New bus services are using data from user's smartphones to predict where riders are, and where they want to go. They aim to get commuters to their destinations faster, and more comfortably, than public transportation can for just a few dollars more.
Boston's Bridj bus service and and Chicago's BlackLine service both launched this spring. The start-ups say they're combining data from public transportation systems, users' smartphones and GPS devices on board their buses to determine where to add or cancel routes on a day-to-day basis, and even to avoid traffic snarls.
The buses also offer reserved seats, WiFi and express service. A ride that costs about $2.50 on Boston's T transit system costs about $5 via Bridj. Bridj is in "beta" now, so tickets are free, but it says that so far "thousands" of users have signed up for the service.
"We're essentially reinventing your commute," said Ryan Kelly, marketing manager at Bridj.
But Bridj's success will depend on whether its service becomes popular enough to get a critical mass of commuter data.
Sarah Baston, who has used Bridj since it began operating at the beginning of June, says the company's routes are already a big improvement on her old commute from Brookline, Mass. to her job in Cambridge.