To Make Sharing Easier: Introducing Hubs and HOP Lanes

To make sharing a ride even easier, we’re adding some new points of interest to the map in your Bandwagon application—places where other passengers are likely to be traveling to and from.

We call them Hubs and HOP Lanes.

Hubs: Are designated hot spots where there are a high volume of people gathered and potentially looking for rides. A likely place to find a match.

HOP Lanes: HOP means High Occupancy Passenger—or just ‘hop.’ These are zones we establish for passengers who are already waiting in places with long, congested taxi lines.

Passengers in HOP Lanes can use Bandwagon to identify other people who are heading their way and get priority access to departing vehicles. Much like in a HOV lane on the highway, matched passengers get to go ahead and “HOP” the line.

And if you’d like to create a Hub or install a HOP Lane at your event or place of business, see bandwagon.io/events or email Mark, our director of Business Development, at mark.harrison@bandwagon.io.

Check it out now—and start sharing (more).

—Nadia

  Hailing a taxi is being disrupted by technology and sharing. To help you (and us!) navigate the various options for a ride—and differentiate ridesharing from ride selling —Nyron and Florencia made a handy map of the various Transportation Network Companies and what they offer. 
  Read more about    where we fit into that picture and our thoughts about taxis and the sharing economy  .

Hailing a taxi is being disrupted by technology and sharing. To help you (and us!) navigate the various options for a ride—and differentiate ridesharing from rideselling—Nyron and Florencia made a handy map of the various Transportation Network Companies and what they offer.

Read more about where we fit into that picture and our thoughts about taxis and the sharing economy.

Open Traffic: Bringing Open-Source, Real-Time Traffic Data for NYC

To enhance how Bandwagon generates routes and matches passengers’ ride itineraries in New York City, we’re assembling a new database: a repository for real time traffic data we’re calling Open Traffic.

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Beginning with data gathered from New York State and City Agency fleets, private fleets and consumer vehicles, the database will be open to anyone to use and contribute to.

The hope is that Open Traffic will also serve a greater value: helping to reduce congestion, reduce fatalities, improve transportation investments, and promote multi-modal travel.

Because we think Open Traffic can benefit New York and Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate all traffic deaths, we’ve submitted the project to the city’s premiere apps competition, BigApps, and we’re thrilled to be in the running. We’re also excited to be takling the Mayor’s #BigApps idea head on.

Read more on our BigApps project page—and please vote for Open Traffic at the BigApps hub before Saturday afternoon: 

http://www.nycbigapps.com/projects

It only takes twenty seconds, and if we have enough votes by the time we pitch the project atSaturday’s Block Party, we have a better chance of advancing to the next stage.

And come say hi to us and check out all the BigApps on Saturday.

—Team Bandwagon

The value of connecting with people who are going the same way

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A few months ago, a group of researchers at MIT’s SENSEable City lab analyzed a year’s worth of NYC taxi rides—170 million trips—and found something fascinating: by tracing the routes of thousands of cabs, they surmised that nearly 80 percent of those trips could have been shared. That is assuming that passengers were willing to share (and, similarly, that there was a good way to connect them), and willing to travel no more than three minutes out of their way.

Just think about it, they said: if even a small fraction of those potential shared rides were shared, we could make a significant impact on the city’s congestion and pollution, which are dead weights on any city’s prosperity.

A visualization like this elaborates one of the promises of analyzing “big data” sets. If we can see the world’s invisible lines, we might also begin to shift our thinking about how we exist in the world and how we move around it.

Unlike regular vehicles, taxis are already designed as shared spaces. But, the research implied, they could be shared even better. “How might entertaining these questions be the first step in building a more efficient and cheaper taxi service?” they asked.

We’re building an answer at Bandwagon, matching riders throughout the five boroughs who are going the same way at the same time. You can use the app to dispatch a licensed taxi and find a passenger match in NYC; elsewhere, you can use Bandwagon in addition to existing taxi services, sharing a ride with another rider going your direction.

Every ride is a potential Bandwagon, open to other members nearby. Your ride is proportional to the cost of your seat, not the entire car. Your environmental footprint is closer to your size, too.

