Citymapper, the most popular mobile phone app for commuters has launched their own bus service in the heart of London.
Reinventing the bus for the smart city era
This has been a long time coming. We’re proud to unveil our biggest kept secret: Project Grasshopper (previously known as Project Caterpillar, (previously known as Project “yo, we should buy a bus. totally.”)).
We’re running a (smarter) bus service
In fact, we’re reinventing the entire software stack for running and operating a bus. We believe smarter buses lead to better mobility and cities.
Starting on Tue May 9th and Wed May 10th. With an experimental popup route: CMX1, running a Circulator in the heart of London.
In coordination with TfL (Transport for London)
TfL has been the most forward thinking public transport agency in the world. They released open data that gave us the opportunity to build an app to help the people of London. They are now supportive as we mutually think about the future of the bus in the city.
It’s a bus
It runs on a fixed route. It uses bus stops. People can hop on and off. However, in time you’re going to see us ‘rethink’ how buses and routes operate and how to make them more efficient and useful in cities.
We’re also introducing a smaller, nimbler vehicle that we believe is necessary in crowded cities.
Our buses integrate with our app, our routing, and the city
Our bus route is just like any other route. It has a route page. You can watch the buses move around the map in realtime. We show predicted arrival times on bus stop departure boards.
Our routes show up in A to B routing whenever the algorithm decides so based on their viability and frequency. They are multimodal ready, ie combine with other transit routes when it makes sense. In other words, they are integrated with the existing infrastructure of the city.
And yes, we will obviously make our data open and available to other apps.
So why are we doing THIS?
First we built an app to help you get around town, using open data. But we found the data needed fixing, so we built tools to do so. We also built tools to analyse the data and learned a lot about how people are moving around. When we studied the existing public transit routes, we realised that they don’t always serve people best, nor evolve quickly enough to accommodate changes in the city.
We built an ultimate tool (codenamed: Simcity) to evaluate routes utilising our demand data and routing. We found we can figure out how to improve existing routes in all of our cities. We can also identify new and better routes. London is actually not that badly served, but other cities have major gaps. We will write in more detail about Simcity later.
We also feel buses haven’t evolved enough. They still roam around cities utilising old systems of operations and inefficient technology. If we’re going to solve urgent problems of congestion and infrastructure, we need buses to improve, to operate smarter. In the era of smartphones we can have responsive buses that react to realtime needs.
We’re starting with free popup bus routes in London
On May 9th and 10th, we will begin by running CMX1 in the heart of London, a Circulator route around Blackfriars and Waterloo bridge. We want to start with something short, simple and close to our office, so that we can test the bus tech.
Londoners and others, come join us, watch an app company fumble around with learning how to run a service with real vehicles and drivers! Reinventing the bus is crucial for the future of our congested cities and infrastructure. Lets figure out how to make cities more usable.
The bus type that Citymapper Smartbus use is the Mercedes Sprinter minibus. The reason why they use these buses is because they can hire drivers with Category D1 licenses.
You can read more on the Citymapper Smartbus here.
The commercial minibuses that are not part of the TfL network is nothing new for London as back in the late 1980’s, a private company called Docklands Buses used to run 60 blue Ford Transit minibuses which served the Docklands and East End of London.
Link to video
You can read more about the Docklands Buses in my ‘30 years of bus deregulation’ article here.
I do think Citymapper Smartbus should expand to the outer London Boroughs as there are areas which are not served well by London Buses. I also think the Citymapper Smartbus should appeal to the elderly and disabled users.
I wish them the best of luck and It will be interesting to see how they expand in the near future.
As always, I invite you to follow me on Twitter and Google Plus by searching for @CLondoner92
London Bus Oddity – Mixed operators on route 60
The Oddities of London Buses
Non-red London Buses
London Buses were on the verge of being deregulated
London Buses route 96 and Fastrack between Dartford and Bluewater
By Oxyman - Own work, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5048124