This is the first blog of my multi-part series on the Xemo platform. However, this is only the beginning of what I hope would be a long-time commitment. I think this is an important step for us at Xemo to share the reason and history of our passion in the mobility domain. This part is mostly about the subtle prompts me and my friends were getting almost daily during our commute to office and back. I will blog about the Challenge and the Analysis in detail and a do a sneak peek into the second blog content – the Solution.
A few months ago, I was traveling with my family overseas. While boarding, my 7-year-old nonchalantly said to me “dad see empty seats, let’s take this one” pointing to first few rows of the business class. I said to him “no son, our seat is at the back of the plane 54-A, B, C, D keep moving son “. During the layover, he asked me “dad, on the next flight can we just take the seat which is big and right at the front? I won’t have to sleep so uncomfortably – squished between you and mum. I explained to him the whole business class concept – rules, fares, affordability and of course the luxury. I defended my decision of not buying the expensive ticket by saying “we travel so rarely, probably once in two years, I would rather spend the same money to enjoy during the holidays on good food and nice hotel”. Just when I thought I had successfully closed the topic of business class with my curious 7-year-old, my teenaged boy said, “as if dad would travel business class if it were his daily routine”. With a teenager in the family, such quips become all too usual. Certainly, a blog-worthy topic itself.
Back from holidays, the elder ones’ offhand remark kept playing in my mind – “as if dad would travel business class if it were his daily routine”. I actually started to scrutinize my daily routine and figured he is right – I do not travel business class style. I commute to station in my car (or sometime bus), struggle to find a parking, take a metro to get to the city – without getting a seat or any personal space, hop on to a tram – being pushed and shoved, wait in a queue for a coffee before finally hitting my desk. Clearly, my daily routine has absolutely no signs of a business class experience. What was more painful is that I figured I had inadvertently given into the “this is how it works” mentality.
That didn’t feel right at all. I realized every bit of my commute experience is some sort of compromise – apart from the music I hear. Is that what I signed up for? Almost 25% of my week is spent working. Combined with commuting time it is almost 40% of the week. I discussed a lot about this with my friends, colleagues, fellow commuters. The central theme of discussion mostly was:
If we work so hard to enjoy a comfortable, convenient life but never actually have a comfortable, convenient lifestyle then what is it all worth?
Obviously not having to work was probably the best solution but of course not the logical one. So what’s left then? The way we get to work! Maybe. We kept discussing the 40% and how we could make it better. Better = less stress, less dependence, more organized, more reliable and more time. However, there was really not much wriggle room in the commute part of the equation. What could we possibly do about it? We cannot crowdsource a new train line or prevent people from using roads, change schools to open and close at different times, change office hours or avoid traveling to the workplace. Changing office hours or work from home was not within our control. Mostly the discussions during commute do not stick. They tend to be short, crisp and forgotten. But it was different with this one. Quite a few of us kept coming back with a new thought or idea the next day; discussed its merits and eventually concluded our proposed solutions were either not rational or too hard.
However, there was one idea that was extremely hard but not irrational at all.
I and a friend started brainstorming which part of the commute could be optimized. We dissected every bit of our commute – the time to start from home, the traffic congestion on way to the station, the parking choices we made, which train carriage to board on and which one to alight from, which tram to target, which cafe was best to avoid a long queue. Sometimes I took a push bike to reduce the waiting period. My colleague decided to walk the same distance that he used tram for. We logged each step along the way and discussed our observations. It did not take us long to figure that the only common denominator during the commute was Waiting period. More importantly avoidable waiting period. The duration of the wait was different but still, it was the common aspect. We talked about this with other friends and family members and all of them mentioned waiting period as most annoying commute experience.
Thus, we concluded the only way we could optimize our commute time was by optimizing our waiting period.
After having identified and validated the one aspect that could be optimized the question was “How”. We had no control over most of our commute resources – the parking space, the bus, the metro, the tram, the cafe queue. Also, our commute experience was not because we were treating ourselves to a sit-in coffee, skipping a train to be able to get a seat, dropping our kids to school, picking our friends on the way or anything such “luxurious”. On the contrary, we were always working around these choices to catch the same train and follow a fixed schedule just to get to the office on time albeit failing (at least once/twice a week anyway).
This regular discussion and brainstorming gave rise to what we call today as Xemo.
More on what this solution offers and how it will help our Melbourne commuter community will be discussed in subsequent blogs. Watch this space.