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This doesn’t just contribute to the well-being of existing taxi users and to the city as a whole. A shared taxi system might accommodate people who might be underserved by public transit, filling in transportation gaps without adding cars to the road while cutting the costs of vehicle transportation. 

Throughout the summer in New York, Bandwagon is offering special offers to new and existing users, especially at times and places where we think matches are likely. Sign up with the code MATCH to get $10 credit for use all summer long. And look for guaranteed discounts to all NYC airports on Thursdays and Fridays, and from NYC airports on Sundays. 

We’re also helping match riders in places where they tend to congregate—airports, transportation hubs, events, and companies—to cut long taxi lines and make shared transportation seamless and efficient. You can see more about that aspect of Bandwagon at bandwagon.io/events.

In future releases, we will be better demonstrating the potential for rideshares with people who are near you. For now, to get a sense of the shares waiting to be made, play around with HubCab here: hubcab.org. You can chart your regular transit routes, see how many others might be going your way, and calculate the savings in fares and carbon dioxide that come with real ridesharing.

Independence Day Deals in NYC!

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Hey New York Bandwagoners!

The 4th of July is coming up, which means it’s time to get out of town. When you do, make sure to grab our holiday deals, deals, deals on per-seat rides to the airport:

  • $15 to LaGuardia Airport

  • $30 to JFK and Newark Airports

  • Also, new users can take an extra $10 off using the code INDEPENDENCE

Get the app now for iPhone and Android, and celebrate your independence from wasteful transportation by sharing your ride!  

Happy Trails!

The Bandwagon Team

P.S.

Connect with us — and share your rides — on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook.

What ridesharing really is

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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.  

Words are misused all the time, and language evolves of course. Misunderstanding ridesharing (and sharing in general) is unfortunate considering how valuable we think sharing can be to the economy—and what stands to be lost if journalists, Silicon Valley, politicians and others get it wrong.

“Ridesharing” isn’t only being misused by the media, from the New York Times to TechCrunch, from the Associated Press to the New Yorker. It’s also being misused by lawmakers as they craft new laws that are shaping the future of urban transportation.

All this disruption isn’t really about sharing. The controversy revolves around new ways of dispatching all kinds of taxis. On one hand, it’s about the old guard of the taxi industry girding itself from disruption; on the other, it’s about how the disruptors are in some cases doing their disrupting by side-stepping laws.

At Bandwagon, we think ridesharing means something different, and it’s a definition that’s actually quite common within the transportation arena: ridesharing is sharing your ride with another passenger who is going your way.

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Ridesharing, according to last year’s federal transportation bill, means offering the use of seats in your own car to other passengers along your route on a cost-reimbursement basis only. Like most things we share, ridesharing brings benefits to riders (saved time and money) and to our communities (reduced pollution and congestion). 

Ridesharing is not the same as dispatching and paying a driver to pick you up and take you somewhere, be it by raising your hand, calling a dispatcher, or using one of dozens of apps. This is hailing a taxi.

In general, taxis are a shared resource and part of a smart urban transport network. This includes luxury cars dispatched by app and peer-to-peer taxis driven by amateur drivers in their own cars. Taxis fill in gaps in public transportation and bolster it too, as David King, a Columbia University professor has observed in his research on what he calls “asymmetrical mode-share.” All in all, taxis enable us city-dwellers to give up car ownership for a transportation network that’s more affordable, efficient and better for our cities.

Still, taxis dispatched by apps are more likely to be called “rideshares” rather than “taxis,” even though they operate a lot like taxis, and they aren’t doing any more or less sharing than any other taxi does. We don’t call renting an apartment “building-sharing,” so why do we call hailing a taxi ridesharing? 

How did the term “ridesharing” come to describe an app-dispatched taxi cab? It might have been because of California law: unlike taxis, drivers who are “ridesharing” by giving people lifts to places they were already going were historically not subject to taxi rules.

By branding the new services as “ridesharing”—or at least accepting the term and using it to lobby regulators—these companies found a new way into a market from which they would otherwise be prohibited if they weren’t using that umbrella term. Now, California has a new phrase, “transportation network companies,” or TNCs, a term that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Meanwhile, the “ridesharing” moniker has stuck.

