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Thanks to businesses such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airbnb, the line between digital companies and those providing a real world service is increasingly blurred. However, the idea of an app launching its own public bus service still seems pretty mind-boggling.
Transit app Citymapper was founded in 2011 by a former Google employee, Azmat Yusuf. It launched first in London, and became a word-of-mouth success, as people loved its user-friendly design and functionality that made travelling around the city simple and stress-free. The startup went on to raise $50 million in funding, and the app can now be used to navigate 39 cities around the world.
Citymapper has always had a focus on sustainability, providing walking and cycling routes alongside transport connections. In 2017, their Good Bus initiative combined that interest with their love of data-crunching to make travel more efficient. After using their app data to analyse where there were gaps in the London transport system, they decided that rather than just sending a note to Sadiq Khan, they would take action themselves to fill that gap. Last year, they trialled a new nightbus service in East London.
The Good Bus was a smartbus, which meant it was filled with modern technology, from USB charging points to screens with real time travel updates, and tracking software that monitored the bus location and passenger count. The bus was integrated with the app, with fun functions such as a personalised emoji (or ‘busmoji’) that popped up on the screens to remind passengers when it was time to get off. The project was well received by passengers, who loved sharing their journeys on social media.
Citymapper recently shared their learnings from the project, both good and bad, on their blog and announced their next big plan. Smart Ride is an on-demand shared transport network. Users of their app will now be able to hail a minivan (they hope to use buses in future, if regulations allow), similar to booking an Uber. The company sees Smart Ride as the bridge between public transport and ride hailing apps, and as London is a city with a culture of using public transport, where Uber’s continued presence is under question, it’s the perfect place to start the experiment.
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