwagon. Check out their latest thought piece:
Taxi hailing apps have become controversial. Like hand-wringing, subpoena-serving, rock-slinging, 10,000-car-protest controversial. “Ride-sharing” companies have been widely attacked and praised, accused of bypassing laws as they turn non-professionals into taxi drivers who can be dispatched with a few clicks. The controversy has raised critical questions for “the sharing economy” about labor, liability, and trust.
But strangely, somewhere along the way, the meaning of ridesharing itself got lost.
RideScout and Toll Roads: Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Keep Our People Moving
This weekend, San Diego served as the scenic setting for The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association’s (IBTTA) eighth Summit on All-Electronic Tolling (AET), Managed Lanes & Interoperability—the perfect place to talk more about the importance of interoperability between traditional players in transportation, and new entrants like RideScout. I was honored when asked to be this year’s keynote innovation speaker, introducing new ideas coming from entrepreneurs in the private sector, specifically with regards to how we fit into the discussion. During previous meetings, members covered AET from operations, engineering, technology, and financing perspectives, and this weekend, IBTTA returned to discuss the results of those first meetings, and what changes still need to be made.
While hundreds of IBTTA members from more than 20 countries prepared for the summit, I was also thinking about the best way to explain how together we might address the critical infrastructure challenges our cities currently face.
An Imperfect System
Right now, our transportation infrastructure is fractured. We’re seeing too many single occupancy vehicles crowding traffic, adding to the waste and our over reliance on foreign fuel. Approximately 76% of cars on our roads have only one person in them. We’re seeing this inefficiency occur in some cities where public transportation doesn’t meet commuters’ needs, but also because commuters simply don’t know what the alternatives are to driving. It’s really amazing, like I told the audience, there are few places in America’s 6000 miles of Toll Roads that have traffic jams. All too often most American’s try to avoid a Toll Road.
It’s a shame our transportation ecosystem is not up to speed, but it impacts people in ways we don’t always think about. In today’s world, just to get a job people are often asked, “Do you have a reliable source of transportation?” Those without cars may not be considered if they answer, “no.” So are there any alternatives to driving alone? Well yes actually, and that’s where RideScout’s integrated platform comes in. We want to make sure people know what their options are so we can work together to be our traffic solution. Because when I refer to people, I don’t just mean “the people,” rather “our people:” RideScout, IBTTA, and our communities working together. Transportation is a shared community experience. The leaders in the IBTTA world know this, and have a shared responsibility to work with everyone in the transportation ecosystem; it’s a fight to keep our people moving. And with new innovation such as RideScout, Carma, and TNC’s such as Lyft and Sidecar, it’s transitioning into a new kind of discussion. There is hope for reduced congestion and improved quality of life as car ownership is dropping, highways are becoming smarter through automated electronic tolling and people are becoming more aware of their options.
So, why had I come to speak with Toll Agencies in what appears to be such a car-centric environment? First, the automobile will be here for decades. To improve our transportation ecosystem we have to account for the automobile and road traffic. Just as important, I wanted to tell them that managed lanes are the next step towards more efficient transportation, and the evolution of the toll industry. It is with improved precision that we are better able to manage, measure, and ultimately charge appropriately for the operation and maintenance of our roadways. In an ideal world, people only pay for what they use and we find better ways to spread costs that serve as a public good for all. Imagine a day when you are paying fractional amount for every foot you travel—- and only for what you use.
The Connection Between Tolling & RideScout
When we’re talking about keeping our people moving, slowing down traffic to collect the toll fee is the enemy. That’s what made the creation of the E-ZPass so revolutionary. With it, you could drive from Maine to North Carolina, and out to Illinois, all with the same account and often without stopping and holding up traffic. Similar to what E-ZPass did for our tolls, RideScout is doing the same for our entire ecosystem across transit, ride-for-hire, carshare, bikeshare and parking. We’re creating a seamless experience without different forms of payment where in real-time you can find different transportation options and see how much they cost.
The tolling industry in many ways represents what a public and private partnership should be. Years ago tolls were created by private companies who built the roads and then worked with the driver to pay for their maintenance. But in the U.S. we’ve gotten away from that concept, because we’ve spent so many tax dollars to build open interstates, freeways, highways, etc., and people don’t really appreciate what it costs to do maintenance on those roads and bridges. The same methodology applies for all modes of transportation—we’ve lost our way and it’s time to get back on course.
