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Citymapper Aims To Reshape Transit With Its ‘Hyper-Local Multi-Passenger Pooled Vehicle’

The London transport app company was given a six-month license to launch a bus route in the city


Guardian

  • 21 july 2017

This article titled “Citymapper announces ‘hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle’ (a bus)” was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Thursday 20th July 2017 14.29 UTC

London-based transport app Citymapper has announced its next product: “a social hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle”. Using “geo-matching technology” to route vehicles in a way which optimises boarding while minimising waiting times, the firm hopes to enable efficient ETAs for passengers with varied demographics.

Helpfully, the firm has also provided a translation out of its Silicon Valley-speak: it’s launching a bus. Bus route CM2 will run between Aldgate East and Highbury and Islington stations, every 12 minutes, on Friday and Saturday nights from 9pm to 5.30am.

It will be a real London bus in almost every way: taking payment for rides; stopping at a number of normal bus stops in between its two destinations; running on a timetable; and even being … well, a bus as opposed to a coach, minibus, or electric autonomous “pod”. It won’t, however, accept Oyster cards. The pricing has not yet been announced.

The company, which has been awarded a six-month licence by TfL, is trumpeting a number of improvements on the standard bus experience, of course. Most obviously, given Citymapper’s current incarnation as a transportation routing app, the service is running on custom-built routing software. Drivers will be equipped with tablets to feed them information on passenger count, routing issues and the location of other buses, in order to ensure that three will never turn up at once. Similarly, displays on the buses will show its location, and upcoming stops.

There will also be USB ports in the seats, for tired and emotional clubbers to charge their phones on the way home.

Citymapper says it selected the route, which is has dubbed Night Rider, by analysing trips recorded from its own transport app. “We found central London fairly well covered during the day by existing TfL services, but we identified bigger gaps in the night network,” it said. “People in London are staying out later, especially in east London. For example there are more late night destinations on Commercial Road, without any night bus support.

“The emergence of the Night Tube has also encouraged late night mobility, but also exposed gaps in the supporting night bus network. We found Highbury & Islington Station (an important hub on the night Victoria line) with inadequate bus coverage linking east,” the company added.

It may find that the inadequate coverage is short-lived, however: the route covers substantially the same area that the Mayor of London announced will be incorporated into the Night Tube when the eastern section of the London Overground joins in December 2017.

The bus route will actually be the second run by Citymapper, after a short-lived trial, CM1, took passengers in a quick circuit around central London for two days in May.

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Lead Image: Coming to an underserved east London nightspot near you … Citymapper’s big green buses. Photograph: Citymapper