Chariots run loose in Big Apple’s street – how come?

  • Crowd-sourced shuttles for in-app plug-trip booking
  • Chariot to charge commuters flat-rate $4 per ride
  • Ford backing new transport for poorer districts
CALL A CHARIOT: Ford is introducing an app-based minibus service to city areas badly-served by public transport. Image: Ford / Newspress
CALL A CHARIOT: Ford is introducing an app-based minibus service to city areas badly-served by public transport. Image: Ford / Newspress

 

NEW YORK – Ford, with a corporate eye on expanding its mobility offerings, wil launch a crowd-sourced shuttle service called Chariot in New York City in August to provide new mobility solutions to commuters.

Chariot will offers people, some of whom live in transit deserts (places not within walking distance of public transport) a new way to get around. During typical commuting periods its shuttle vans will travel to busy areas where people work and collect them again when the working day is done.

Each Chariot can comfortably accommodates more than a dozen people and guarantees seats for every rider. Africa’s minibus taxis offer something similar…

PRE-PLANNED SERVICE AREAS

Chariot CEO Ali Vahabzadeh said in a media release: “Our mission is to provide reliable, safe and affordable transport for as many people as possible. We want to connect people more easily to where they want to go – whether they need help making it to a transit hub or live in an area under-served by public transport.”

New York will be the newest Chariot’s service, launching with two pre-planned service areas, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, at a flat rate of $4 per ride. People can create additional service areas through crowd-sourcing. By the end of 2017 Chariot plans to have 60 vehicles operating in New York City.

As part of the New York launch, commuters will be able to use a streamlined crowd-sourcing process to make the experience more user-friendly. The Chariot map will display service areas being crowd-sourced – giving commuters a chance to choose and contribute to these potential service areas.

STILL IDENTIFYING POTENTIAL ROUTES

Users can even create a custom route then share their proposal with friends, family and neighbours who may be taking similar commutes. If enough riders sign up to support and fund a proposed route as many Chariots as needed will be sent to service the area.

Ford’s Global Data, Insights and Analytics team is supplementing Chariot’s planning. The group helps Chariot to identify potential routes using advanced optimisation algorithms based on commuter demand and behaviour, as well as traffic data and existing infrastructure.

Using Chariot is easy. Riders simply check the app to find commuter routes near them then reserve a guaranteed seat as they head toward their assigned Chariot. Keeping the service affordable is a priority; solutions such as WageWorks and commuter checks – which allow people to use pre-tax wages to pay commuting costs – are fully compatible.

DIFFICULT TO GET AROUND

As New York City’s population grows more people are using public transportation. In 2016, average weekday ridership on the subway was 5.7-million people – the most since 1948, according to the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Not only does the sheer number of commuters make getting around difficult but access for people in the city’s transit deserts is a particular challenge. While 94% of residential units in Manhattan are within a kilometre or so of a subway station only 54% of units in the suburb of Queens are, according to research by New York University’s Furman Centre.

Jessica Robinson, director of Ford City Solutions, explained: “We know how important it is for everybody to get around effectively – especially in densely populated places such as New York. Chariot is one way we’re trying to help cities accommodate their residents and ensure people aren’t sacrificing their needs as a result of limited mobility options.”

Chariot can expand the reach of public transport and offer first- and last-kilometre solutions to complete commuter routes. In San Francisco, where Chariot operates 12 commuter service areas, about 20% of riders use it to connect to transit hubs and ferry terminals.

CHARTER SERVICE COMING SOON

The service can also be used to supplement public transit at peak commuting times, keeping large groups of people moving without a need for single-occupancy vehicles. According to a study conducted by KPMG, every Chariot in operation can remove about 10 cars from roads.

In addition to commuter service, Chariot is launching enterprise and charter services in New York City. Enterprise is available for companies that want to provide shared commutes for its employees; charters allow users to book a private 14-passenger Chariot for day trips or events.

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