Matt George, Bridj’s founder was on hand for the company’s soft launch, arriving just in time to catch a 9:20 a.m. Bridj bus from a stop on Capitol Hill near Independence and 12th Street to Dupont Circle. Once aboard, he shook the driver’s hand and greeted customer Kaylin Bugos, a Capitol Hill resident who’d heard about the service via Twitter and decided to give it a try.
Bridj, which launched in Boston last year, prides itself on flexibility. Its buses don’t travel fixed routes; rather the routes are tailored to meet the travel patterns of its customers. Currently, Bridj is using 14-seat shuttles to move people around service zones as it experiments with how best to match its service with the commuting patterns of D.C. residents.
Despite waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch a shuttle from Boston to D.C., George was upbeat as he outlined the vision for how Bridj will work. He said the company’s goal is to offer customers service within a 10-minute walk from their home or office. The goal is that people won’t have to wait more than 10 minutes for their bus to arrive.
“It feels really good,” he said about the D.C. launch as the shuttle passed through two of the neighborhoods where he lived during the time he worked as a page on Capitol Hill and a few years later as a White House intern.
While there has been much buzz about Bridj’s D.C. debut, it’s not clear how many customers actually will use it to get around. That’s part of the reason the company opted on a low-key launch. Last week it began sending out invitations to potential customers along with a promo code for as many as 10 free rides.
For her part, Bugos gave the service a thumbs up, but noted it didn’t necessarily mean a faster commute. But she said she was inclined to try the service again.
I tried Bridj to get a sense of what the service as like.
Booking a ride using the app is easy. If you use Uber, Lyft or other app-based services you should have no problem. When you open the Bridj app, it will show you a map of the current service areas. You input your pickup location, then indicate where you’re headed and the app will tell you if a Bridj bus is available.
One piece of advice — be sure to remember it might take you up to 10 minutes walk to your stop. When I reserved, I was thrilled to find a Bridj leaving in just 10 minutes and booked only to realize I didn’t leave myself enough time to walk from 15th and L Street NW to the stop on P Street. I walk fast, but not that fast. Once I booked, a “pass” appeared in the app, detailing my pick up and drop off spots.
My Bridj bug arrived as scheduled — 8:04 a.m. I was the only passenger on the 14-seat shuttle. The driver welcomed me and I settled in for my ride to the Rayburn House Office Building. The seats were comfortable and I had no problem hooking up to the wireless network. The ride took just over 20 minutes (it might have been faster, but there were some street closures.) I was dropped just a block from the office building.
For now the service will operate in the mornings starting around 7 a.m. and going roughly through 9:30 a.m. Hours may vary depending on demand, George said.
And if you’d like, here’s another take on the Bridj experience via Mobility Lab.