‘Busttle’-ing to fulfil last mile

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Praburaajan (left) and Dhillon with a taxi used for the Busttle service in TTDIPraburaajan (left) and Dhillon with a taxi used for the Busttle service in TTDIPraburaajan (left) and Dhillon with a taxi used for the Busttle service in TTDI.

Getting from Point A to Point B in Kuala Lumpur is never easy, especially if you don’t drive.

The train service is efficient but how do you get to and from the station? Shuttle buses are often very crowded, few and far between. (Do refer to our report on “Minimum wage and the tyranny of public transport”)

That has always been difficult for commuters including Dhillon Kannabhiran. His own experience tells him that there is a woeful gap in last-mile connectivity for public transport in KL.

That’s when he and two others got together to start a last-mile service called Busttle which they dubbed as ‘more convenient than a bus, cheaper than a taxi’.

The service is in-between a bus and taxi although it uses actual taxis to do the shuttling.

Busttle screenshot

Busttle screenshotIt works like this: a passenger hails a Busttle using a phone app, and gets picked up and dropped off at designated stops. The vehicle should arrive within 10 minutes, and more than one passenger can share the same vehicle.

As this is a last-mile service, the taxi will only travel within a 3km radius.

“We only operate in a small area to alleviate the main difficulty in using public transport – the last mile service,” said Dhillon. “It’s that stretch that is not too far away but too far to walk.”

However, as the service is still in its infancy, the shuttle currently does door-to-door service, and passengers rarely have to share. That will be for the future when demand picks up.

The fee is a fixed RM5 one way, and there is no charge for the return trip if it’s within the hour. If two or more passengers book the shuttle together, they get a discount.

To Dhillon, the service is a win-win one. The passenger gets a cheap and convenient ride, and the taxi driver gets an assured source of income. Cabs who sign on to provide a Busttle service for a specific time slot get paid, regardless if they get passengers.

He said this gives taxi drivers control over their time and income.

The pilot service rolled out in Cyberjaya in April because Busttle was part of an accelerator programme with Cyberview Holdings and Watch Tower & Friends. It received business development support and a grant in exchange for equity.

So far, it has arranged around 4,000 rides for passengers, with some using the service daily to travel to and from the train station to their offices.

Busttle co-founder Praburaajan Selvarajan, 28, said many university students also used the service.

In July, Busttle rolled out in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, an upmarket neighbourhood, at the request of its residents’ association. It is also in talks with a developer to roll out the service in Bangsar by the year-end.

It chose these neighbourhoods because they are close to LRT stations, or will be when the MRT is completed. Thus, Busttle can tap on the demand from passengers wanting to get to their final destinations from the stations.

The plan is to roll out more services near LRT stations in different areas across town.

“Usage is picking up. We are now focusing on educating passengers on how Busttle fits into the transport system, and when and how to use it,” Dhillon said.

They are holding roadshows as well as working with the TTDI residents’ association and malls to promote the service.

Busttle, which started with a grant and self-funding, is now trying to raise funds from investors.

Dhillon said the potential is huge as the MRT will begin service in a year or two, and as the traffic gets increasingly heavy and driving ever more stressful.

“The gap in the market is large, and we are targeting a small segment of this market,” he said.

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