Your journey home after a night out in the capital is about to get cheaper and easier thanks to Citymapper. The urban transport app is launching a minibus service, known as Smart Ride, that will take passengers around set routes in London.
The service, made up of a fleet of eight-passenger vehicles driven by licensed private hire drivers is a hybrid – it acts like a bus service sticking to fixed journeys, and like a taxi – operating along the lines of a ride-sharing service like Uber Pool.
“It’s a bit like a bus because it has stops, it’s a bit like a cab because you book it and it has guaranteed seats, and it’s a bit like a metro because it has a network of roads," Omid Ashtari, Citymapper’s president and head of business, told the Guardian.
The company wanted to use larger buses but London's transport regulations prevented it from doing so. “Carry nine-plus people in London and you’re a bus and have to follow strict regulations on fixed routes, schedules and service frequency,” Citymapper explained in a blogpost on Tuesday. “Carry eight people or fewer, and you’re a private hire vehicle that can go wherever you want, however you want, how often you want.”
The free Citymapper app is already a prerequisite for many to navigate their way around the capital, so an IRL minibus service seemed like a natural next step for the company. Last year it launched a network of shared black cabs offering journeys for a fixed £3, and it currently operates the CM2 nightbus at £1.50 a journey, which runs between Highbury and Islington station and Aldgate East station.
The startup developed the route based on user data, which it says allows it to identify the main gripes people have with public transport in the capital. "We found central London fairly well covered during the day by existing TfL services, but we identified bigger gaps in the night network. People in London are staying out later, especially in East London," the company wrote when it launched the service last summer.
Judging by the low price points of its other IRL services, Smart Ride could end up a cheaper alternative to Uber (although it's not yet clear exactly how much it will charge for journeys), while giving Londoners another way to get home after the last Tube.
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