A Chat with Brian O’Rourke, CEO and Co-Founder at Bus Scheduling AI Platform: CitySwift

CitySwift is a data-driven scheduling and planning technology for urban bus networks. It uses AI, big data and machine learning to predict journey times and passenger demand. Schedulers can create optimised timetables that take into account traffic, events, and hundreds of other external factors to make routes more efficient and services more reliable.

The platform helps bus operators match vehicle supply with passenger demand; improve network performance; and increase passenger and driver satisfaction.
 
 
CitySwift
 

How did you come up with the idea for the company?

 
Growing up in Ballymahon, Ireland, my best friend Alan Farrelly had a bus depot as his backyard, so we both grew up around busses. After college, I studied IT and got a job in a bank in Dublin while Alan, who studied business, went back to working for his family’s bus company. But whenever we met up, the conversation soon turned to busses.

During one of our meet-ups, we were discussing how the taxi sector had been disrupted by major tech players such as Uber, and how this had yet to happen with buses. Our data from Alan’s family bus company indicated that Alan’s buses were on the road just 15% of the time, with the remaining 85% spent at the depot not generating revenue.

As a result, and in order to boost usage, we launched a website that allowed people to recommend places that they’d like to go to, which included bus rental services for events like concerts. It was when we were trying to look for new routes (and struggled because of scaling-up costs) that we noticed an opportunity to develop a B2B model that could be scaled – software that would use data to help bus companies optimise their timetables.
 

 

How has the company evolved during the pandemic?

 
The pandemic has caused passenger confidence in public transport to nosedive, so the industry urgently needs to encourage people back onto public transport safely – and provide a modern solution to health and safety needs post-pandemic.

While the legal requirement for social distancing may be coming to an end, bus users will still need assurance that vehicles won’t be overcrowded. During the pandemic, we launched SwiftConnect, an API that integrates into a bus operator’s own app or website and enables accurate bus capacity predictions on a stop-by-stop basis, helping passengers make the right journey choices.

We’ve also been working hard to assist in the development of improved and more dynamic public transport. As demand for travel increases, integrated, accessible, safe and reliable transport networks will be vital for economic prosperity and sustainability. Our data engine has been helping bus operators make informed, data-driven decisions about their networks and match vehicle supply with passenger demand as mobility patterns change.

It has also helped to improve reliability – which has led to a better passenger experience and increased the likelihood of people switching from private cars to buses, which is good for congestion and the environment. During a period when travel has needed to be as safe and smooth as possible, we truly believe that our efforts have made these improvements possible.
 

What can we hope to see from CitySwift in the future?

 
Our technology is already being used to anticipate the transition from diesel buses to 100% electric. Several of our major bus company customers in the UK have committed to making this transition in the near future – but these changes are logistically challenging.

Charging times and locations, driver change-over, mileage and power usage all complicate roll-out. Everything from a hilly road to a hot day can affect how long a bus battery will last. But here lies an opportunity for data collection to inform electric bus route planning and assist with the transition to electric. Our technology will be integral to scaled deployment of electric bus fleets in the UK and beyond, which bodes well for our planet’s future. Improving public transport is our holistic vision for the future; but it’s more than a job, it’s a mission.