Washington, like many major cities, offers a truckload of ways to try to get around its perpetually congested streets: car, bus, subway, cab, bike. RideScout, which launched in November, aims to help you sort through your choices and find the best one in real time. Co-founder Joseph Kopser likes to call it the Kayak of ground transportation.
Signing up is a breeze, and the interface is simple. Plug in where you are and where you want to go, and hit "Look for a ride." The app will list your options, including car, subway, bus, car sharing, ride sharing, biking and walking. You can sort the results by estimated time and cost. It offers real-time bus schedules and a pop-up option to let you know when you have to hustle to catch one. The app also allows you to call a taxi (through Hailo) and to look for or offer a ride (through Sidecar), though it does caution: "Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, you are never obligated to complete a ride."
Where RideScout seems to have generated the most early enthusiasm, though, is in its Capital Bikeshare component: It will let you know if the dock at your destination is full, sparing you from experiencing the dreaded "dock block," and direct you to one with space.
We tested the app, on a lightly snowy weekday evening rush hour, which, as anyone who lived in Washington this never-ending winter knows, practically ensures gridlock on the roads. RideScout offered a wildly optimistic prediction of 32 minutes to get from The Post to Rockville Town Center by car. Its Metrorail estimate of 39 minutes seemed off, too, (have its developers ridden the Red Line?). And, for cost, it just listed "local rates."
Still, we see potential, if RideScout keeps tweaking. And consumers seem eager to try it. According to spokeswoman Rachel Charlesworth, it has been experiencing more than 15 percent "week over week growth in active users." The app, which premiered in Washington because of this city's combination of transportation options and tech-savvy residents, is also being rolled out in other cities: It launched in Austin in March; San Francisco is next.
RideScout was one of four winners in the 2013 Challenge Cup D.C. competition held by 1776, an incubator that, according to its Website, seeks to "reinvent the world by connecting the hottest startups with the resources they need to excel." Forget the world; let's just hope RideScout can help reinvent traffic in D.C.