Transit gets an “A”

A $5M investment to make your city a bit more amazing.

Las Rambla, Barcelona. Photo courtesy of Nikada.

Cities are amazing. They’re hotbeds of innovation, gardens of democracy, bulwarks of tolerance. When you’re neighbours with millions of people, it’s hard to go a day without one delighting you with a crazy discovery, a radical point of view, or their simple joie de vivre.

Connecting neighbourhoods and the people within them is what makes our cities tick. And facilitating those connections is what gives our company purpose.

Which is why we’re extra-pleased to announce a $5M Series A for our company Transit. Accel is leading the round, backed by Accomplice, Real Ventures and the Business Development Bank of Canada. (Up here in Canada, we call it a Series Eh. 🇨🇦👌)

This new funding won’t just help us build a better app for our users — it’ll give them front row seats for the next urban revolution.

Shared rides = less cars, more space. 🌚

What is Transit

At Transit we’re tackling every aspect of the urban transportation experience. From maps to trip planning to real-time data and everything in between.

In the 130+ cities we now support, we show you every nearby transit line, instantly — no taps required. We’ve simplified complex transit networks with the sexiest transit maps ever. We’ve eliminated transit anxiety by creating GO, the world’s first real-time transit GPS. We’re creating real-time transit data that nobody else has. And we’re integrating all the mobility services in your neighbourhood so you can make quick, informed decisions on the best way to get from a-to-b.

Millions of our users are taking billions of trips across every mode — whether that means transit, bikeshare, carshare, or rideshare. We’re now the official app of some of North America’s biggest transit agencies. And we’re the most popular (unofficial) app for most of the others. Like New York City, where more people will use our app today than request an Uber.

So no, we’re not here to build you your own self-driving car. We’re building something better: a world where you don’t need one.

Sorry Elon.

The days where everyone had their own car are soon going to feel like a baffling historical faux-pas. From city to city, we’re making the transition away from car dependence more palatable for millions of people. Our timing couldn’t be better. The urban commute is being balkanized.

Between bikesharing, carsharing, ridesharing and the looming spectre of shared autonomous vehicles (AVs) — owning a car will soon make as much sense as owning your own encyclopedia or patch of potatoes.

No longer monopolized by a single machine, transportation is being unbundled into dozens of different service providers. Each one wants to be king of its own little kingdom. Bikeshare. Carshare. Rideshare. Dang.

Well we’re not a kingdom.

We’re a commonwealth. With our bikeshare, carshare, rideshare and (soon) shared AV integrations, Transit makes it easy for millions of people to discover all the services in their neighbourhood. To compare ETAs across modes. To connect between them for more efficient trips.

We expect these services to get even more popular — with everyone from car2go and Zipcar to Google and Apple to Citibike and BIXI to Uber and Lyft to Tesla and Toyota competing to get you from a-to-b with their vehicles.

But while the future city will abound with competing services, the crown jewel will remain mass transit. Because moving large quantities of people quickly — and using a limited amount of space — is not just the sanest and most efficient way forward for our cities. Geometrically, it’s the only way.

Evolution of Shanghai skyline and metro system over the last 20–30 years. Skyline courtesy of Clarie & Max. Metro courtesy of Wikipedia.

Big cities. Big changes.

Cities are getting bigger. Much bigger. Billions bigger. By 2050, more than 2.5 billion new people will have moved to cities — with 100 million urban migrants in the US alone.

When even small cities like Portland are projected to have 3.6 million people by 2050, any urban planning strategy that prioritizes low-occupant vehicles — robot-driven or not — will eventually be crippled by traffic.

Tomorrow’s Portland will have even more people than Manhattan today. There, the population swells from 2 million to 4 million during business hours. 80% of commuters get to Manhattan via transit. The ridership volume in New York is truly staggering: ~1,500 rail passengers enter Manhattan’s central business district every six seconds between 8–9AM.

Trying to cram all those Manhattan-bound train riders into cars (or AVs) would be impossible. You’d need 324,000 more vehicles to accommodate them — and 100 new bridges.

It would be like trying to force the water from Niagara Falls down a bathroom faucet.

Cars vs transit: two sides of the spoon.

Which is why cities (not just Portland!) are employing every measure to push people away from cars: from congestion pricing to carbon taxes to outright car bans. Streets are being reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists. Car-oriented development is becoming anything-but-car-oriented development.

Sure, cars might get you to a transit station in the future — but they won’t be what gets you downtown. They’ll be an ingredient among many in a greater transportation soufflé, sharing the stage with bikes and buses and trains and all the crazy new modes yet to come.

Behind it all will be an app called Transit. We are working hard to make Transit super powerful — the first and last stop for getting around your city without a car, showing you real-time availability of transit vs. other modes, aggregating prices and payment, facilitating multi-modal trips, and doing it all in an interface that is nothing short of sublime.

For decades we’ve let our cities become less neighbourly, less walkable, less healthy and liveable. All for the sake of quick and convenient transportation. But today’s transportation is neither quick nor convenient. Cars have failed to deliver on their promise. Now, they’re getting kicked out of town.

Millions of you use Transit instead of owning a car. As millions more join our ranks in the coming years, there’s so much to look forward to: Revitalized city centres. Stress-free commutes. Walk-friendly neighbourhoods filled with familiar faces.

So let us tell you: the coming revolution won’t be about replacing Steve in your Uber with a self-driving robot. It won’t be about boring deeper tunnels, or swapping pumps for plugs.

No — it’s Picasso with a paintbrush, repainting the city.

This is what a former highway can look like.

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