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'Pop-Up' Bus Service Learns Boston Riders' Rhythms, Creates Routes Accordingly

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the it's-like-some-sort-of-hand-you-can't-see dept.

Transportation 51

moglito (1355533) writes with this story about a new take on bus service in Boston, as reported by the New York Times: 'This new-old method of transport has comfortable seats and Wi-Fi. But its real innovation is in its routing. It is a "pop up" bus service, with routes dictated by millions of bits of data that show where people are and where they need to go. The private service uses chartered buses and is run by a start-up technology company called Bridj.' 'Bridj collects millions of bits of data about people's commutes from Google Earth, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, the census, municipal records and other sources. "We crunch these millions and millions of data points through a number of algorithms that are existing, or that we're refining, to tell us where people are living and working," Mr. George said. "And through our special sauce, we're able to determine how a city moves."'

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51 comments

Why Are We Not Funding This? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47183927)

http://i.imgur.com/ePKyDDl.gif

Re:Why Are We Not Funding This? (-1, Troll)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184387)

Because the urrpublicans hate STEM cells even more than terrorist cells?

Results are in... (2)

who_stole_my_kidneys (1956012) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184027)

Everyone is going to the strip club, the a fast food restaurant late at night.

Don't Care (0)

sexconker (1179573) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184033)

Homer Simpson had it right - public transportation is for suckers.

Special sauce? (1)

dacarr (562277) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184043)

"And through our special sauce, we're able to determine how a city moves."'

I guess this is the only way one is going to get In n Out in Boston. But then there's the word "through", so I don't know if I want to know what they're doing.

Re:Special sauce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184073)

Imaging crunching millions of bits of data! That's the future, for sure.

Re:Special sauce? (1)

Em Adespoton (792954) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184115)

"And through our special sauce, we're able to determine how a city moves."'

I guess this is the only way one is going to get In n Out in Boston. But then there's the word "through", so I don't know if I want to know what they're doing.

They're obviously including the millions of bits in their special sauce, and focusing on the bowels of the city.

Re:Special sauce? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184815)

The Boston subway stops running waaaay too early. I think was like 11pm. even on weekends. its ridiculous for a city known for drinking

Re:Special sauce? (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184881)

"And through our special sauce, we're able to determine how a city moves."'

I guess this is the only way one is going to get In n Out in Boston. But then there's the word "through", so I don't know if I want to know what they're doing.

It really isn't a bad idea. I live in a neighborhood that is well populated by likely bus riders. I really wanted to use the bus service. Unfortunately, the bus that hits campus near me came either 45 minutes before the end of the day, or 45 minutes after. So when I tried to use the bus service, I had to take the 45 minute after work time. Then the bus would take a trip around campus, then downtown, then a couple miles up from my place to a shopping center. Then a circuitous rout that eventually dropped me off a quarter mile from my place at a little after 7:00 p.m.

Not bad for living 2.1 miles away from my workplace, with several dozen potential riders. By the way, do the math. At a walking speed of 4 miles per hour, I would be home before the initial 45 minute wait for the bus. Never mind the crazy quilt route they took.

Nope, this is a good idea.

Re:Special sauce? (1)

Dthief (1700318) | about a month and a half ago | (#47185611)

get a bike.... 10 min commute, and your schedule is yours to control

Re:Special sauce? (1)

GodGell (897123) | about a month and a half ago | (#47195249)

By the way, do the math. At a walking speed of 4 miles per hour, I would be home before the initial 45 minute wait for the bus. Never mind the crazy quilt route they took.

So now that you've done the math, why don't you just walk? :)
That's not that much. Plus you get a better experience than just sitting on a bus.

How stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184045)

For bus service, it doesn't matter where people commute to. It only matters where people that ride the bus commute to. This is an example of Republican-level stupidity. Their kind tries to make everything about politics, and these morons are trying to kill mass transit like the good little racists they are. Screw them. I hope this type of work is outlawed.

Re:How stupid (0)

greenwow (3635575) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184123)

Exxactly. Repukians have spent decades trying to put a stop to busses because they want minorities to be fried andf l0ose their jobs which means they wille loose there homes and starve to death. Tehy are horrible people for doing this, but this isz what they always do.

Re:How stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184279)

Stupid is the troll who posts the same stupid crap every time. What a moron.