We’re bringing tolling together with RideScout in the app. When you look at the driving experience, we’re only capturing the 56 cents per mile for the route that you take, we’re not accurately reflecting the tolls and parking that are on there. So, what we envision going forward, is a combination where we have not only a completely transparent pricing system, but where we work with municipalities to do a more efficient dynamic tolling, preventing congestion by regulating the number of cars on the roads and helping prevent other problems.
All that is required of us, we the people, is to leave work a little earlier or later to connect with alternative modes of transportation versus giving-in to the illusion of convenience of driving your car. Because when you think about it, sitting in traffic for over an hour a day will cost you more time than that walk to the bus-stop will. I brought up the idea of Managed Lanes last December in The Democratization of Transportation where I showed how Enrique Pentalosa, the previous mayor of Bogota, Columbia, has already proposed the kind of city development plan that would create separate lanes for cars, buses, and bikes. I live in Austin, where they are realizing the cost and time savings this plan creates, the city has already begun creation of managed bus and bike lanes.
A Vision for the Future
Ultimately, it is our goal with RideScout to show people the fully burdened costs of their decisions—and not just the price of their “tolls” and parking, but instead what a trip means in terms of the trade-off between time, and money. When people learn to better value their time, then their decisions and behaviors begin to shift, as well.
This fall, RideScout wants to partner with companies like Carma, an app connecting people in Austin, D.C., and San Francisco to people with similar commutes. In Austin the government is doing an experiment with the toll where they will offset the fee for people using Carma to carpool, because what you’re doing when you carpool is you’re taking cars off the road. RideScout wants to connect you with services like Carma, Carpooling.com, and Spaceship app, so when you wake up in the morning you will see options of transit, friends, and another way to keep moving.
As I mentioned earlier, transportation is a shared experience, so in order to improve our mobility we need to support many innovations in conjunction with RideScout to improve our daily experience. That could be reducing the need for new infrastructure, greater use of connected vehicle cars, someday soon connected vehicles talking to each other and talking to the road, and someday the the autonomous vehicle. Imagine the possibilities of creating these: we can not only keep people moving, but increase efficiencies through better use of existing infrastructure.
Together we can move more quickly into the future of transportation.
You can get there from here: adding choice back into transportation
The tech shuttle debate in San Francisco is controversial and inspires strong feelings on both sides. We think it also sheds light on the lack of real choice for the average urban traveler, and leads to a flawed debate on the universally “right” way to get somewhere. At RideScout we believe that journeymaking is fundamentally personal, and our work reflects this: RideScout helps you figure out your best options for travel, right now, where you are.
Here at RideScout we like to keep our ears to the ground on transportation challenges around the country, and in particular we’ve been keeping tabs on the tech shuttle debate in San Francisco. The private shuttle services provided by major tech firms like Google and Yahoo to get their employees to and from San Francisco and far-flung suburban campuses, are coming into conflict with anti-gentrification campaigners and activists who decry the impact of well-paid tech workers on rents and the character of their neighborhoods. In turn, some operators defiantly post signs reading “this bus gets 120 cars off the road”, and others try to assuage the critics by providing donations to city services.
At root there’s a sensitive bundle of issues around affordability and diversity that we’re not qualified to adjudicate, but we do note how the debate tends to inspires comparisons of tech shuttles to other modes: driving alone, taking commuter rail, hitching a ride in a carpool, to pick a few. Most of these comparisons address the generic commuter, and assume that time savings and marginal costs are all that matters. On these terms alone, the best that our current transportation system can (usually) offer for reaching the Googleplex is driving alone. A casual observer of Highway 101 at 8.30 am will see this confirmed by commuter choice, and by this measure Google and Yahoo and the other tech firms are simply trying to replicate as closely as possible the single occupancy vehicle experience (with wifi, and more comfortable seats).
Yet there’s clearly more to all this. Caltrain is experiencing its highest ridership in 150 years, there are no seats to be found and precious little standing room at peak times, and bikes are being turned away from their otherwise large and spacious bike-only cars. Bay Area Bikeshare is expanding up and down the Peninsula. But there’s still the assumption by many that these are travelers denied their natural instinct to drive alone by congestion, cost or some other involuntary restriction.
We prefer to be agnostic about what is “naturally” the right choice, except to say that we believe most people just want the best journey according to their unique personal needs: these might include saving time, or minimizing cost, or reducing impact on the environment, or being able to get work done en route, but not necessarily uniquely, or in that order, and rarely in equal measure. Through this lens, the rush hour traffic on Caltrain will - for some - be the next best alternative to driving; for others, it’s less stressful, cheaper in the long run and allows them to get some work done. Likewise, rush hour traffic on 101 will be a choice for some, but for many it will be for lack of real choice or only faint awareness of the alternatives.
