What is a Virtual Bus Stop? It's Not What You Think

We all know what virtual means, and we all know what bus stops are, but combining the two might be slightly confusing. The term “bus stop” can elicit some strong emotions or memories, and it’s questionable whether or not they are pleasant. Some of us might imagine our school days, waiting at the corner stop sign with our friends, waiting for the big, yellow bus to come around the corner. Some of us might imagine sitting on a bench, trying to hopefully pick up service to use our metro public transit app to locate our bus en route, if that is even a feature our city’s public transit offers. Fear not, virtual bus stops are much different than those neutral-at-best experiences. 

Virtual Bus Stops take everything that is convenient about micro transit and the ingenuity of mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS) to make getting to work, appointments, and around town more effective, faster, and more convenient. This is usually provided through an app or web-based service. 

For example, say your workplace uses a micro transit solution to get you rides to work each day through a vanpool. (If this sounds foreign to you, yes, this is a thing! Here, you can find more information on commuter benefits.) So, you use your app to request a ride to work the night before your shift, but so does Coworker 1, Coworker 2, and Coworker 3 for the same shift. How can you all utilize the same micro transit solution? 

Essentially, software uses demand aggregation technology, real-time traffic and weather, and input from other requests to create an on-demand, central pickup point. Not only is a short walking distance that is much shorter than a walk to a traditional bus stop, but the bus stop location is dynamic. Let’s say that Coworker 1 got sick and needed to cancel their ride because they called off their shift. The virtual bus stop technology would automatically update to a location that is closer for the remaining riders, increasing efficiency. 

Can you imagine how much time you would save on a traditional bus route if you could skip all of the stops on the route that have no one waiting there? Can you imagine a bus stop that can change locations? What about a dynamic route from that virtual bus stop to take you directly to where you need to go, like a shared work place between you and other riders? Imagine that, instead of being dropped off at yet another bus stop that requires you to walk again when you get off, you show up right to where you need to be. If it’s a concern of yours, you can also imagine the impact this has on the environment too, using more efficient and dynamic transportation. 

That sounds a lot better than waiting on the bus bench or at the stop sign with your classmates. 

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