The name sounds homespun and folksy, like something the Partridge Family might have driven from gig to gig.
While the startup OurBus probably won’t ever transport musical families in its daily operations, it does have a grassroots purpose that is ruled by its customers, who use the mobile app-based service to give them more control over their destination and how they get there.
Those crowd-sourced riders have recently called the shots that resulted in the New York-based company expanding its bus service with daily express trips to New York City from King of Prussia (Park & Ride lot, 153 S. Gulph Road); Fort Washington (Summit Avenue cul-de-sac, next to SEPTA Station); West Chester (Chestnut Street and High Street) and Malvern (Matthews Road Park & Ride lot), filling a gap in the Philadelphia suburbs that targets “travelers in Montgomery and Chester Counties, who often have limited transportation options to New York City and surrounding areas,” according to OurBus founder Narinder Singh in a press release.
The expansion to the Western Philadelphia suburbs comes on the heels of the company’s expansion to upstate New York, Ithaca and Binghamton last fall.
“We started with crowd-sourced commuter routes in New Jersey in May 2016, and then we added longer distance inter-city trips in April of 2017,” explained co-founder Axel Hellman by phone. “We had a lot of requests in the beginning to do a Philadelphia to New York route, but there are companies who are already doing that, so it didn’t make sense for us to do it. But we have now followed up on the requests that were for suburban locations, like King of Prussia and Fort Washington, and then we figured out that we could go to Malvern and West Chester. We talked to the West Chester business district and there was a strong interest there, so that’s why we added those stops.”
Under the company’s unique business model, OurBus doesn’t own the buses, but partners with successful charter bus companies, lending its customer-centric technology in the process.
By downloading the free OurBus app from the Google Play store or iTunes store, customers can purchase tickets and track their bus in real-time, while sharing their ETA with others if they like.
“Right now if you buy a ticket on the site it’s emailed to you and when you’re getting on the bus you just show the email ticket, so you’re not actually printing anything out, and that saves time,” Hellman noted.
The OurBus technology platform includes the customer app, website (ourbus.com) and an app for the bus driver as well, he added.
“The driver app will have a list of all the passengers getting on at each location.”
The ultra-plush buses are not often what riders are accustomed to, Hellman pointed out.
“We’re not actually a bus operator, but one of the requirements with bus companies is that the buses can’t be more than three years old. They’re high quality new buses with WiFi, power outlets, reading lights and bathrooms on the bus,” Hellman said.
Currently OurBus has an agreement with a bus company operating out of the Poconos but welcomes arrangements with other bus companies.
“We welcome all comers that have the qualified drivers and the bus specifications that we look for,” Hellman noted. “We are definitely going to expand the schedule on this route so we will need more buses. Since we are already selling out that’s a very good indication that we will need to add more. We thought the response would be decent, but it’s gone dramatically beyond what we expected. We’ve had a lot of interest in Phoenixville to add a pickup location there, and we’ll see where the popular demand is as we look into it.”
Around Jan. 4 a promotional fare of $10 will increase to $13, one way to New York, Monday through Thursday, and $15 one way, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Hellman said.
“We’ll gradually increment the prices up to the $20-$25 range, which is a range we think is attractive enough for people to actually purchase the tickets and one that works for us and our bus company partners as well.”
As the company gains additional knowledge of customers’ travel patterns, the road will continue to open up for more routes, Hellman said.
“In addition to taking requests for other stops in Pennsylvania, like the Phoenixville stop, we’re also hoping to send buses from King of Prussia to other cities, with Washington D.C. being the biggest possibility. This is only the beginning of the service. I see big things in the future.”
For all departure times and more information, check ourbus.com.