Join us to participate in the upcoming 2019 City:One Challenge. 

All of Indy for All of Indy

Connecting Indianapolis Communities one neighborhood at a time.

Photo of Jeff Ericson
2 2

Written by

Cities are collections of neighborhoods that work together.  We spend most of our time in our local neighborhoods and communities - shopping, studying, meeting friends, dining out, and working.  More than 70% of trips are local, and many people almost never leave their local community.

It used to be that this community life was walkable.  In the last 100 years, we've transformed our cities from walkable places to car-centric distributed urban areas.  In fact 91% of Americans today live in low-density areas (less than 10,000 people per square mile) where life without a car is challenging at least, and a major compromise at best.  Older people, families, low-wage workers who hold down several jobs, people who work nights - these are just a few examples of populations who depend even more on having access to a car.

And while we love our transit, it was never designed for the task we've given it - moving people inside these now car-centered local communities.  Transit works great for connecting neighborhoods and moving lots of people into dense areas, but getting kids to school before work or shuffling bags of groceries on the bus is tough.

What we need is a way for folks to travel locally with no friction, without having to own a car - a safe, simple and reliable neighborhood service that helps our car-centric communities work like denser, walkable places.

That's RubyRide.  We call it Access-as-a-Service.  Access because that's really what we provide - to the doctor, the grocery store, work, the park - we know that if you can't get there, you don't have access to that place.  Transportation is just the tool we use to do it.

We provide teams of local employee-drivers who serve the neighborhoods they live in, taking care of the most basic needs - groceries, school, visits to friends - everything that makes up a rich community life.  We sell access plans - fixed-price affordable monthly plans that unlock unlimited local trips.  Most of the time you know your driver, and you can schedule in advance or request a trip via an app or phone call.

It serves everybody, with plans that align with customer needs - seniors with a lot of flexibility get very low-cost plans. Families can give their kids (over 10) access to a few places so they can have some independence; workers can get access to their community and the community where they work.  And because transit is the best way to move across the city economically, we'll work with IndyGo to make those longer trips efficient and cost-effective.

We also work with community partners to help their users - this is where the 'access' gets really powerful - health plans, community organizations, retailers, schools - really any organization that benefits from people coming to them - can use RubyRide to provide access in managed ways that have never been possible before.

In Indianapolis, we will select two local communities to start, working with local community groups and the City:One team to find those ideal neighborhoods.  We'll work with local stakeholders, hire and train local drivers, then begin building out our services around the people who live there.  Mobility is like a grocery store - it's most affordable for each of us when it sells to all of us, and we'll develop partnerships and access plans that appeal to and serve everybody with dignity, from the most needy to those with lots of options.

We expect to show that our service pays for itself, using the City:One dollars to prime the pump, not to sustain us over time.  We also expect to show that we're not only good for residents, but also good for the city and the environment.  We've shown that one Full-time equivalent RubyRide car can support 40 local residents - without asking those people to compromise on their quality of life.

Indianapolis is a wonderful city with a great history of its people coming together when it counts.  RubyRide would be proud to play a part this time around.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

Our mission is to help everybody in the areas we serve to move around more easily. Studies show that even in car-centric places, fully 30% of the drivers would rather get around another way. And that's in addition to the 20% or so who can't drive, because they're too old, too young, can't afford it, or have other challenges. Our cities are no longer built for walking; the car is baked in. If we build a dignified, friendly and efficient system for everybody, then all of us will be served. Our subscription plans are designed to align with the needs of different groups - those who are flexible and can travel at off-peak times get greatly reduced rates, and those who need highly responsive service will get it, still saving a ton over owning a car. Parents can grant limited independence to their kids, and maybe even downsize to a single car! Our goal is to start and stay local, celebrating each community and creating services that help the people who live there to thrive and prosper.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Pilot - you have implemented your solution in a real-world scenario

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

The more local we get, the more this works - our customers tell us that their favorite part of the service is having 'somebody I know' pick them up. Local drivers serving their communities is important. We've developed processes to encourage these 'affinities.' The other thing we've learned is that when the service gets affordable and easy enough, sponsored mobility really takes off - employers, healthcare providers, restaurants and more - are willing to help simplify connecting with them.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

Our name was inspired by Dorothy's Ruby slippers - Dorothy stands up for her friends but expects a lot from them. In our office in Pittsburgh we talk about wwDd - what would Dorothy do? RubyRide was founded by Jeff Ericson, an advocate for cities and neighborhoods, who has traveled the world studying cities and how people live in them. The concept came from making car-centric cities work like walkable ones. Aedan Marty is a soccer star from Pittsburgh and CMU. Matt Legowski is a CMU CS wiz.

Size of your team or organization

  • 2-10

Funding Request

  • $100,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

WAV Lease: $15,000 Marketing: $15,000 Driver hours, loaded: $70,000 Driver Hours are inclusive of all costs - wages, payroll taxes, worker's comp insurance, liability insurance, hiring, training & supervision. Driver wages largely stay right in the community since we exclusively hire drivers that live where they work.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

First 60 days: Our service can be launched quickly, but we would spend this time working with the community to select pilot areas, build relationships in those areas, hire drivers and recruit the first group of users. Next 90 days: We will be scaling up the pilot - this is where we'll spend the majority of our marketing budget - bringing on new customers as our capacity grows. Following 7 months: Growth and transition - we will continue to grow during this time, and begin transitioning to a sustainable model. We'll sell unlimited access plans to residents, working with our users and local partners to find affordable options; we'll work with healthcare, educators, community organizations, employers and non-profits to help them access the people they serve. By the end of a year our hope is that we've completely transitioned away, and that we're not only sustainable, but a core part of these communities and that we're growing into the rest of Indianapolis.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The community will tell us - the final measurement is whether we're able to fully sustain ourselves. In addition, we'll work with the community to help us measure meaningful results. Meaningful results for us means: Reduced no-show rate for healthcare visits (missed appts) Increased on-time attendance at work and school (absences) Higher income for residents who use us ($ income) Bigger variety of trips -including quality-of-life trips (larger std. dev.) Better access to market for partners (visits) Measurable ROI for partners ($) Job satisfaction from drivers (scored) Increased feeling of safety and community (qualitative) ...and many more. The community should just work better...

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

This is a core part of our proposal. A one-off isn't good for the community or for us. We see the award as a seed - a smart way to establish our service. We will invest a lot - time, money, attention, in addition to the award, but the availability of this award allows us to invest $100k without having to later harvest $1,000,000 for investors. That's good for everybody. Some details of the Sustainability plan are discussed in the pilot description - feel free to ask questions as well.


Join the conversation:

Photo of MaCie' Moore

Hey Jeff Ericson this is MaCie’ one of the facilitators here, thank you for participating in the challenge! Indianapolis is a very car centric city, so having a service that connects people to their community both in regards to transit and physical relationships would be ideal. As you stated your proposal allows for access, with this idea of bringing access would your company be willing to hire the re-entry population? Indianapolis is building a new community justice center, and this could be an opprutunity for your company to partner with LISC, the City of Indianapolis, and the Twin Aire neighborhood.

Photo of Jeff Ericson

MaCie' - thanks for the question! We're working on the same thing here in Pittsburgh, because it is a real issue for them and an opportunity for us. There are some challenges - the biggest one is working through the screenings and background checks, which we take very seriously. Non-violent offenders with simple possession convictions are our first efforts, and we do see some real potential there. I'd love to have a conversation with you about how we might engage this in Indy!