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Charlotte, N.C., Bus System Could Get Uberized

The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) was named one of the Knight News Challenge on Data winners for its plan to make a digital tool for scheduling city bus rides.

by Karen Sullivan, The Charlotte Observer / January 29, 2016
The plan will use real-time data via a mobile platform to transform an existing call-based transit service into one that allows customers to schedule transit to meet their personal needs. Knight Foundation

(TNS) -- Can city buses in Charlotte run more like an Uber service?

A grant from the Knight Foundation should allow Charlotte Area Transit System to explore ways to connect its customers to new technology for scheduling.

CATS is one of 17 winners of the Knight News Challenge on Data, which looks to support projects that use information in ways that promote stronger and more knowledgeable communities.

News Challenge winners will share $3.2 million and attempt to answer one question: How might we make data work for individuals and communities?

The test project will be CATS’ North Meck Village Rider, which serves the northern edge of Charlotte and the towns of Cornelius, Davidson and Huntersville. The bus can pick up riders within three-fourths mile of the main route when those trips are scheduled 24 hours in advance.

Through the project, CATS hopes to begin developing a digital tool for scheduling rides.

Benefits for CATS could include reducing the time the CATS staff spends on scheduling and increasing ridership.

Chris Barr, Knight Foundation director of media innovation, describes the interest in mobile tools for transportation as “uberization.” The popular Uber app connects consumers to taxis, private cars or ride sharing through mobile devices.

“The really positive thing here is you have a city that’s trying things,” Barr said. “They’re not sitting on their heels. They’re recognizing things that are happening and they’re looking for ways to respond to those trends and stay relevant.”

CATS will receive a $35,000 prototype grant and will have six months for the project, Barr said. Work is scheduled to start in February, Barr said.

©2016 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.