The Potential of Shuttles Now That Chariot Is No More

Although Ford has stopped its commuter shuttle service, on-demand shuttles have a place in the transportation landscape of the future.

2 minute read

February 22, 2019, 11:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink

Ford purchased Chariot, the shuttle startup, in 2016, and it recently ceased operations. Nathaniel Giraitis says that the role and potential of dynamic shuttle services like Chariot are important, particularly with the uptick in ride hailing in cities across the country.

One of the challenges with shuttles is how to price them between taxis and public transit. Ride-hailing is pushing travel costs down, but this then puts pressure on shuttle services to be cheaper. The problem is that shuttles do not get the same public subsidies as transit, which makes profitable operations difficult. In addition, the issues that shuttles could address vary by region — from congestion in cities to the first/last mile problem in suburbs and areas with less transit availability.

Giraitis says that shuttle providers should also strive to identify and address the common interest of users. "Regardless of the use case, a focus on the passenger experience and the pain points you are targeting to resolve is key to offering a compelling dynamic shuttle service," he says. 

He also suggests that shuttle companies look to partnering with public transit agencies that have the capability to subsidize a service that complements transit. "In the future, we may find that 'premium economy' shuttle services, sponsored by public authorities with digital service partners, are the only ones able to successfully undercut Uber and enable the balance between comfort and efficiency," concludes Giraitis.

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