Atlantic Cities

This Super Useful App Wants to Change How We Get Around Cities

RideScout co-founder Joseph Kopser would love if his transportation app were the last one you ever downloaded. Whereas most city transportation services offer their own app, RideScout collects all the services in a single interface. Type in your origin and destination and all the travel options — transit, taxi, car-share, cycling, walking, driving — appear in a list that can be sorted by mode, cost, or travel time. In a world of one-trick ponies, it's a one-stop shop.

But mere aggregation is just the tip of the iceberg for the city transportation app. Since fall, RideScout has been adding new options and augmenting existing ones.

In Washington, D.C., where the app launched in November, RideScout informs users how many empty slots are at the nearest Capital Bikeshare station. It just added real-time bus information and a feature that will ping you when it's time to leave for the stop (and, once on board, when it's time to wake up and request a stop). A recent partnership with Hailo in D.C. (and another with B-Cycle in Austin) expands the app's suite of travel alternatives and prepares it for a major expansion.

"Our vision statement is seamless door-to-door transportation," says Kopser. "What I mean by that is every safe, legal, and reliable way that's out there, we want to bring to you in the palm of your hand or onto your desktop so you can have all your options."

Currently RideScout is available everywhere but "fully optimized" in D.C. and Austin — meaning its aggregator offers several different mode choices at all hours of every day. (Down the line, turn-by-turn navigation directions are a possibility, too.) The next move is to San Francisco, but the company's long-term plans also involve cities outside the United States. "We're talking about North America and beyond," says Kopser.

RideScout initially had trouble convincing other services to appear in the app's mode aggregator, but eventually they realized the advantages of being included for free in an active, point-of-sale marketplace. "Just having your icon show up as a search option for a person when they're using RideScout — that to them is their most effective use of [advertising] money," he says. Depending on the age of the person he's addressing, Kopser compares RideScout either to Kayak or to the phone book.

That increased interest has RideScout reworking its platform for quicker partner integration. Kopser says RideScout is building a new back-end portal to help incorporate all types of additional services — from a small taxi business with a handful of vehicles to a full carshare fleet with thousands. A military veteran who partnered with Army buddy Craig Cummings to form the business, Kopser has since hired Celite Milbrandt, founder of Slacker radio, to boost the tech side of the operation.

Ultimately, Kopser says his vision for RideScout is about more than travel options. It's about helping Americans think outside the car when it comes to urban mobility. Kopser speaks of increasing transport efficiency (which he sees as a failure to recognize all travel options other than the single-occupancy vehicle) and of reducing drunk driving (which he sees as a failure to recognize these alternatives at the start of the night).

"Our communities, our cities and suburbs, we can't sustain a car-centric life going forward in this country," he says.

Eric Jaffe is a contributing writer to The Atlantic Cities and the author of A Curious Madness (2014) and The King's Best Highway (2010). He lives in New York. All posts »

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