June 7, 2019
Ever since we founded Swiftly nearly five years ago, our mission has been to make cities move efficiently. And while those four words — make cities move efficiently — may seem like a simple statement, accomplishing this is extremely complex, and the world has never needed it more.
Every year, Americans spend seven billion hours sitting in traffic, resulting in roughly $160 billion in lost productivity. Nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions today come from the transportation sector. And as more and more people move to cities, these issues will only continue to grow, stifling economic opportunity, exacerbating environmental issues, and putting a general drag on the well-being of city-dwellers.
Much of the business world today is focused on newer forms of mobility to tackle these problems, with technologies like autonomous vehicles, scooters, and even drones getting the lion’s share of headlines. These may well be pieces of the puzzle, but they’re still largely unproven. To truly maximize our impact and get ahead of the problems we face today, we need to take a step back and trust the solutions that we know will work.
At the top of that list is mass transportation.
Mass transportation is an exceptionally efficient way to move people. In dense urban environments, a model based on one car per person simply doesn’t scale. We are bound by the geometry of cities. Physical road and curb space is limited, and the footprint of cars, autonomous or not, can’t support our movement needs. Our cities face increasing congestion today, and it’s only getting worse.
What is scalable is increasing people-per-vehicle rates so that we can reduce the overall amount of space required to move people. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also something that people often seem to forget. This photo from Human Transit sums up the efficiency argument pretty well. This is why mass transportation is so important.
Mass transit is one of the most critical elements of any dense urban network, but it continues to lag behind, largely because of the technology powering it. Today, transit agencies are forced to rely on technology that’s cumbersome, obsolete, and in many cases not even connected to the internet.
Uber and Lyft have reinvented on-demand transportation technology by pairing the tried and true taxi model with sophisticated cloud-based algorithms and easy-to-use applications. Companies like Lime and Bird are doing the same for micro-mobility.
To truly maximize our impact and get ahead of the problems we face today, we need to take a step back and trust the solutions that we know will work. At the top of that list is mass transportation.
But the same cannot be said about public transit. Public transit agencies, which completed over 10 billion trips in 2018 in the US alone, still keep track of their operations in tabs upon tabs of Excel spreadsheets, running manual database queries to analyze their efficiency, and managing their vehicle fleets in software tools that are literally decades old. In a world where the available technology is evolving every day, these antiquated tools simply don’t cut it anymore.
That’s where Swiftly comes in. We’re building a mobility operating system for transportation. And unlike existing transportation solutions, the Swiftly platform supports open integrations with third-party applications, is modern and cloud-based, and has an intuitive, easy-to-use user interface.
At the core of the Swiftly system is public transit, but like any modern technology infrastructure, we’re enabling connectivity so that other forms of mobility can ultimately connect to public transit in the future. This will lead to a coordinated network, with public transit at the core.
What we’re celebrating today is not our funding round. Rather, we’re celebrating the progress we’ve made toward our mission. We now work with over 55 city transit networks — including MBTA in Boston, MDOT MTA in Baltimore, VIA Metropolitan Transit in San Antonio, Capital Metro in Austin, and VTA in Silicon Valley — to make their systems more efficient, reliable, and seamless.
We are also bringing the same scalable technologies to smaller cities, including every public transit agency across the state of Vermont, Lake Tahoe, Napa Valley, Lincoln County, and many more. Over 2,500 transit agency professionals across the country are using Swiftly to actively manage their transportation networks more efficiently than ever before.
And our work is making an impact. Here’s what our partners are saying:
“Our goal is to make riding transit easier for our community in San Antonio and Bexar County. Using data is a key part of our plan to make route planning and operations more efficient and customer information more accurate. Swiftly helps make this possible. With their platform, we can now answer customer questions 3x faster and have shaved days off of planning projects.”
— Steve Young, Vice President of Technology & Innovation at VIA Metropolitan Transit, San Antonio, TX.
“We’re committed to helping bring innovation to transportation. Swiftly is one of our early innovation partners who has the same vision as VTA to give riders greater and more accurate transportation options for their travel needs. With Swiftly’s innovative product development, VTA has been able to improve our real time information accuracy and provide cutting edge data to our planning and operations staff thus improving our transit system performance.”
— Gary Miskell, Chief Information Officer at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), San Jose, CA.
“Capital Metro is focused on providing the best service to our customers every day. Swiftly gives us the data we need to deliver on this promise. From providing accurate real-time information to empowering us to make decisions backed by data, Swiftly is helping us improve mobility in Austin.”
— Dottie Watkins, Vice President, Bus Operations at Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Cap Metro), Austin, TX.
These are just some of the many, many success stories we’ve seen.
So what’s next? With this new funding round, we plan to double down on our mobility operating system. We’re going to keep working on new and innovative ways to make public transportation more efficient, more reliable, and more seamless. But we’re also going to start exploring ways that we can start connecting public transportation to new forms of mobility within cities. Connecting and coordinating disparate travel modes is a critical next step to ultimately make cities move efficiently.
We’ve raised $10 million from some amazing investors, including: Via ID, Aster Capital, Renewal Funds, Total Energy Ventures, Samsung NEXT, RATP Dev, Wind Capital, 1776, Plug and Play Group, Elemental Excelerator, Stanford StartX-Fund, among others.
One thing you’ll note is that we don’t have many traditional venture capital firms. We intentionally partnered with investors who are mobility experts, strategic partners, and impact investors. We feel that this is the best approach to help us focus deeply on our core mission to make cities move efficiently, and we are so thankful to have an impact-oriented and supportive group of investors by our side to help us realize our vision.