Citymapper launches bus-taxi hybrid service in London

Tyrone Stewart

Citymapper Smart RideTransport app Citymapper has launched a hybrid bus and taxi service in London which sees a fleet of eight-seater vehicles operating on routes – that change depending on customer demand – around the capital.

The ‘Smart Ride’ service is being operated under a private hire license from Transport for London (TfL). This license means the firm can only operate vehicles that carry eight or less people, but are free to adjust routes as demand shifts, rather than having to stop in specific places in line with a timetable.

“We decided to take on a different service, and launch something else. So, we’re launching Smart Ride. It’s a shared-first service, the only one in London,” Omid Ashtari, president and head of business at Citymapper, told the Guardian. “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.”

Citymapper had previously launched a commercial bus route in London back in July 2017. However, the firm realised that, due to the regulations in place on buses, it was not able to revolutionise in this space as it had imagined it would.

“Carry nine-plus people in London and you’re a bus and have to follow strict regulations on fixed routes, schedules, and service frequency. 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,” said Citymapper in a blog post explaining why it’s given up on the idea of a bus, though its CM2 route will still continue along with its BB1 fixed route taxi service. “As a result, a private hire vehicle can respond to demand, a bus cannot. That makes it hard for a bus, even a smart green minibus, to be part of the ‘demand-responsive’ future.”