Uber rival ViaVan partners with Zurich Transport Authority to launch Zurich’s first on-demand public transport service

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Zurich Transport Authority (VBZ), along with the Traffic Department, Civil Engineering Office of the City of Zurich, and ViaVan (a startup that provides on-demand shared transit services in Europe), have together launched ‘Pikmi’, the first on-demand public transport service in the city of Zurich.

Why Pikmi?

This programme, designed as an 18-month pilot trial, was initiated as there is less availability of traditional public transport in the evening hours – from 8 PM to midnight. Currently, ‘Pikmi’ is live in Zurich quarters of Altstetten and Albisrieden, as well as Triemli and Hardplatz transport hubs. Within this area, Pikmi enables new and quick connections to public transport.

“The pilot project, which is part of the city’s strategic focus areas, is another step for Zurich towards becoming a smart city,” says city councilor Michael Baumer, head of the Industrial Companies of the city of Zurich.

Pikmi via ViaVan’s technology

Users can book trips via Pikmi’s mobile app that uses ViaVan’s technology. The app shows passengers the expected waiting time until pick-up and the route to the nearest stop. ViaVan’s technology matches multiple passengers headed in a similar direction into a single vehicle and calculates the most efficient route in real-time.

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Image credit: ViaVan

With every journey, there is a possibility that the route will be slightly adjusted, as an additional passenger may join the ride.

To use Pikmi, passengers need a ticket for the city of Zurich (Zone 110) or a corresponding subscription. With the dynamic routing of ViaVan, the new offer also enables new cross-connections in the district, from Triemli to Altstetten, for example.

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By introducing a new flexible mobility concept, VBZ wants to react to changing public transport usage habits and provide a customer-friendly offering.

According to The evening buses are fully integrated into the public transport zone tariff so that passengers do not have to buy an additional ticket for the journey.

“Flexible, shared mobility solutions like Pikmi can expand access to public transport and thus create a long-term alternative to private transport,” says ViaVan CEO Chris Snyder. “ViaVan’s algorithm enables fast and efficient shared journeys that avoid unnecessary detours and long wait times, and at the same time reduce traffic and emissions.”

Pikmi’s stops and new connections

In comparison to regular public transport, Pikmi does not operate on predefined routes or schedules. With the existing VBZ stops in the operating area, about 150 additional “virtual bus stops” that do not require any additional infrastructure will be added.

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The information about the location of each virtual bus stop will be provided to users as and when they prepare for pick-up through the Pikmi app.

“Thanks to the dense network of stops, the next Pikmi stop for our customers is right around the corner,” says VBZ Director Guido Schoch. “VBZ wants to find out whether this innovative offer can attract additional customers.”

Mobility is the vehicle provider for Pikmi. The company already uses the shuttles elsewhere during the day, and for the Pikmi service between 8 p.m. and midnight.

“We want to use our car sharing vehicles as efficiently as possible. Since Mobility’s booking frequencies are lower at night, mixed operation makes sense,” explains Mobility Managing Director Roland Lötscher.

According to ViaVan, since the vehicles will be integrated into Mobility’s existing fleet after the pilot project has been completed, they are not equipped for transport for people in wheelchairs due to the limited usage time. VBZ is, therefore, working with the Disabled Transport Foundation Zurich (BTZ) to serve the booking inquiries by all customers.

COVID-19 protection

Since the vehicles are shared, the national protection concept for public transport under COVID-19 applies: Masks are required in the vehicles. Additionally, seat capacity will be limited to a maximum of three out of the total five seats to allow for more distance between the passengers.

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(Image credit: VBZ, Patrick Mattes)

About ViaVan

The company was founded in 2017 as a joint venture between Via – a developer of dynamic shared ride technology, and Mercedes-Benz Vans – manufacturer of passenger and cargo vans.

ViaVan is the provider of on-demand shared transit services in Europe. It works closely with cities and public transit operators, and powers mobility services with existing transportation infrastructure.

It already works with transport authorities and cities across Europe, including Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe (BVG) in Berlin and Empresa Municipal de Transportes de Madrid (EMT Madrid), to expand access to on-demand public transport. 

Through their partnership, Mercedes-Benz Vans and Via are also collaborating on the development of advanced mobility solutions, from sensor technology to electric vehicle fleet management, to autonomous driving. 

According to the company, with more than 150 launched and pending deployments on six continents, Via and ViaVan have provided more than 80 million rides to date. Pikmi is ViaVan’s first service in Switzerland.

Image credit: ViaVan

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