The proliferation of new ways to get around cities—hello, dockless scooters—has created a dizzying array of choices, without many clear ways to evaluate every mobility option. A new set of high-tech tools released today aims to provide more clarity, better routing, and ideally, encourage multimodal trips and transit usage.
Built by Coord, a data mobility startup backed by Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, these tools will give users the ability to plan multimodal trips in both New York City, Washington, D.C, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago. The startup’s new Router app will show users the most efficient routes across town, taking into account a wider variety of transit options than most navigation apps, including fixed and dockless bike share systems.
By presenting more options and utilizing bikes as first-mile/last-mile solutions, the Router app offers better real-time transit solutions while increasing the utility of subways and light rail. Train trips that may have seemed unfeasible, due to the perceived time it would take to walk to the nearest station, may actually be the quickest option once Coord helps steer users to a nearby bike share option.
“Ultimately, we’re excited about the possibility for technology to make transit work more efficiently,” says Stephen Smyth, the CEO of Coord. “It’s not hard to find opportunities where transit systems could operate better.”
The app’s ability to offer more convenient, timely trip options is a result of Coord’s new Routing API and Bikeshare API. APIs, or application programming interfaces, operate like open-source data systems that others can integrate into their own apps. Building out these systems will allow programmers, as well as public transit systems across the country, to integrate these tools into their own apps and websites.
Taken together, the new app and APIs underscore Coord’s goal to serve as a “coordination layer for new mobility services.”
The Bikeshare API, a platform which synthesizes data from more than 65 systems across the country, gives the accompanying Router app the ability to offer more timely data. When calculating potential routes, the app only suggests bike share as an option if an open bike is nearby, and, if the system uses fixed stations, if there’s a open spot to park the bike at the conclusion of the trip.
Eventually, Smyth hopes, this routing and mapping technology will be layered on top of transit apps and payment systems, creating quicker, more seamless travel experiences. While currently available in just two cities, Coord plans to expand in the coming weeks and months.
None of the major navigation apps utilize real-time bike-sharing info, according to Smyth, which, especially in bike share-rich cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., can be a useful and widely available option.
According to a survey by mobile ticketing service Masabi, 35 percent of riders use shared mobility options to reach fixed transit stations, and in New York, a majority of trips taken on Citi Bike are by riders trying to get to mass transit more quickly.
Coord believes its APIs, which are free and open to the public, can become a vital piece of mobile infrastructure. By building a better planning app that takes bike share into account, it can increase utility, and ultimately bring more riders to transit, integrating public and private systems to make transit more competitive.
“What we think is really different here is that we’re enabling any software developer to do this,” says Smyth. “We want to create a toolkit to make it easier to access these transit options.”