The Go-Ahead Group is to launch the UK’s most ambitious demand-responsive bus service, allowing passengers to summon a bus to pick them up on a street corner of their choice.
From 25 June, workers, residents and students in a 12-square mile area around Oxford will be able to request a bus pick-up within minutes at a “virtual bus stop” at their convenience using a new mobile app.
The PickMeUp service, which is being piloted by the Oxford Bus Company on behalf of the Go-Ahead Group, aims to meet the changing needs of people in parts of the city where passenger numbers increase sharply at certain times of day, making it more difficult to manage through scheduled services.
The new concept will be operated using 17-seat minibuses with free WiFi, USB charging points, wheelchair access and comfortable high-back seating. Front-end and back-end technology for the service has been developed in partnership with Via, a US leader in ride-sharing technology with its own operations in New York City, Chicago and Washington DC.
Employers in the Eastern Arc around Oxford are to be offered tailored subscription packages providing discounted or free travel for their staff, creating a quick, easy and convenient alternative to commuting by car.
Experts estimate that the UK’s ride-sharing market will be worth £2.6bn by 2022. International projections suggest that car ownership could drop by as much as 80% by 2030, with passengers migrating towards alternative models of transport.
PickMeUp builds on recent transport innovations by Go-Ahead, which is the largest operator of electric buses in Europe, and is the operator of UK’s only all-electric bus garage in central London.
In February, the company invested in a Frankfurt-based all-electric car sharing business Mobileeee, and Go-Ahead is set to pilot the UK’s first bus ticket system using iBeacons in the North East later this year.
Commenting on the new service, Go-Ahead Group Chief Executive David Brown said: “We’ve listened closely to what the local community has been asking for in Oxford. Passengers are keen for a quick, easy and flexible way to get to work or to college.
“PickMeUp is intended to be a partnership model with local businesses – we want to help them get their staff to work in a quick, simple, convenient and cost-effective way.
“On a broader level, we firmly believe that ride-sharing is part of the solution to congestion and pollution in our towns and cities. It’s essential that we provide services that will tempt people out of their cars and technology will be key to that challenge.”