What started as a missed rail connection from Chicago to Milwaukee for Aaron Redlich ended in an onerous, 45-minute battle with his mobile phone searching for bus tickets. It also sparked an idea to streamline the entire process through a single mobile platform to search for and buy bus tickets.

Redlich, 24, a 2014 graduate of UW–Madison, along with two fellow student co-founders, saw a need for a mobile search and ticketing platform that could bring together the fragmented bus industry. That platform is Tixora.

In 2014, about 3,600 bus carriers provided roughly 605 million passenger trips, generating $21 billion in revenue and nearly $500 million in profits. And the industry is projected to grow by 3.9 percent each year.

But there’s no easy way to buy tickets without having to comb through each carrier site, and the only similar bus ticket search platform is a metasearch engine that sends the customer to a separate website to pay for tickets. That’s not ideal for the mobile user, Redlich said.

“There had to be a better way to buy a bus ticket,” Redlich said.

Tixora’s major costs are in tech development and marketing, including buying ad space on social media and building brand recognition through boots-on-the-ground campaigns. And they’re looking for $150,000 to help make these goals a reality.

While the company is developing a desktop version, Tixora’s primary goal is to provide a comprehensive and simple-to-use mobile app. This app, once fully developed, will allow a customer to browse schedules and create itineraries from multiple carriers at once.

They will also be able to buy tickets directly through the app, creating a digital ticket that can be scanned straight from their phone. Allowing customers to purchase tickets on a single platform, instead of redirecting them to external carrier sites, sets Tixora apart from its competitors, Redlich said.

Tixora’s key market is young adults, which research has shown not only makes the greatest use of bus services, but also are most likely to search for and purchase tickets in a completely mobile environment.

By making the process simpler, Redlich hopes Tixora will ultimately encourage even more people to take the bus for out-of-town travel, rather than driving or flying.

The environmental appeal is clear, Redlich said, as motor coaches get 200 passenger miles to the gallon with current ridership levels. That compares to about 27 passenger miles for single occupant cars and 92 passenger miles for airplanes.

Redlich says that Tixora’s initial reach will be in second-tier cities in the Midwest region, with plans to quickly go national with the service. They hope to stay local with the business, though.

For a company that was “organically grown at the UW,” Redlich says they hope to stay in the Madison or Milwaukee areas so long as they can find the money to keep moving forward.

“It’s nice to develop something here in Wisconsin where we have the support and the room to grow,” he said.

By Jennifer Abplanalp,
for WisBusiness.com

Abplanalp is a student at UW–Madison in the departments of Life Sciences Communication and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.