Accessible transportation platform gives cities options to Spare

Spare Labs
With growth financing from CIBC Innovation Banking, Vancouver-based transit solution will focus on AI integrations.

Kristoffer Vik Hansen’s university days were marked by a frustrating routine. He would watch bus after bus pass by his stop, already filled to capacity, while countless cars passed by with empty seats. A University of British Columbia student at the time, the challenges of public transportation would often leave him stranded or chronically late for class.

Vik Hansen quickly learned that the management challenges of public transportation extended well beyond his hometown, and had major impacts for those in vulnerable situations.

“The problem we’re trying to solve is really how transit agencies and cities can run more efficiently.”

Kristoffer Vik Hansen

“Someone like me can jump on a regular bus anytime,” he said. “But if I happen to be in a wheelchair, I need to plan a trip days or even weeks in advance.”

Today, Vik Hansen is the CEO and co-founder of mobility software company Spare, which recently received a $10-million growth capital injection from CIBC Innovation Banking.

The funding will accelerate Spare’s development of Artificial Intelligence solutions, helping to advance its mission to enhance public transit accessibility and efficiency for people underserved by conventional transit systems.

“It is a special moment in time in mobility,” said Hugues Lalancette, Partner at Inovia Capital, an investor in Spare, “We’re excited to see Spare continue to grow and bring more value to customers everywhere.”

Since securing its first customer in Dallas, Texas in 2018, Spare has expanded its operations to more than 200 cities, and facilitated more than 14 million rides globally.

Its growth is part of a huge swerve in the demand-responsive transportation market, which is expected to generate more than $450 million USD this year, and is forecast to grow to $11 billion USD by 2030.

The need for enhanced transit options is being driven by the realities of climate change, as well as the emerging needs of an aging population.

Along with co-founders Josh Andrews and Alexey Indeev, Vik Hansen has big plans for Spare’s role in revolutionizing on-demand public ride sharing.

“The problem we’re trying to solve is really how transit agencies and cities can run more efficiently,” he said.

Spare works directly with transit agencies to provide flexible, responsive transportation services that adapt to demand in real-time and dispatch rides based on riders’ individual needs.

Spare Labs - Oakville
Spare and the Oakville Transit team, which recently upgraded its Ride On-Demand service using Spare’s technology. (Photo provided by Spare)

Through Spare’s AI-powered mobility management platform, transit agencies can integrate with public and private sector transportation services, including ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft.

The platform also offers vital paratransit services, which provide accessible and on-demand transportation options for individuals with disabilities or limited mobility. Last year, 30 percent of Spare’s ridership were users of paratransit. In Canada, Oakville and Winnipeg have recently launched Spare’s paratransit system. 

Addressing the needs of this population is where Vik Hansen believes Spare can shine.

Paratransit services tend to be far more expensive per trip compared to standard public transportation. In the United States, for example, the average cost for transit operators to provide a fixed route bus trip is $5, compared to up to $100 for paratransit services.

Spare’s microtransit and paratransit services are rapidly changing that equation. In 2023 alone, the company’s transit partners saw a 42 percent reduction in cost-per-trip for microtransit and a 25 percent reduction in cost per trip for paratransit services. The startup also estimates its on-demand transportation services have wider benefits for local communities, by helping seniors maintain active, social lives which will reduce their overall healthcare costs.

Building on these impacts is Spare’s current focus, as they work to enhance their AI enabled services. 

Spare already uses AI to dynamically schedule and dispatch vehicles, but now the startup is looking to integrate human-centric AI to make interactions with the platform more intuitive for both riders and the transit employees who schedule the rides. 

“Spare’s commitment to transforming public transit through AI-driven solutions is truly remarkable,” said Josh Olawale, Director at CIBC Innovation Banking. “The recent launch of their generative AI-powered conversational agent which significantly lowers call centre wait times is a testament to their dedication to improving rider experiences and addressing the needs of underserved communities. We are proud to partner with Spare as they continue to transform public transportation.”

Vik Hansen said AI opens up the possibility of transit becoming truly equitable transit for everyone, adding that its growth financing will be key to realizing that vision.

“This strategic financing enables us to enhance our support for public transit agencies as they strive to serve historically underserved communities,” he said. “We believe that embracing AI opens up the possibility of transit becoming so convenient and efficient that personal car ownership becomes unnecessary, truly providing equitable transit for everyone.”

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Feature image features Kristoffer Vik Hansen, CEO and Co-founder of Spare; Josh Andrews, COO and Co-founder of Spare; and a MetroAccess Driver on the Launch Day of the CapMetro Paratransit Service in Ausin, TX. Photo provided by Spare.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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