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Spare's Unique Approach to Innovation: Customer-Centric Hackathons

At Spare, we pride ourselves on a culture of innovation, collaboration, and a deep commitment to understanding our customers' needs. This has led us to embrace an immersive strategy that puts us right at the heart of the day-to-day challenges at transit agencies: enter the Customer Hackathon.

Nick Milum

Our Customer Hackathons are intensive, one-week events where a team of our product managers, designers, and engineers visit our customers' sites. The goal is simple but crucial: to understand firsthand the challenges they face with our tools from the perspective of various stakeholders - drivers, dispatchers, and administrators.

We don't just listen and leave; we roll up our sleeves and work alongside our customers throughout the week. This immersive approach allows us to ideate, design, and deliver robust solutions that not only resolve specific issues our customers face but also add value to the platform as a whole.

Our hackathons have resulted in significant leaps in efficiency and real-time service management for our customers. A prime example was our latest Customer Hackathon with Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA). We focused on enhancing their ADA-paratransit service efficiency and developed a simulation tool called Optimization Insights. This tool lets service planners adjust various settings within the Spare platform to visualize the impact of those changes on their service data.

In addition, our hackathon with Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) led to improvements to our existing Live Map tool. The result in an innovative new feature called Live Requests. Now, dispatchers have a dynamic "Mission Control" view, enabling them to identify and address issues in real-time or even predict potential challenges. This real-time observability fosters proactive management, leading to a more efficient service.

During each of these hackathons, we've seized the opportunity to make quick wins, improving our UI and UX based on the real-world feedback we received. The goal is to ensure that our software is not only functionally robust but also user-friendly and intuitive to use, ensuring the best experience for our customers.

Innovation in transit isn’t just about creating new technologies. It’s about understanding how these technologies can make transit operations smoother, more efficient, and more accessible. And that’s exactly what we strive to achieve with our customer hackathons.