Re:How stupid (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184619)

I just looked through the comments to ten posts, and I only found the word Republican once. I think you're overreacting since the people here aren't complaining enough about how the Republicans are trying to destroy technology and how they hate us for using it.

meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (3, Insightful)

goombah99 (560566) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184055)

Won't get fooled again. Um this is what bus planners have always done with the best available data, in setting routes.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (2)

PPH (736903) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184097)

This kind of analysis completely misses politician's motivation to move people where they (the politicians) want them to go.

I mean, it does me no good if I own a shopping mall and I contribute to the city council's campaign funds to get bus routes to my mall. But then some geek number crunchers find out that the people want to shop at my competitor's mall. So they schedule more routes going there instead. I mean, where's the justice?

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (2)

Livius (318358) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184107)

It would have been nice if they had explained what "pop-up" was supposed to mean in this context, and how (or whether) it was different from any other fixed route service. It sounds like the only difference is that it was less crowded than the subway (presumably because it cost three times as much).

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47186141)

I assume they mean that the route are going to change and stops are going to move quite frequently, somewhat analogous to pop-up restaurants which move around and change their menu frequently?

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47186259)

Ah, so it's going to be completely useless for anybody needing reliable transportation. Still, buzzwords get all the VC so there's that, I guess.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (3, Interesting)

rsborg (111459) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184137)

Won't get fooled again. Um this is what bus planners have always done with the best available data, in setting routes.

Sure, but if a bus got me close enough to my commute pattern that it was more comfortable than driving (and all that entails: driving in traffic, finding parking, keeping my car maintained, paying for gas), then I'd be very interested.

Of course, with increased flexibility, I could find myself not on their route next month or next year due to residence moves, job changes, or office re-locations.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (2)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184337)

In my city they have planned to routes and stops so that nobody has to walk more than a certain distance to a bus stop. Has nothing to do with demand for the service.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about a month and a half ago | (#47187025)

But does this bus go where you want it to go, or would you need to take the bus to the central bus station, and another one back out in almost the same direction to a stop not particularly far away from you?

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

CanadianMacFan (1900244) | about a month and a half ago | (#47187811)

Most of the routes run around throughout a part of the city from one hub to another or back to the same one. For me to get to one part of my suburb to another I take one route to a hub and catch another local route. Each local route is usually a milk run that winds about in order to make sure that the distance to bus stops is met.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (2)

sir-gold (949031) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184477)

Bus planners use this data to adjust their existing permanent routes, which only change a few times per year.

This system sounds like it's more dynamic, so when a whole bunch of people are talking about going to sporting event, they can add extra routes for the stadium for that day. Or add more routes to the beach on days when it's hot outside and people are talking about going to the beach.

It ends up being somewhere between a bus and a taxi.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

timeOday (582209) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184957)

If it's too dynamic it will be very frustrating. Without some stability, you would never even know if the bus were viable for your next ride without punching it into your smarthphone and re-thinking the locations and times available. Also it is a 2-way influence - people who rely on the bus fall into a routine that is compatible with the bus schedule, so if that suddenly changes, you have to change when you get up, or go to the gym after work instead of before, etc etc. I don't want to be a downer about this new business, I just wonder if busses were so badly routed/timed before as to make a real business opportunity, especially since most busses are operated by the government at a loss, are they not?

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

jonbryce (703250) | about a month and a half ago | (#47187033)

I guess this would be like the red mini-buses in Hong Kong which supplement the green mini-buses and big buses that operate to a fixed route and timetable.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (4, Interesting)

ehud42 (314607) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184511)

this is what bus planners have always done with the best available data, in setting routes.

And therein lies the rub. Well that at and just general bureaucratic inertia. In our city, route changes tend not to keep up with road construction, destination changes, etc. We have major roads that are full of cars during rush hour, but hardly any buses and empty buses touring residential areas.

An example of an empty major road is Kenaston Blvd & Bishop Grandin Blvd [winnipegtransit.com] (Note: Zoom in on the map - there's lots of route "close by"). Not a single bus route travels that stretch and yet this road is one of our "inner perimeters" where 42,000 vehicles drive it every day [winnipeg.ca] (PDF warning).