Real ridesharing is different than that. It’s a way to better use the vehicles that we have now rather than adding new cars to already crowded roads. It’s a way of getting people where they need to go cheaply and quickly, when public transit isn’t an option or when cabs are in short supply. Ridesharing is a way of improving access to the market by making taxi cabs cheaper to take, especially at high demand times, not more expensive.

At Bandwagon we’re working on real, real-time ridesharing every day. We enable passengers to book rides and get matched with other passengers in licensed taxis, car services and private vehicles. Passengers sharing taxis benefit from increased capacity and accessibility, while drivers increase earning capacity and cities reduce congestion. And instead of raising prices when demand is high, real ridesharing enables Bandwagon to lower prices.

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Real-time route matchmaking—that’s the stuff of ridesharing. Illustration by Brendan Dalton.

New York is an especially good city for ridesharing: as a study last year found, nearly 80 percent of the city’s taxi trips could have been shared, assuming that passengers were willing to travel no more than three minutes out of their way, and were willing to share—and, relatedly, that there was a good way to connect them.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that about 76 percent of drivers go to work alone, which means that most days, most of us who drive travel with at least three perfectly good empty seats next to us. “If more of us would simply pile into cars together — on our way to work, or school, or wherever — we could reduce congestion, emissions, even the need for parking,” Emily Badger wrote in April in the Washington Post. “And what’s not to like about that?”

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Taxi rides between 15th Street and Midtown in New York City demonstrate the potential for shared rides. (Via Hubcab / MIT SENSEable City Lab)

One thing we can all agree on: in general, taxis are an important part of a city’s transportation system. They improve the way we use private vehicles. If there are going to be cars in cities, taxis are a good compromise. Their utilization rates are drastically higher than private cars, in some cases 1900 percent higher. Think about the amount of time your typical urban car is used versus the amount of time it’s parked curbside, taking up valuable space (in between street cleanings, let’s be honest), and then think about how taxis are used. All the new taxi apps—us included—are hopefully helping make it easier to “use” taxis and hopefully making taxis better too. 

Taxi regulations might serve an incumbent industry, but they also exist to keep the taxi “system” working: they prevent a glut of taxis on the road, ensure that the people driving those taxis are licensed and insured, and help cities maintain a thriving fleet of trained drivers who can make a reasonable wage. Laws helped turn the taxi business from a shady industry—what the Times in 1923 called a “yellow peril”—into a powerful, reputable part of the city’s public transit infrastructure.

Given how many taxis on the road are currently underutilized—what taxi drivers call “dead head"—and given how centralized some of the control over the industry can be, taxi innovation is going to be a crucial part of our future cities. 

Part of that innovation includes finding ways to make better use of some of the empty seats in those taxis. Real ridesharing is awesome for cities. It can reduce congestion, expand public space, increase our ability to live dense and rich lives without totally screwing the one planet we have, and without unleveling the playing field.

We’re being sticklers about terminology because we see the benefits that technology and sharing in particular can bring to our cities. We know that connecting riders to share rides has the power to undo much of the damage that excess vehicle trips have done to our public space and social fabric. As cities and companies continue to fight or choose to work together in upgrading our existing transportation systems—and we are rooting for the latter—we don’t want a buzzword to ruin what we think is a positive kind of disruption to our cities’ transportation.

Alex Pasternack and David Mahfouda are co-founders of Bandwagon.

This post was edited for clarity on June 26.

Why Google Wanted Their Self Driving Car to Not Look Like a Car

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Google’s self-driving car prototype doesn’t look like a car. It very deliberately looks unlike a car.

Early development of Google’s driverless vehicle technology was done by retrofitting normal cars from established brands. Google’s in-house prototype— the first “Google Car”—doesn’t make even the slightest effort to fit in. Though the form factor is similar to city-friendly smartcars, even among them Google’s cartoonish creation would stand out, partly due to the sensor array it has on top and partly because, head-on, it looks like its smiling.

