Customer story

KnowRoute: Japan’s first on-demand transit service

Goal

Launch a micro-transit solution that connects a sizeable residential area to industry, shopping and regional transit.

Overview

Knowroute, Japan’s first on-demand bus service, was launched using Spare technology in partnership with Next Mobility (a joint venture between the Mitsubishi Corporation and Nishitetsu). The name is a triple play on words: Spare Engine, the algorithm that powers Spare, ‘knows’ the route, there is ‘no’ fixed route, and “noru to” means “Get Onboard!” in Hakata dialect.

KnowRoute primarily serves as a first-and-last mile connection for residents traveling between a residential area in Island City, a large port, an industrial zone, and a rail hub linking surrounding urban areas. Following continuous growth in its first year, KnowRoute is due to be scaled across other parts of Fukuoka.

Challenges

Japan has a world-renowned public transportation system with high service quality and reliability. Customer expectations for a new microtransit service are therefore very high.

There is a shortage of drivers in the region, and existing drivers tend to be older with lower familiarity with app-based technology.

The Japanese government requires stringent regulatory approval for certain aspects of a transit service, such as stop locations and zone configurations.

"We selected Spare as our technology partner because of their vision for the future of transportation, superior technology, and ability to meet the rigorous requirements of a new public transportation service in Japan."
Shigeru WakabayashiSenior Vice President - Mitsubishi Corporation

Solution

Spare developed and executed a complex launch plan for KnowRoute, which included adapting the Spare Platform to support the unique requirements of a Japanese city. These adaptations ranged from routing to the correct side of the road for passenger stops to ensuring that zone-to-zone travel configurations adhered to stringent governmental requirements.

As a result of the open and productive partnership between Spare and Next Mobility, novel features are routinely introduced into the platform. For example, Spare enabled the use of both monthly passes and reloadable payment cards to allow various types of riders to book a trip.

By optimizing stopping locations for users in real-time and enabling high rates of pooling, the Spare Engine has improved transit accessibility and efficiency across Island City. Issues with driver supply were tackled by easing driver licensing requirements compared to conventional transit.

Results

KnowRoute has tapped into a big demand pool among commuters for rapid and reliable transit. Ridership has more than doubled since the first months of the service, to reach 1,200 riders a week. Riders have been delighted with the average waiting time of 8 mins.

At the same time, Spare’s platform has brought significant efficiency improvements, resulting in a 68% pooling ratio and a steady increase in the number of riders per service hour.