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HipRide: How Big is Your Bus?

by Roger Lanctot | Jul 04, 2019

Uri Levine, one of the founders of Waze and a serial entrepreneur who now resides on map maker HERE's board of directors, is something of a transportation visionary. He was kind enough, a couple years ago, to share a three slide vision of the challenge facing cities today: too man people driving alone or maybe in pairs in space-hogging, individually-owned and operated cars. (The concluding third slide appears above.)

Cities throughout the world are intimately familiar with this challenge, which has been exasperated by ride hailing services that have added "empty" cars (seeking passengers) to the mix while pulling passengers away from public transit. Uri's vision was to take people out of their cars and taxis and bundle them into 20-seat buses operating from fixed stations on fixed routes within the city.

Uri was not alone in this vision. Chariot (acquired and shuttered by Ford Motor Company) and Via have targeted this approach. Via most recently announced a service called Flex to operate within Washington, DC, in the interest of soaking up and concentrating some of the local transportation demand with 11-seat buses.

Unfortunately, this para-transit vision, though created with the best of intentions, is wide of the mark when it comes to resolving the transportation crunch choking cities from New York to Paris and Singapore. The solution has arrived in the suburbs outside New York City in the form of Hip.

Hip rides is a startup following an organic formula - setting up shop in Teaneck, New Jersey, and offering rides into and out of New York City. Using Waze-like machine learning tools, Hip has sought to serve an ever widening base of users with a service optimized for producing revenue while identifying the most efficient and convenient routes and pickup points.

Starting with six passengers in January of 2019, Hip grew to 20 passengers by the end of the first week, 100 passengers by the end of four weeks, and 500 passengers by the 12th week. Hip has plans to expand to multiple cities leveraging an approach that taps larger, privately-owned and operated 35-50-passenger buses that might normally be idle during commute times.

Hip's strategy offers multiple advantages vs. operators such as Via and Chariot that have focused on intra-urban travel instead of commuter routes. Hip doesn't own its buses and the focus on commuters avoids competing with shorter trip, intra-city transportation options such as taxis, public transportation and bikes and scooters.

Even more important, the larger, well-maintained vehicles used by Hip are more conducive to multiple passenger travel than smaller vans or Uberpool or Lyftline alternatives. Uri would be proud of Hip. While Uri was on the right track in identifying the need for multiple-passenger shared transportation - his angle was off in focusing on smaller vans supporting intra-city travel. Hip looks like it has found the right formula by right-sizing its vehicles and focusing on commuters. With a little luck, Hip may be coming soon to a city near you.

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