Another example is our 98 [winnipegtransit.com] and 82 [winnipegtransit.com] . These are "feeder" routes. They collect residents and bring them to major routes where they can go downtown. However, if you live on one side of the river and wish to go to a business or school on the other side of the river, you need to take BOTH buses which only run every 1/2 hour. It would seem to me that the logical thing to do would be to combine them into a single loop. That way you aren't stuck in -30C weather waiting 29 minutes for your transfer because the first bus was running late.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

Dthief (1700318) | about a month and a half ago | (#47185615)

But when I get on a bus, i know where its going. These buses may decide my destination is not worthwhile, and take me far from where I expected. Flexible routes are nice and all, but will cause trouble for tons of people.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

hawk (1151) | about a month and a half ago | (#47186091)

>But when I get on a bus, i know where its going.
>These buses may decide my destination is not
>worthwhile, and take me far from where I expected.

Actually, that's not it.

They've figured out that you're *wrong* about where you want to go, and will take you to the *right* place.

So welcome your new bus overlords . . .

hawk

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (1)

MacTO (1161105) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184611)

Clearly you've never dealt with cities that used the design philosophy of suburban collector routes in their downtown core. In these cities, it is quite possible to get from A to B yet have no route going from B to A at certain times of day. A far more common scenario is that you walk for 2 minutes to catch the bus to work, yet for 15 minutes after disembarking the bus on the trip back home. On short trips (i.e. less than 1 hour by bus) it is frequently faster to bike because the planners have no idea where people are coming from or going to, so they map meandering routes.

As I mentioned earlier, this assumes that you stick to the core of the city -- ideally with an origin and destination in downtown proper. The population density in the core is also quite reasonable for mass transit, so there really is little excuse for this sort of design.

Re:meet the new Bus, same as the old bus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47187265)

Won't get fooled again. Um this is what bus planners have always done with the best available data, in setting routes.

http://seosa7.blogspot.com/

What's the price? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184127)

What's the price? We need this in my city please!

Learns AFFLUENT, social-butterfly riders' rhythms (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184139)

It sounds like if you don't have a smartphone--or don't use it to check into every damn silly little place you visit--then your transportation needs are going to be underrepresented.

Re:Learns AFFLUENT, social-butterfly riders' rhyth (3, Informative)

rsborg (111459) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184277)

It sounds like if you don't have a smartphone--or don't use it to check into every damn silly little place you visit--then your transportation needs are going to be underrepresented.

You jest. Smartphone penetration in the US populace is quite high. Our babies' nanny has an iPhone5S. Nearly every construction worker on every gig at my property in the past 2 years has had a smartphone, even the ones that looked like they couldn't afford one. Many folks in the doctor's office that I go to have one (older folks tend to have tablets).

Smartphones are way too useful to be niche any longer. YOU may use them to play solitaire or listen to podcasts, but everyday folks use them to shop, text their SOs, plan their daily lives and conduct business.

The smartphone is way more personal than a personal computer, and it's way more affordable than a PC for actually useful things where you need it.

Re:Learns AFFLUENT, social-butterfly riders' rhyth (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a month and a half ago | (#47186605)

Let's replace your anecdotal evidence with some information gathered by the Pew Research Center:

Smartphone Owners in 2014:

By Sex: 61% of men and 57% of women have a smartphone.
By Education: 44% of high school grad or less, 67% of some college, and 71% of college grads (or better) have a smartphone.
By Income: 47% of less than $30K/yr, 53% of $30K - $49.9K, 61% of $50K - $74.9K, and 81% of $75K+ have a smartphone.
By Age: 83% of 18-29, 74% of 30-49, 49% of 50-64, and 19% of 65+ years old people have a smartphone.
By Location: 64% of urban, 60% of suburban, and 43% of rural residents have a smartphone.

The percentages for the population who are likely to use a city bus doesn't look "quite high" to me. This demonstrates the dangers of anecdotal evidence. You normally associate with people like yourself and assume that just because your social group owns or use something then everyone else does too.

Re:Learns AFFLUENT, social-butterfly riders' rhyth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184285)

You don't need to check in, citizen. We know where you go.

Can I pay you to help me? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184353)

Since you know everything about where everyone wants to go, and create routes accordingly, can I pay you to game the system for me? Why or why not? Why should I believe your interests are in the public interest. Also, there's a really cute girl I'd like to meet - can you drop her off at her favorite coffee shop at 4:30 on Thursday?

Dear Bridj (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184713)

Please call the IRS. They can tell you where nearly all Americans live and where they work.

