TRANSIT: Beta testing of new “pop-up” bus service underway in Boston

New endeavor from technology start-up plans routes based on data-driven public demand

June 05, 2014

The city of Boston has initiated a beta test on a new “pop-up” bus service that analyzes demographic data to determine bus routes.

The service was developed by Bridj, a technology startup based in Cambridge, Mass. It mines dozens of data sources—from Google Earth to census data and social media—to gather information about travel habits in a particular city, and plugs that information into an algorithm to determine optimal routes for its private buses.

Bridj offers Boston commuters an alternative to the T, the established bus and subway system operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. The T recently started running late-night buses and trains on weekends to better cater to rider demand, but complaints of overcrowding and confusing scheduling are still heard.

All rides on the Bridj service are free during the beta testing. If or when the service comes fully online, however, rides could cost as much as $6, compared to the $1.50 to $2.00 for T rides.

Bridj founder Matthew George said the company will continue to expand the amount and types of data it gathers in order to get people as close to their destinations as possible. He also hopes to eventually replace the 54-seat coach buses Bridj is currently using with smaller passenger vehicles.