Imagine getting on a bus in the Maritimes. Using only a mobile app that plugs you into the same intelligent transit system, you can take public transit all the way across Canada to British Columbia, purchasing tickets through your phone along the way. This may seem a bit too easy, considering the problems many of us face daily with public transit. But this is what ReadyPass aspires to, a local tech startup aiming to make smart public transit accessible to small cities all over North America—and it’s starting here in Fredericton.
“We want to make it so that if you live in a small town like that in Canada or North America you don’t feel like you’ve been left behind when it comes to public transit technology,” says Chief Executive Officer Alex Kall.
“We want it to be just as accessible everywhere in the world, not just in the major metropolises.”
ReadyPass tracks buses by equipping them with sensors and data-collecting hardware. Their smart transit solution will let users know exactly when buses will arrive, receive notifications about service interruptions and purchase tickets online. ReadyPass also provides support for the city to manage the bus fleet and track where people get on and off most frequently to optimize routes and increase the city’s overall transit efficiency.
“There’s a long positive track record of startups doing good things in Fredericton that help the city, and that certainly made it easier for us to start those conversations,” Kall says. “It’s been a really positive experience working with the City of Fredericton and the Fredericton Transit specifically on this project. Without their support we never would have gotten this off the ground. It’s really nice to live in a community that’s ‘a’, supportive of startups but also supportive of just innovation in general.”
ReadyPass was co-founded by local developers Amy Colford and Taeler Dixon. Colford specializes in back-end software and hardware development while Dixon manages the front-end software, like the mobile app and what users experience when using it. Kall joined the duo through the Activator Program at UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre. Activator pairs second-year Master of Business Administration students with startups that have a good idea but lack the business knowledge. The program spurs both learning and successful ventures.
“It worked really well over the course of the last school year, and then I just decided to stay on with the company at the end of Activator because it was going so well,” he adds.
But Kall says Fredericton’s “entrepreneurial spirit” and collaborative startup community were also instrumental to the startup’s success.
Different organizations within Fredericton’s startup community have funded and supported ReadyPass at various stages: firstly, a $20,000 loan from Ignite Fredericton; $10,000 grant from the Pond-Deshpande Centre and through the Apex Business Plan Competition, they won $2,500. Fredericton Transit was also an early adopter of the service.
"Like HotSpot Parking and TotalPave, the City of Fredericton is pleased to be an early adopter of another innovative startup company,” says Fredericton Mayor Mike O’Brien. “ Through a pilot project between Fredericton Transit and ReadyPass, we are hoping to improve transit service for our patrons, while at the same time, provide product validation so that a local startup can get to market quicker.”
Based on a Canadian Urban Transit Association classification, Fredericton is a Group 4 city with a population of 50,000 to 150,000—as is most Maritime cities. In cities this size, Kall says there are discrepancies between transit demands and ability to meet them.
“It’s a city that’s large enough to have lots of people that need to take the bus and want to take the bus—like a commuter population,” he says. “But it’s a difficult size for a city because we have a much smaller budget than say a larger city that can put a lot of money into infrastructure for public transit.”
With hardware Kall describes as both easy and inexpensive to fix and replace, ReadyPass’ smart solution for transit is accessible to any city, regardless of size and budget. They’re looking to first expand into other Maritime cities with similar transit problems, but they also plan to expand beyond Canada. Kall says for every city of this size in Canada, there are many more in the U.S.
“We could put smart public transit in any transit agency,” he says.
To learn more about this local startup visit ReadyPass.ca