Full speed to on demand services and integrated travel apps ?

26 February 2019

I was interested to learn last week that Citymapper is to offer a simple way to use all sorts of forms of transport in London including bus, trains, trams, Santander bikes and its own Citymapper Ride Service in return for a single, weekly flat fee. It’s possible this ‘Citymapper Pass’ could turn out to add up to less than Transport for London charges for a current travelcard. As the Evening Standard pointed out in an editorial, that sounds like smart thinking.

Moves are also underway in Berlin it seems to develop a new app called Jelbi that will integrate usage of the entire public transportation system including scooters, bikes, ride-hailing and car-sharing, as well as traditional taxis.

All of this makes it topical to relate what my colleague Jordan found when trying out the ArrivaClick service in Liverpool recently – one of the many new on demand transport services springing up. Here are his thoughts and pictures:

“Overall my experience was very good. Journey back to Lime Street was quick and comfortable. Only £1.90 paid on card through the app. I just had to walk a couple of minutes to a pick-up point shown in the map. Had the minibus to myself, but Jake (the driver) said they are busy in the morning. My only niggle was I couldn’t see any indication of when I would arrive at the station. We might have diverted a little to pick someone up, but maybe the app could say ‘expected no later than’. The experience will be very familiar to anyone who has used Uber or even more so Uber Pool. Just imagine a swanky mini-bus rather than a Toyota Prius. I’d probably be equally happy to catch a ‘normal’ bus if could see the bus location and pay for a ticket all within the google maps app.”

There’s been a lot written about competition for the bus industry from private hire operators like Uber. ArrivaClick looks like an example of the bus industry striking back. Perhaps an even bigger prize is to borrow some of what users seem to like about their rivals, like the ability to pay for their journey seamlessly within an app and see on a map the vehicle’s progress towards where they are waiting. What if this was a standard feature in Google Maps? Transport Focus knows from its research Using the bus: what young people think that younger passengers already like and are in the habit of using pre-installed Google Maps on their phones. Perhaps this is where current work on Bus Open Data will lead?

It’s still unclear how sustainable on demand services will develop over the long term, but with the right model it seems there will be a market for an option that blurs the lines between private hire and bus service. Transport Focus is keen to research the user experience of all types of on demand transport services; from taxis to bikes and including users’ attitudes to waiting and sharing. Evaluating the calibre of ‘integrative multi modal public transport apps’ might be another useful project.

Watch this space.


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