Need a Ride? There's an App for That

July 9, 2013
By Jenny Li Fowler, HKS Communications

When Joseph Kopser MPA 2002 served his first tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, he began taking a keen interest in how the Army used energy and its resources, and how they could be used more efficiently. Soon, his interest began growing beyond the military.

While serving as Army Chief of Staff at the Pentagon between 2009-11, Kopser grew agitated by his lengthy commute so he began thinking there must be a better way.

“On my five-mile commute to the Pentagon there were so many options – too many options – and they weren’t organized,” said Kopser. Thus, RideScout was born.

Kopser created RideScout two years ago with the help of West Point classmate Craig Cummings. RideScout is a smart phone application that shows a range of transportation options – taxis, buses, bike rentals – all in real time. Kopser says studying social capital work at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) under Bob Putnam, Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy, provided him with the background he needed to realize the app.

RideScout's public beta launch at SXSW (South by Southwest) in Austin this past March has spawned rapid growth, and RideScout plans to add national partners across the country to give commuters even more options. There are currently more than 200 U.S. cities with public transit systems. Kopser is spending the summer raising money among investors and completing the development for the Android platform.

“The response has been fantastic,” Kopser said. RideScout recently received a $100,000 grant from the National Academy of Sciences to help collect information on available ground transportation. It has also fully integrated in seven cities with Car2Go, a carsharing service that provides one-way rentals to customers.

RideScout is planning its first, full-scale public launch in Washington this fall, with a goal of 50,000 active users in D.C. by the end of 2014. The app will follow its full-scale launch in D.C. with public promotions in Seattle, San Francisco, and Boston among other top markets.

“Our goal is to provide meaningful information to people in a way that will allow them to use their car less and improve their quality of life,” says Kopser.

The now retired Army Lt. Colonel credits his time at the Kennedy School for motivating him to not only ask, “there must be a better way,” but to actually find one.

RideScout on Vimeo

The Overwhelming Proliferation of Car-Sharing Companies
The Atlantic — Thankfully, there seems to be an app that aims to make sense of this dystopian future of transportation.

I met the founders of RideScout at SXSW, of course, where they showed me their new tool that aggregates all these various transportation options in a single interface.

While most transportation options have their own apps, RideScout collects them in one place.
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