Re: Open Innovation Call
In the fall of 2010, I moved from Europe to Vancouver and my goal was to go skiing as much as possible. I wanted to get a job in the big city, so I decided to buy a car and spend my weekends in Whistler during the ski season.
On my first few trips up and down the Sea-to-Sky, I picked up several hitchhikers who told me how expensive and inconvenient it was to get to Whistler without a car. Bus tickets were often priced over $50 and the journey took over 2 hours, compared to 90 minutes in a car.
I started looking into options for people to organize rides without having to stand by the side of the highway (I found out later hitchhiking was illegal in BC). The only website I found back in 2010 to organize rides was Craigslist, which didn’t strike me as the easiest or most trustworthy way for people to connect.
I saw an opportunity to build a simple website to help the ski community share rides to the mountains and after a couple of weeks of coding, HitchWhistler was born. The idea was simple: to let drivers advertise their empty seats for a reasonable price to help cover their gas ($10 at the time) and help people get affordable rides to the mountains.
During the first ski season, HitchWhistler reached 1,000 members. Between 2010 and 2014, it grew to 10,000 members. I ran the site as a side-project in my spare time and as it grew people started asking if I could broaden the scope to more routes in BC. There was so much demand and potential for the project that I decided to quit my job and try to make it a business.
Fast-forward four years, and HitchWhistler is now called Poparide and boasts nearly 100,000 members across Canada. Our platform has been completely rebuilt to provide an online booking system through a new website and apps. This has facilitated over 6 million km of ridesharing between cities in Canada and Poparide is now the best option to travel on routes like Squamish to Vancouver, where people can get a ride almost any hour of the day for less than $10.
We believe that there is enormous potential for our platform to become part of the solution to a growing transportation challenge in the Lower Mainland, where population is expected to increase by as much as 2 million inhabitants by 2040. By filling empty seats in cars, we use existing infrastructure to increase vehicle occupancy, which in turn reduces the number of cars on the road and reduces costs for commuters.
It’s an efficient, new way to help solve a problem without the burden of building new roads or adding more transit lines.
Our solution does not replace transit, it complements it on routes where it’s difficult to provide an effective transit solution. In an ideal world, transit would fit everyone’s needs, but in reality— and for the foreseeable future—people will rely on the convenience of cars to get around. We believe we can improve the efficiency of car travel and help people get to their destination in a way that is more social, affordable and sustainable.
Here is how Poparide fits within Translink’s three goals for new mobility:
- Enable seamless and efficient door-to-door mobility
Our platform is extremely easy to use and available on Web, iOS and Android. Within minutes, a driver can post a ride and a passenger can book a seat. Drivers can offer to pick-up passengers at convenient locations, such as a bus stop, a Skytrain station or near their homes. This flexibility offers a great deal of convenience and differentiates Poparide from other means of transport.
- Promote safe, healthy, clean and compact communities
By providing an online platform for ridesharing with a number of verifications, a dedicated customer service team and a built-in reputation system, we make sharing a ride with strangers safer than ever before, and reduce the temptation for people to hitchhike. By sharing rides, we help people meet in the real world and we connect communities together. We also increase vehicle occupancy, which in turn helps reduce our carbon emissions.
- Ensure affordable and equitable access for all
Since Poparide drivers are already driving and we simply help them fill empty seats in their cars, our platform is extremely affordable for people to use, and oftentimes costs a fraction of the price of a bus or train ticket. We are becoming one of the only options for smaller communities to travel to neighbouring towns and cities, and as a result we improve access to mobility and enable greater economic activity between regions through the movement of people.
For these reasons, we feel like Poparide would be a great service to be supported by Translink, and could help provide a new form of mobility for people to travel in the Greater Vancouver area.
In particular, we’ve already identified a strong need for our service on Highway 1 between Vancouver, Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack. Such corridors are underserved by public transit options and have similar dynamics to existing, successful routes on Poparide like Squamish to Vancouver.
With the right kind of support and funding, we’re confident we could increase adoption of our technology in those areas and beyond. The good news is, we’re already in market and we’re ready to scale.
We thank you for your time and we’re available to answer your questions.
CEO & Co-founder