Two months after the start of an on-demand public transport ridesharing pilot in Tel Aviv, the number of passengers using the service is only 1,500-2,000 per day. Amir Cohen, who managed Bubble's operations until recently, presented the figures at the Israel ITS (Transport Systems and Models Association) conference today. Cohen later distanced himself from the figures in a later conversation, saying that they had been given solely as an example.
Cohen stated that the numbers were increasing, adding, "We are trying to reach high service standards - no more than a 400-meter walk to the stop and service arriving within 20 minutes."
Another interesting figure revealed by Cohen is that Bubble's average trip is 3-5 kilometers. "Were everyone traveling 10 kilometers, it would have replaced conventional public transportation," he commented.
Bubble is a smart ridesharing service. After a booking is made on the app, minibuses collect passengers from a bus stop close to their location and take them to the nearest stop to their destination. The trip is shared by additional passengers, and is therefore not direct. Bubble, however, is designed to be faster than a regular bus, and is more expensive - a trip costs NIS 12.50-15.
Talking about the difficulties in the project, Cohen said, "All of its was put together in just three months. We can't rely on preliminary data. The challenge of being the first made every decision we made significant. Don't judge us after three months of service; that's not enough time. We're educating the market for the Israeli consumer."
Cohen has a long list of ideas for improving the service, for example using a variety of vehicles. "The use of one size failed," he says, referring to the minibuses that Bubble currently uses. "We can take taxicabs, put a Bubble sticker on them, and also expand the service by adding vehicles with large capacities. The small solutions can't succeed by themselves in the long term. In several trips, one Metronit covers all of Bubble's current passengers," he explains. Cohen is looking for a hybrid solution - a service with "different models and high standards and different employment methods (employees and freelancers)," he says.
Another proposal is to raise the price for entering congested areas. "The driver and the passenger have conflicting interests. Passengers wants to get as close as possible to their destination, but the minibus driver will get stuck in traffic jams and travel 30 minutes to reach the next passenger. If I were required to pay a premium for entering central Tel Aviv, something would keep me from doing it again and again," Cohen says.
In response to complaints about the high cost of Bubble and the state subsidy for the trial, Cohen answers, "The price of the trip doesn't even cover a tenth of its cost," adding, "Is it worth paying NIS 50 million to serve tens of thousands of passengers? The answer isn't completely clear. The question is what we'll lose if they don't use it."
Dan Bus Company said in response that the data were initial and not up-to-date, and that demand had recently risen. Dan asserted that customer satisfaction with the service was very high, and that the service was not yet meeting the demand. The Ministry of Transport, which is monitoring the trial, has set no criteria for its success or failure. The ministry is measuring mainly the proportion of passengers using Bubble's service instead of a private car.
The service began with 40 minibuses, and now has 70 minibuses. Not all of the 70 are in service every day, however, due to repairs and other handling. The plan is to operate full service using minibuses in the area of current activity - central and northern Tel Aviv, Givatayim, and Ramat Gan.
Dan will soon begin offering employers discount coupons for rides on Bubble in order to encourage employees to use the ridesharing service to get to work instead of private cars.
Bird: We'll have to take e-scooters out of service, and people will go back to using their cars
Also participating in the conference was Bird Israel general manager Yaniv Rivlin, who commented on the Tel Aviv municipality's new regulation. "The regulation is restrictive and harmful. We'll have to take e-scooters off the road. My concern is that this is likely to make many people go back to using their cars. We currently have 3,000 deployed, and the regulations are forcing me to take 500 of them off the road. That will limit availability and create a feeling of insecurity among users, who won't know whether there will be a scooter available to them when they get off the train."
Commenting on the subject of safety and enforcement, Rivlin stated, "The solution is more bicycle paths and creating safety roads. That will get the scooters off the sidewalks. This solution can only come from public pressure."
Speaking at the conference, Tel Aviv-Yafo Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi, who is responsible for transport in the Tel Aviv municipality, said, "Various organizations accuse me every day of harming every small child (through e-scooters, D.S.). Despite their protests, we will continue encouraging green transportation, because I see the overall picture, and they can't silence me. Pollution is killing us in Tel Aviv. As with any revolution, there are problems and distress. We're in a gray period, and we'll make it white."
Lehavi declared that the new regulation "was designed to introduce order. We will no longer allow a situation in people leave scooters and bikes on the street wherever they want. There will be greater enforcement, fines, and confiscations. We won't allow scooters and bikes to stand unused in the street. If they want to increase the quota above 2,500 units, the companies will have to present data proving that there's real demand for it. Anyone who doesn't provide information won't be with us. We'll mark regular parking places. We'll start it in central Tel Aviv and spread out from there. We won't stop until order returns to Tel Aviv."
The conference was held by the ITS association operating under the sponsorship of the Association of Engineers, Architects and Graduates in Technological Sciences in Israel.
Association of Engineers chairperson Ehud Nof said, "The world of conventional transportation is being changed from head to toe, so we decided to pool professional knowledge about anything having to do with operating smart transportation, and to lead a series of meeting on the subject of mobility as a service (MAAS). The goal of the meeting is to facilitate a direct connection between managers of the ventures and providers of the revolutionary services and the general public which can hear and voice its opinion about the activity that is dramatically changing mobility in the public space."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 30, 2019
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