So for us, one aspect of the tech shuttle debate is to distill the fundamental challenge in modern urban mobility: how can we help people find the best transportation option, for them?
That’s why we built RideScout: our app breaks away from old, tired binary decision making - to drive or not to drive - and focuses on delivering what the system can provide you, right now, where you are. We want to infuse genuine choice back into our urban transportation system. To RideScout, the problem isn’t whether the shuttle, or driving alone, or taking Caltrain, is fundamentally the right way to get to Mountain View or Palo Alto or Menlo Park. We prefer instead to grapple with the issues around conveying complex routing information, reconciling schedules, and helping arrange bookings and payments, so that travelers can stitch together different travel modes into one seamless journey without really thinking about it. They should be able to use RideScout to select the best mix of modes that matches their particular needs.
For a few, that’s always going to be driving alone. Maybe they’ve got to drop a child off at school on the way; maybe they just like driving. That’s OK: we’ll help them figure out the real cost of their trip, and help them map a route. For some, it’s going to be a shuttle ride: maybe there’s a stop near their apartment. That’s OK too: RideScout integrates as many private and public services as possible. But for increasing numbers of other travelers, the best option might be biking down to the Caltrain terminus and riding a Bullet train to Mountain View; or carsharing with colleagues; or taking a rapid transit bus down El Camino Real. Here’s where RideScout really shines, because these trips are often delicate balancing acts where schedules have to be aligned, resources located, and tickets procured, and RideScout automagically removes that burden.
How does all this look in practice? Let’s set the RideScout engine to work and see, keeping things simple with a one-seat ride. For a trip from 4th and King in San Francisco, down to the Google Campus in Mountain View, here’s some options at precisely 2.27 pm (but it could be another time, and you could start from anywhere):
If it’s time and cost you care about, then drive your own car (but get going - it’s nearly rush hour). No car, don’t fancy driving yourself, and cost is no object? Try a taxi, through Flywheel or Sidecar. Don’t own a car but like to drive? Then there’s Zipcar. If you’d like to catch up on some work and watch the world go by, try Caltrain. Bear in mind these are only the options for a single-seat ride. If you like biking, or don’t mind taking a bus to a different transit terminal, the choices grow dramatically.
So, for the takeaway: there is no “perfect” commute to Mountain View, Sunnyvale or anywhere else. Driving alone is not necessarily better than taking a tech shuttle or biking to the Caltrain: it depends on who you ask and what they need. Ultimately, there is only what makes sense for you, right here, right now - as long as you’re actually empowered to choose and have options to choose from. So if there’s any deep transportation lesson to be extracted from the contentious tech shuttle debate, it’s that travelers need choice, and our current urban transportation systems do a poor job of enabling that. Here at RideScout we recognize we don’t hold all the cards: we can’t build new transit systems, or regulate tech shuttles, or add HOV lanes to highways (yet!). But we can help people understand their options and make better choices, and we think that’s powerful stuff.
RideScout Survey: Spend 5 Minutes & Enter to Win an iPad Mini
RideScout is moving fast—expanding into dozens of new cities and adding new product features. As we continue to grow, we want to know more about you, the transportations apps you use, and new features you’d like to see in RideScout.
Please click the link below to complete our 5 minute survey.Take The Survey!
Upon completing the survey, you will be entered to win an iPad Mini! The winner will be announced on Monday, August 4th.
Thanks for your willingness to participate. We value your feedback and are always listening.
Co-Founder & CEO
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Deal Alert: $15 off your Hailo ride
RideScout Expands to 69 Cities on 6/9
The summer of 1969 was a time of great change.
Forty-five years ago, we perfected a whole new form of travel by walking on the moon. We also traveled together to one of the most historic music festivals of all time–Woodstock. But, today, I’m eager to usher in a new era. One of better transportation for all.
Welcome to the summer of 69…cities that is. Today, RideScout expanded app coverage to dozens of cities across the United States to Canada.
From Portland to Calgary, Detroit to New York City, now millions of people will be able to use RideScout for their summer travel. RideScout now brings together 337 transportation services in North America, enabling 186 million people to discover more ride options and explore dozens of cities.
Please check out RideScout’s blog for more details —> http://bit.ly/1rZeDEa.