Former Uber Pool chief leads public ridesharing

The Routing Company, a Seattle-based software startup that makes on-demand routing technology for transit agencies, raised $15 million in Series A funding.

Why is this important: Reducing single-use vehicle trips remains an easy way for individuals to reduce carbon emissions, but public transit is an impractical and often inaccessible alternative for people living in underserved neighborhoods.

  • But the combination of shrinking transit agency budgets and reduced service after ridership dips during the pandemic makes this “easy” solution look like much more hanging fruit.

What is happening: Galvanize Climate Solutions, Tom Steyer’s new climate-focused venture capital firm, led the round. SYSTEMIQ, a London think tank, also participated in the round.

  • James Cox, CEO of The Routing Company, declined to disclose the round’s valuation.

The big picture: Cox is the former head of Uber Pool, a cost-effective transportation option that matches multiple passengers in a single vehicle based on origin and destination locations.

  • Uber Pool has never been profitable, Cox tells Axios, and the large-scale ride-sharing economy has never been able to significantly lower prices for passengers and reduce the number of cars on the road.

How it works: Based on new research from MIT, The Routing Company has developed software designed to optimize routes for 18-seater city commuter buses. It is currently available to riders of Seattle’s King County Metro.

  • The Routing Company picks up and drops off passengers at transit hubs such as high density bus or train stops.
  • It sells directly to transit agencies who then set prices for riders. People can call a commuter bus on demand through an app called Ride Pingo.
  • Currently, all of The Routing Company’s software buses are traditional gas or diesel-powered transit buses, but have accessibility features such as ramps that private vehicles often lack.
  • The buses are all provided by the local transit agency and the drivers work for the agency.

Yes, but: It’s not the first startup to want to disrupt public transport.

  • Leap, a bus service startup in San Francisco, closed in 2015 after raising $2.5 million in seed funding.
  • Shuddle, an Uber-for-kids startup in San Francisco, closed in 2016 after raising $12.2 million in seed and Series A funding.
  • Chariot, a crowd-based shuttle service in San Francisco, was bought by Ford in 2016 for $65 million but was shut down entirely in 2019.

The bottom line: Building a software business is much easier than a real overhaul or replacement for transit. Cox says he has learned from past mistakes and intends to work with transit agencies rather than against them.

  • “You still need a product like this, whether it’s us or not, to get to carbon-free transport, otherwise it’s a dream. You need an efficient and convenient way to move people otherwise people will continue to choose their car,” Cox said. said.

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