Fed up with endless traffic jams and overcrowded trains, the CEO of Open Transit, Park Joo-hyuck, believes his company is only a few steps away from making commuting a pleasant time for everyone.
Open Transit, founded in 2014, provides an online bus service platform. People come together to create a bus service route to arrive at the place they want to be when they open their eyes, as “Noondo,” the Korean name of Open Transit, suggests.
Park’s idea for this project derived from a simple suggestion: why don’t we gather people waiting for a Red Bus and share a reserved bus?
Park put the idea into action right away. Park, once a student of Sogang University, posted a notice on the university’s website and reserved a bus from Bundang to Sogang, as he used to live in Bundang-gu of Seongnam, which is in the outskirts of Gyeonggi Province.
Soon, the route from Bundang-gu to Sogang changed its name to “Bundang-gu to Sinchon,” especially with a lot of support from Ewha students who also have to commute to the Sinchon area every day.
“When I arrived at school using an Open Transit bus, I felt like I was Neil Armstrong and had just set my feet on the moon,” Park recalled. “I also thought that ‘I literally am at school when I opened my eyes.’”
The price of each ride ranges from 4,000 to 5,000 won, which at first made people hesitant to participate, believing it was too expensive for a single ride. However, more people soon became willing to pay more for an easier way of commuting and joined, showing ardent support for Open Transit.
Currently, Open Transit is operating six routes and is planning to have seven to eight routes in the near future. Affiliated universities include Konkuk University, Kookmin University, Seoul National University of Science and Technology and Seoul Women’s University, to list just a few.
Participants can sign up for the days that they want to take the bus, according to one’s schedules. The buses do not operate on Fridays, as a large number of students have schedules that give them Fridays off. Also, each bus only runs its route after it meets the minimum number of participants. This year nearly 500 students have signed up for the service so far.
Park owes Open Transit’s extraordinary growth over the past year to his teammates that include a designer and a developer, and the support of the students.
“Our team is specialized at turning an idea into reality in a short period of time,” Park said. “We only spent three weeks building our website. We always set realistic short-term goals to create a service that is worth suggesting to our customers.”
As Ewha students have been showing the most ardent support on the Open Transit Facebook page and website, Park says that he remembers all the names of Ewha students who often use Open Transit. Also, Park hopes to have the service affiliated with Student Government Association (SGA) at Ewha.
“We always appreciate their support and participation and often say hello to them on our Facebook page to show our appreciation,” Park confessed. “Also, as we get so many inquiries from Ewha students, we wanted to offer our service at a cheaper rate to Ewha students by affiliating the service with the SGA, but this unfortunately has not worked out well so far.”
Open Transit also holds unique events that one cannot experience when using public transportation. This helped the organization establish its own favorable brand image. Last year, it offered a flower on the last day of operation, and a gift when people casted their votes in the local election.
Recently, Open Transit has expanded its service to companies and any groups that are in need of a convenient, affordable way of commuting. Its aim is not just confined to providing an easier commuting service for university students. It aims to become a private transportation network that can fix all the blind spots of transportation in Korea.
“Most of the problems in our society can be solved when those who suffer from it gather and come up with solutions, even without help from big organizations,” Park said. “Although we are focusing on the commuting problem of university students, I am sure that our work and experiences will become the grounds to innovate our society in the near future.”