Clearly this is not an accident. It is not as if Google’s designers were trying to make a car that looks like other cars and did a poor job. It’s also not that self-driving technology dictated this particular appearance: that development continues to be done on normal-looking vehicles demonstrates this.

So Google is consciously making the statement that this thing of theirs is not like a car. It isn’t a continuous evolution from cars that came before it, like electric and hybrid vehicles that are visually indistinguishable from all-gasoline cars.

Indeed, this is meant to be a fully autonomous car, the kind that doesn’t even need a steering wheel. That’s because during their testing, Google discovered that, in an emergency, relying on humans to take over didn’t work. After awhile, humans get lazy in these cars, making them ill-prepared to take over.

Borrowing from NASA’s design approach, Google’s new car copes with such eventualities, naturally, with more computers.

“It doesn’t have a fallback to human—it has redundant systems,” Nathaniel Fairfield, a technical lead on the project, said recently. “It has two steering motors, and we have various ways we can bring it to a stop.”

A weird design is probably the smarter move for Google. There wasn’t much hope of the self-driving car debuting as something that looks just like any other car. Does this matter? I think it is a strong indication of how transformative Google thinks its driverless vehicles are. It signals a willingness to treat this project as something that will break conventions as a matter of course.

Obviously, having robots take the wheel is a break with convention. Rather than minimizing that break, Google has made a deliberate choice to embrace it, hoping we’ll bask in the weirdness of their future vision.

Dan Luxemburg, CTO at Bandwagon

What happened in Vegas

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Last week, Bandwagon was at International CES in Las Vegas with a mission: to relieve the stress of the taxi lines on attendees of the world’s biggest consumer technology conference and to relieve the stress on the city’s roads too. There was also a nice bonus: a panel of judges assembled by Verizon chose us from among over a thousand companies to receive one of their inaugural Powerful Answers Awards in sustainability. We’re in great company.

We’ll use the award of $700,000 to continue to build our network of riders and drivers, and to bring the future of urban ridesharing to more places beyond our bases of operations in New York, at LaGuardia Airport, and in Montreal. 

If you know somewhere in particular that could use some Bandwagon in its transportation life, drop us a line at hi at bandwagon dot io.

Cheers,

Alex, David, and your friends at Bandwagon

Slaying the cab lines at CES

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We’re not just at CES, the world’s biggest consumer technology expo, schmoozing with awesome companies, trying on computers, or collecting awards (more on that in a bit): we’re also operating two shared cab lines at the Las Vegas convention center to whisk folks to hotels and other event locations, easing the process of sharing, reducing congestion, and saving everyone time and cash (for more gambling or gadgets or what have you).

Using our mobile app or a curb-side kiosk, ride sharers are skipping the conference’s famously long taxi lines for Bandwagon’s Priority Rideshare Zones; think of it like a highway high-occupancy-vehicle lane for the taxi stand. With a willingness to share and a few clicks on a screen, riders avoid long wait times, cut congestion and pollution, and save cash.

“I’m impressed with Bandwagon’s business model and approach of seats, not trips, that produces a win for passengers, cabbies, efficiency and the environment,” said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), and owner and producer of the International CES. “The Bandwagon app reduces congestion and helps us by getting our CES attendees out of lines and where they want to go more quickly.”

We’re also thrilled to announce that Bandwagon was named a winner of Verizon’s inaugural Powerful Answers Award. We were chosen as one of fifteen global companies among 1,300 submissions that’s succeeding in addressing problems of sustainability, education and health. The award comes with a cash prize of $700,000, which we’ll use to build a more adaptable and more robust service.

Our premise is simple: every day millions of commuters everywhere travel at the same time and in the same direction, perhaps to the same place, but in separate vehicles. Often that doesn’t make sense. Trips are more expensive and the resulting congestion and pollution makes travel less pleasant for everyone involved. The status quo is anti-social and unsustainable. 

We’re doing our best to solve this straightforward problem by plugging into all of the existing networks that bind us and our cities together—networks of drivers, people, infrastructure, and information—to build cities that are more flexible and more sustainable.

