Helsinki’s personalized bus service is like Uber for public transit

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    Mar 13, 2014 4:22 PM GMT
    This is cool... not sure why there aren't opportunities for a shared cab service though like this?

    http://grist.org/list/helsinkis-personalized-bus-service-is-like-uber-for-public-transit/

    Here’s an innovation in bus usage that’s so smart we’re not sure it can even work: Helsinki’s Kutsuplus lets you select your pick-up and drop-off locations and times, using a phone app, and then sends out a bus to take you exactly where you need to go.

    You don’t get the bus to yourself, of course; Kutsuplus cleverly bundles you with other people going the same way. But it beats standing on a street corner forever waiting for a bus that will take a roundabout route to your destination. And while it’s a little more expensive than a standard bus ride — the equivalent of about $5 base price plus $2 per two miles, while most bus rides would be $2.75-$5.50 — it’s still significantly cheaper than a taxi.

    Right now there are only 10 Kutsuplus buses in operation, and they run from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Helsinki plans to expand the operation by 35 buses, but we can’t tell whether this would even work at a larger scale or in a larger city — would it be great because of the high likelihood that someone else is going your way, or would it become a logistical nightmare? I guess we’ll find out some of that when Helsinki’s system expands. If it works, please bring it to the U.S.!
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    Mar 13, 2014 5:44 PM GMT
    Actually I was using a service like this in Fargo, North Dakota 10 years ago. Only difference is that it was for the certified disabled, who carried a rider card.

    You phoned (no app) and made your appointment. A small van-based bus arrived at your door and took you to your exact designation address. And then you could phone to return. But here are inherent problems I would think the Helsinki service would also have:

    - Because it's a shared service, your route is not direct. Who gets taken to their destination first, and what route you take, is determined by the most efficient path for all passengers who happen to be onboard, and others who are being picked up along the way. So you may be driven all over the place.
    - Due to the vagaries of this routing, the pick-up time at your place can't be very precise. You had to be ready about an hour on other side side of the time you requested. Likewise your arrival time was highly variable, so if you were going for a scheduled appointment you needed to also plan for much earlier.
    - Your return was equally time consuming. You might sit at the grocery story or doctor's office for an hour or more, waiting for the bus. And take nearly an hour to get home, when you actually only lived 15 minutes away. Not good if you had bought frozen food and other perishables. Believe me, I tried it, and it really was not a very good solution.

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    Mar 13, 2014 7:50 PM GMT
    ART_DECO saidActually I was using a service like this in Fargo, North Dakota 10 years ago. Only difference is that it was for the certified disabled, who carried a rider card.

    You phoned (no app) and made your appointment. A small van-based bus arrived at your door and took you to your exact designation address. And then you could phone to return. But here are inherent problems I would think the Helsinki service would also have:

    - Because it's a shared service, your route is not direct. Who gets taken to their destination first, and what route you take, is determined by the most efficient path for all passengers who happen to be onboard, and others who are being picked up along the way. So you may be driven all over the place.
    - Due to the vagaries of this routing, the pick-up time at your place can't be very precise. You had to be ready about an hour on other side side of the time you requested. Likewise your arrival time was highly variable, so if you were going for a scheduled appointment you needed to also plan for much earlier.
    - Your return was equally time consuming. You might sit at the grocery story or doctor's office for an hour or more, waiting for the bus. And take nearly an hour to get home, when you actually only lived 15 minutes away. Not good if you had bought frozen food and other perishables. Believe me, I tried it, and it really was not a very good solution.



    I suspect that in more populated zones this would work well though - eg. between suburbs and dt in most zones I suspect there would be a demand without necessarily the massive time variance.

    With better tech, you should be able to see your pickup time in real time once a quota is met/set. Then it's just an optimization function between people who come in (e.g. once you register your need then the computer may take 10-15 minutes to group people with similar destinations/origins).