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No Company Commuter Shuttle? Bay Area's RidePal Has The Answer

Phil Covington headshotWords by Phil Covington
Investment & Markets

It's probably pretty safe to say that nobody really likes commuting. Whether you're sitting in traffic or dealing with public transportation, it's a waste of time, money and just plain stressful. Many large Silicon Valley companies recognize this and provide a company shuttle-bus to ferry employees to and from work.

Nathalie Criou was one such employee - a regular user of the company shuttle when she worked at Google. But after leaving the company, she was faced with a situation where there was no choice but to drive or take public transit to get to work - and that was unsatisfactory.

Recognizing a gap in the market, Nathalie co-founded RidePal a little over a year ago, with the goal of bringing company shuttle services to people working for smaller organizations, who are unable to hop on an in-house provided bus.

To make it work though, RidePal needed to be able to match riders, routes and vehicles to bring a critical mass of people together. Technology was the facilitator to make that happen.

RidePal is a web-enabled intermediary that gathers the commuting needs of people and then deploys transportation services via 3rd-party-operated bus companies.

The key to their service is a "vote-for-rides" approach, which aims to ensure that shuttle routes are properly demand-driven. In brief, RidePal's service works like this:

Individual commuters visit their website via an employer-specific portal. They enter where they live, and where they work and RidePal returns the available shuttle routes that best matches their needs. Based on those choices, individuals vote for their preferences, or, if a suitable route is not currently offered, they can click to add one.

As more people apply, more votes build for the most popular routes, until RidePal activates a route based on a known demand for it. In this way, shuttles are filled by people who live and work in common locations but who may work for different companies.

The system effectively allows RidePal to crowd-source the aggregate transportation demands of commuters, and at the same time provide a 3-way win:

  • Commuters have a say in optimizing their preferred shuttle routes

  • Smaller companies are able to offer the perk of a shuttle service that they would otherwise not be able to provide

  • Third party transportation companies working with RidePal are able to better manage their assets by right-sizing their vehicles to the demand on a given route

Other advantages of the service exist. Riders resistant to ditching the car for fear of getting stuck at work need not worry. The service incorporates an "emergency ride home" feature for users that need to attend to, for example, a sick child. They also offer  "overflow insurance" to eliminate the worry of being left on the curb-side.

Though serving the needs of individual commuters, RidePal markets itself to companies, since fares are typically billed to participating companies, who are able to subsidize the service to employees at whatever level they wish. Additionally, RidePal believes that companies which offer a shuttle service can use it as a competitive advantage to attract and retain top talent. In this way, they want to attract buy-in from businesses and not just individuals.

Earlier this year, RidePal went through the 12-week accelerator program at Greenstart to hone their business solution. Greenstart helps companies who operate at the intersection of cleantech and IT and place a unique focus on great design. Since then, RidePal has been been building momentum.

In August they added four more Bay Area cities into their network, and now serve fifteen active routes, comprising of over 500 registered commuters.

Last week, they announced they have raised $500,000 in seed-round funding to further expand service in the Bay Area; helping them reach their vision of making "commuting more convenient, social, comfortable and relaxing" for a greater number of commuters.

Phil Covington headshotPhil Covington

Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.

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