Transportant: Smart bus system reduces headaches

CEO John Styers and Alan Fairless co-founded Transportant to make getting a ride to school safer for students. Styers learned from a friend that several urban school systems were struggling to solve chronic problems in student transportation.

“We met with half-dozen school administrators and were surprised at some of the information gaps they had to work around,” Styers said. “After more than 100 interviews with transportation directors and school administrators across North America, it was clear there were some widespread challenges we could solve through a completely new product and business approach.”

Transportant integrates a mobile application, smart bus and digital dashboard to modernize school bus fleets.

“We close an information gap that is hindering the advancement of student safety and security,” Styers said. “By collecting, sharing and measuring the right data, we improve the school bus experience for students, parents, school administrators and drivers.”

Mobile app MyBusHopper reduces wasted time waiting for the bus. Similar to Uber’s service, parents and students receive updates on estimated arrival time, alerts for an approaching bus and notification of substitute bus numbers.

The Smart Bus is equipped with Wi-Fi to make students’ commute time more productive. Drivers receive turn-by-turn instructions and a display of the names of students as they get on and off.

School administrators can watch a live map of routes and the bus interior via live video. A Fleet Dashboard feature enables school administrators to track buses via GPS, view late estimated arrival times, and access live and archived video.

“We connect the dots to increase student safety and make work smoother for transportation staff,” Styers said.

The idea for Transportant grew out of Styers’ involvement in The Lean Lab, an education technology accelerator.

“Lean Lab was critical to our rapid growth,” Styers said. “Neither Alan nor I come from the education world, nor do we have any previous experience in education technology. It’s a pretty complicated minefield.”

Lean Lab leadership and cohort fellows provided “guidance, fine-tuning and assertive coaching” to help Styers and Fairless to more deeply understand their customers’ challenges.

Styers and Fairless, who had previous startup experience, knew that Lean Lab’s industry introductions and vast network of supporters would boost efforts “to get to market and break into profitability as quickly as possible.” Transportant also took home a $25,000 check following its successful pitch at Lean Lab’s Launch[ED] Day event.

The introduction of this technology platform has been well-received.

“Transportation directors tell us they are most attracted by the combination of so many well-integrated features from one vendor at a price that makes sense,” Styers said. “Most of the services we provide are currently available through a fragmented array of disparate vendors.”