Millions of bits of data? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47184929)

Summary doesn't sound so amazing when you translate "millions of bits" of data to "hundreds of kilobytes"

Re:Millions of bits of data? (0)

jellomizer (103300) | about a month and a half ago | (#47185553)

My thoughts too.
This is dads that could fit on a 5 1/2 floppy
Perhaps one sided.

Unusual Routes (3, Interesting)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about a month and a half ago | (#47184941)

The very reason that many people own cars has to do with unusual routes and unusual hours. For example some bus routes shut down at 6PM. That doesn't seem like a big problem until your job insists that overtime be worked and you don't leave work until 7 PM.. And you can not assume that a taxi will be available either as drivers prefer certain routes and certain passengers. So now you are stranded, perhaps in an industrial area or an area with no sidewalks and you are actually in danger. I have seen times when even in a severe emergency one could not get a cop for 45 minutes. If the public is ever to trust bus services they need to keep running 24/7/365 with very short wait times as well as backup buses in case one stalls or gets a flat tire.

Re:Unusual Routes (1)

Tenebrousedge (1226584) | about a month and a half ago | (#47186157)

Wait, do we suddenly not trust buses now? I wouldn't mind late-night services, but having the same route availability 24/7 would be a pointless waste of money. It should be obvious that far fewer people travel at night.

If I had a boss, and he suggested that I work overtime hours, and that entailed transportation issues, I would insist on reimbursement for travel expenses. Then I would schedule a daily taxi pickup, and have the number of a couple other alternative services handy just in case. I'm not going to address the rest of your fearmongering except to say that while you may have an argument against specific situations, you fail to make a general case against public transportation.

The reason that many people own cars is twofold, first that we design cities to be primarily accessible by cars (at least during the age of cheap oil), and secondly the automotive industry destroyed alternative transportation. [wikipedia.org] Given that we're burning millions of years' worth of oil annually, I would say that the age of the personal automobile is rapidly passing. Whatever problems public transportation has, we will have to solve.

Re:Unusual Routes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47187413)

http://seosa7.blogspot.com/

Unusual Routes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47186195)

Me thinks you've extrapolated a personal experience to the general case. Yes, some people in urban areas work in industrial parks that are deserted after hours. The rest of us ... well we don't. My trust and the trust of the vast majority of the public in bus services has nothing to do with whether or not I can get a ride in 5 minutes or less after 7pm in an industrial park far enough out from the center of town that no taxi will serve the location and which is so poorly served by the police that my physical safety is threatened by being there at 7pm.

If you job site is so dangerous at 7pm and your company wants you to stay that late they need to come up with some sort of plan.

I used to work in a place that was poorly served after hours (though not particularly dangerous). If you gave up your parking spot, you got a free/discounted weekends and off hours parking pass, a subsidy for your mass transit costs and (a couple of times a year) reimbursed for a taxi service to come get you and drop you off anywhere within a reasonable distance (usually meant being taken to a subway stop, but that was ok since it ran 24/7).

Your situation has nothing to do with "trust" in a bus service and everything to do with the inability/unwillingness of your employer to support employees and maximize their productivity.

This explains it... (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about a month and a half ago | (#47185101)

I was wondering why no bus had come past my stop in the last three weeks. Guess I need to send out more tweets in order to get service.

Recursive algorithm (0)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about a month and a half ago | (#47185103)

If these people have ever watched any TV, they will know that the ultimate algorithms are recursive algorithms. If they used those, they should be in good shape figuring out where people want to go!

MEGAbits? woah (1)

Aaron Curtis (3685749) | about a month and a half ago | (#47186437)


millions of bits of data

Woah, we're talking megabits. Unpossible.

Seems like a good idea until... (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a month and a half ago | (#47186547)

Seems like a good idea until you realize that the majority of the people currently using the bus service aren't the ones carrying the smartphones or using social media apps.

This reminds me of the pothole app that allowed people to tell their city where the potholes were and then someone figured out that only the wealthy neighborhoods were getting adequate road maintenance because of the app (and webpage).

Good Luck (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47186625)

The problem with averages is that almost nobody is average. Most of the population falls to the right or the left of the mean of a distribution. That means if you target the average all you're going to do is alienate 95+% of people. This kind of route planning might work for fixed trips like commutes, but if you want a transportation system that people can rely on enough to reduce car ownership it will never work.

here's an idea... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month and a half ago | (#47187327)

Aren't the people going to be going to the.... bus stops?

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