Public Transit a Huge Growth Opportunity for the Channel
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), many new companies are sprouting up to help advance smart cities initiatives. With its multiplicity of platforms, systems, applications and data points, the public transit sector is ripe for the kinds of innovation that IoT can bring.
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), many new companies are sprouting up to help advance smart cities initiatives. With its multiplicity of platforms, systems, applications and data points, the public transit sector is ripe for the kinds of innovation that IoT can bring—and provides a robust opportunity for channel partners looking to expand their existing offerings into a new vertical.
TransLoc, based in Durham, North Carolina, is an example of a new company taking advantage of these trends. Born in 2004 from a desire to make a positive environmental impact on dense urban centers, TransLoc’s mission is to make public transit an easy first choice for residents. The company currently serves 145 municipal and college transit markets and has developed leading-edge technology and partnerships to connect transit agencies, state and local governments and new ridesharing mobility services in a meaningful way.
“If we can get three out of 100 cars off road, we can reduce congestion by 30 percent,” says Joel Bush, TransLoc director of growth. “It’s an exponential impact that generates money for transit and has other downstream effects.”
There are a handful of macro societal trends happening which point toward transit become relevant again. Bush thinks that, as a society, we’ve seen “peak car,” particularly because millennials’ relationship with cars is very different from previous generations. They’re becoming adults in an age with ride share services, self-driving cars and mass migration back into urban centers, which oftentimes makes owning a car irrelevant.
TransLoc recently closed an $8 million round of funding to help it launch a host of innovative transit technology solutions, including TransLoc Rider, the first mobile app to fully integrate transit with other mobility options such as Uber. Rider simplifies multi-modality and takes a huge step toward solving what the transit sector calls the first-mile/last-mile problem, which says people are far more likely to use public transportation if they live within a quarter mile of a transit stop. By the time a rider has to travel more than a mile at the start or end of their journey, the chances they’ll use public transportation dwindles significantly.
With an intelligent journey planner and a single interface to automatically book travel, TransLoc Rider helps users get an Uber from their origin to the bus stop, and then from their destination stop to their final end point. The app has successfully launched in Memphis and North Carolina, and TransLoc is looking to significantly increase Rider’s market share this year.
Of great interest to transit agencies is TransLoc Traveler, a corollary application that provides granular insight into passenger flow. In order to measure performance and gain insights into ways they can improve service, most transit agencies conduct onboard surveys to the tune hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Traveler app uses a phone’s GPS capability and significant-change location services—which delivers updates only when there has been a change of 500 meters or more in location—as a way for TransLoc’s software developers to track movement anonymously. They tap into that aggregated user data to illustrate rider patterns between origin and destination, and then apply time filtering to show agencies how people are moving to, through and away from transit. It’s quicker and far less expensive than traditional surveys, says Bush.
In addition, Traveler help aid agency-rider communication. The app anonymously shows where riders gets on and off the bus or train so TransLoc can give the transit agency a tool to send out alerts in case of things like inclement weather or scheduled maintenance that could affect specific routes.
TransLoc is currently in the incubation process of establishing its channel program as it moves from a traditional software company to a true solutions platform. “In the software industry, part of the lifecycle is to get disrupted by the Internet, and the transit space is among the last to fall,” says Joel Bush, director of growth for TransLoc. “In the pattern set by other industries, something emerges as a platform—think Salesforce. We’re building a giant API directory so any disparate business or technology can connect to TransLoc, and we can be center of the wheel.”
Bush sees a big growth opportunity for the channel in public transit. “Transportation agencies don’t have many in-house, high-level tech talents,” he says. “There’s a huge opportunity for VARs to fill the gap by connecting all those pieces of transit technology.” A fairly typical transit vehicle has multiple technologies that all need to talk to each other. There are voice enunciators to announce the stops for ADA compliance, head signs on both the exterior and interior that show route, automatic vehicle location services, an automated fare box that either reads passes or counts coins, security cameras, pass counters and so forth—and there are different vendors selling all of it.
Today, Bush says, agencies pay an engineer to come in and do lots of one-off work to connect all of those systems. “It’s really custom development. We’re trying to standardize that operation and make it easier for transit agencies to switch and add systems and applications. Through APIs and an application exchange approach, we’re going to make it easier for people to connect. If VARs learn to integrate into TransLoc, they can then add value to implementations by tying different technologies together.”