To get to the future of transportation we need to roll together, so thanks a lot for riding with us.

Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook

Taxis Go Communal: Bandwagon Brings Taxi Sharing to NYC

With a palpable enthusiasm for collaboration, David Mahfouda is plotting a new future for taxi transportation in New York City: one that'€™s more cost-effective, efficient, and sociable. Bandwagon, Mahfouda'€™s new ridesharing service launched at LaGuardia Airport in July, fills idle capacity in taxis by getting passengers who have complementary destinations into the same cab.

The End of Car Culture

The appeal of car ownership seems to be fading: “Different things are converging which suggest that we are witnessing a long-term cultural shift.” This a great article that provides statistical evidence for a cultural change that many of us feel in our bones. Personal car ownership is an ideal of the past. 

 

 

 

Collaborative Consumption as Disaster Preparedness

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Reading this interesting article on Co.Exist reminded us at Bandwagon of our experience in the fall during Hurricane Sandy. As a New York City-based company, we saw the enormous impact the disaster had on transportation and we wondered how taxi-sharing could help. When the Port Authority of NY and NJ called us to help the pile-up of airplane passengers trying to disembark at LaGuardia during the fuel shortage that followed the Hurricane, we jumped at the chance. Bandwagon facilitated hundreds of passengers’ shared taxi rides, making better use of a limited resource. We’ve seen taxi-sharing work before in reaction to a disaster, and we hope it’s there in a future as a tool in major cities. 

D.C. Again Takes On Upstart Competitor To Taxicabs - WNYC

Both New York City and D.C. have come down hard on the so-called “ridesharing” service operated by SideCar. Although it’s still anyone’s guess how East Coast legislation around e-hailing will affect the viability of “ridesharing,” recent enforcement actions don’t bode well. Here at Bandwagon, we’re excited about the demonstrated demand for more affordable for-hire-vehicle transportation. We’re hopeful that real (and legal) ride-sharing can offer a solution.

The Rush Begins: E-hailing pilot program in NYC proceeds and Sidecar gets busted

The biggest news in the last week has been (1) the beginning of the TLC’s e-hailing pilot program following the dismissal of a lawsuit from drivers, and (2) the sting operation by the NYPD against a Sidecar ride last Friday in New York City.

Uber (of the Bay Area) was the first to be approved by the TLC for the pilot program, followed this morning by Hailo (of London). This is not the same as “commercially operating” despite suggestions to the contrary by the shoddy tech reporting surrounding the taxi app world. This pilot program could last for up to 12 months, and is more or less under TLC control. Being able to hail a cab with a smartphone is a wonderful thing that will certainly be the norm in a few years, but a lot of people in the industry (and some outsiders) stand to gain and lose a lot as the lines between yellow cabs and black cars, drivers and fleets, drivers and dispatchers, are redrawn.

In related news, two Sidecar cars were impounded on Friday night in a sting operation. One Sidecar “brand ambassador” (which seems to be a euphemism for an unlicensed taxi driver) received a citation. It didn’t appear in the news until this morning, probably because it will scare other potential Sidecar drivers. The New York TLC made it pretty clear this is what they’d do if anyone tried to operate unlicensed cabs, and it wasn’t an empty threat. Sunil Paul of Sidecar cried foul this morning at TechCrunch’s Disrupt NYC 2013, and is asking, in a very Uber-esque move, for users to complain to Mayor Bloomberg. Shoot first, ask questions later, and if possible, do so under the auspices of reducing people’s carbon footprint and promoting the sharing economy.

The most honest thing Paul said this morning was this: “It is the regulation of taxis that is an illegal restraint of trade." I’m not sure if many people (or Sidecar users even) would agree with that.

If we at Bandwagon could make one request of this ongoing debate it’s this: Whatever its merits, don’t refer to what Sidecar, Lyft and Uber Rideshare are doing as "ridesharing.” There’s no more sharing going on with the operation of these apps than there is when a yellow cab picks you up, and there’s no discernible environmental benefit. If what New York, D.C., San Francisco and every other major city needs is a huge overhaul of taxi-regulation, than that’s what should happen.