Jesse is a researcher, consultant, and writer with ten years of experience in the energy sector and expertise in electric power systems, electricity regulation, energy and climate change policy, and innovation policy.
Ever wish you could cut to the front of that long line at the airport taxi stand, or share a cab and save money on that expensive ride home?
If you touch down soon at New York City area airports, you just might get the chance to do both, thanks to Bandwagon, a new app-based service designed to make taxi-sharing and trip pooling much easier – and much more common.
In one of our semi-regular series of TheEnergyCollective.com #EnergyChats, I recently spoke with David Mahfouda, CEO of Bandwagon about the startup company’s visions for a world in which taxis and other small vehicles-for-hire become an integral part of our public transportation systems, saving consumers time, money, and energy. You can watch our full interview below or on Youtube here.
Bandwagon is a new ride-sharing app for taxis and other car services. The service is currently in its beta phase, with trials underway for trips to and from New York’s LaGuardia Airport and soon at other NYC-area airports. The service has completed roughly 300 trips to date serving about 1,000 customers, David told me.
As David explains it, the Bandwagon service is built upon “a sophisticated route coordination server, that we call the ‘Ride Batch Server,’ that identifies and gracefully combines itineraries” to make sharing a ride simple and easy. “It doesn’t matter how many trips or how disparate they are. It’s a very sophisticated tool that does all the matching for users,” says David.
So far, Bandwagon has launched two products.
The first–called “The Hoplane” in a play on the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes commonly known as carpool lanes–is a physical system that you might find at taxi stands at an airport or hotel. Riders willing to share a ride can input their destination into the system (or the taxi stand operator does this) and it will automatically pair two or more people to share a taxi. You save money on the taxi fare–and best of all, you get to hop to the front of what can otherwise be an excrutiatingly long line!
The other product is a web and mobile app “that does the same thing in reverse,” David says.
As he explained to me after our video interview, the mobile app will be quite familiar to users of Uber, Taxi Magic, Hailo, or other taxi booking apps, except that when the ride shows up, your vehicle may already have one person on board, or you may make one stop on your way to your destination. The plan is that the Bandwagon system will make sure those trips are efficient and don’t cost you much time. And you’ll get a good discount on your normal taxi fare to boot.
“The problems are slightly different, from the airport and to the airport, but in general, what we are doing is combining trips, reducing VMT [vehicle miles travelled] and saving passengers money and time on their trips.”
Ultimately, David hopes that Bandwagon will make taxis and shared rides another part of our growing web of public transit systems.
“I was initially really interested in trains, and wanted to build some software to make trains more accessible,” David explained when I asked him how he ended up at the helm of Bandwagon. “But what I quickly realized is that in the United States, really the transportation mode that needed addressing was the [light] vehicle.”
Taxis were his initial focus because they are light vehicles that “operate almost like public transportation systems,” David said. In fact, as he explains, “New York City’s taxi and limousine system is effectively the seventh largest public transportation system in the United States.”
“Thinking about what we can do to increase the effectiveness and the efficiency of our car and road networks” is what David’s efforts at Bandwagon are all about.
And the energy savings can add up quickly: pile two or three passengers into a vehicle and you instantly slash in half or a third the fuel consumption per person-mile travelled–effectively transforming that old towncar into an ultra efficient vehicle from a fuel use per person-mile travelled perspective.
David’s efforts may start with a simple app that aims to encourage a change in how passengers use and think about vehicles. But his end vision is pretty revolutionary: “[In the future,] ideally, vehicles aren’t owned by people anymore. Very few people own planes. Very few people own buses. We think the same should be true of cars.”
Instead of each of us shelling out thousands of dollars to own our own vehicles that sit idle in driveways or parking lots something like 90 percent of the time, David envisions cities or private companies providing personal transportation as a service. Those small vehicle transportation services would also be well-integrated into a variety of other transportation systems, from buses and airplanes to bike shares and subways.
It’s a compelling vision at least in urban settings where transportation networks and routes are dense enough, one that would save consumers money and likely time, and could significantly reduce fuel consumption and road congestion.
Ride sharing services based on route-finding algorithms like Bandwagon’s may ultimately join car sharing fleets like Zip Car or City Car Share or personal car sharing services that make use of privately-owned vehicles, like Spride or the San Francisco Bay Area’s more spontaneous Casual Carpool.
What do you envision as the future of personal transportation? Join the #EnergyChat below in the comments or on Twitter by tweeting @EnergyCollectiv.
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