UPDATE: Kickstarter campaign now live.
The 128 Business Council thinks it has a way to get more city people out to jobs along Rte. 128: Build an online system to match people who've gone as far as they can on the T with a squadron of mostly private shuttle buses that already flit along the highway.
The only problem: To encourage ridership, the council wants to offer the service for free, but there's no federal or state money anymore for testing out new transit ideas. On Monday, the council launches a Kickstarter campaign to try to raise the $320,000 it says it will take to hire programmers to build the database and app that will let somebody getting off a Riverside or commuter-rail train quickly have a shuttle bus routed to her to take her to one of the office buildings along America's Technology Highway.
Monica Tibbits-Nutt, the council's executive director, said the council, which already runs its own shuttle service to and from Waltham and Needham, came up with the idea a couple of years ago.
In addition to some smaller public-transit systems that now service areas along 128 - for example, the Metrowest Regional Transit Authority has a bus from Framingham to Woodland on the Green Line - a number of companies operate their own shuttle buses. But often the buses run with empty seats. What if somebody could call up a system that would route one of these buses to them, ideally within a few minutes after they call? GPS on the buses, a back-end database to track them and a smartphone app could create an on-the-fly bus system.
The system could work because while service area is long - it stretches from Needham to Bedford - it's fairly narrow, because most of the offices are clustered right along the highway, Tibbits-Nutt said. "There are very few bizarre places people are going," she said.
The council actually got a small grant from the Federal Transit Administration to pursue the idea, but she said after talking to programmers, the council realized it needed more money to make it work. Council staffers batted around ideas for raising funds, she said. Somebody suggested crowdsourcing. It works for video games, and, yes, potato salad, so why not a public-transit system?
The Kickstarter campaign will run for 30 days, she said.