Filling a gap in the London night network
You might have heard we drove buses in circles in central London a couple of months ago. Or maybe you didn’t — our route was pretty small, and we only ran a trial for a short time to figure out this whole ‘running a bus’ thing.
We’re now proud to announce we’ve been approved / licensed by TfL (Transport for London) for our first commercial bus route: CM2 - Night Rider, launching in early September, on weekend nights (9pm to 5am), in the heart of East London.
Our fleet of green buses will run between Aldgate East Station and Highbury & Islington Station, via Shoreditch and Dalston.
We’re partnering with Tower Transit and their Impact Group to service the route. They’re an experienced operator and run some of the popular red bus routes across London.
And credit to TfL and City Hall for continuing to embrace innovation in London’s transport network.
Finding a gap in a complex multimodal network
Why this route? As we shared before, we’ve been using our analysis tool (codenamed: Simcity) to identify gaps in cities’ transport networks, based on the demand we see through our app.
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. For example there are more late night destinations on Commercial St, without any night bus support.
The emergence of the Night Tube has also encouraged late night mobility, but also exposed gaps in the supporting night bus network. We found Highbury & Islington Station (an important hub on the night Victoria line) with inadequate bus coverage linking east.
But evaluating a route isn’t as simple as finding visible gaps. In a multimodal city, users mix various modes together and have complex journeys. Hop on hop off bus routes involve passengers boarding and alighting at different points.
Thus when we evaluate routes, we score them on a range of A to Bs from across the city. We take into account competition from alternative services. We consider frequencies. We evaluate bus stops, where users board and alight.
And we account for time of day, which is how we came across the night bus opportunity. CM2 scores well, and particularly when we look at data sets since the opening of the night tube.
Note to Silicon Valley: it’s a social hyper-local multi-passenger pooled vehicle
Our geo-matching technology routes the multi-seated vehicles to specially calculated lat long locations, which optimise the boarding of multiple homosapiens with varied demographics, while minimising waiting times, leading to efficient overall ETAs.
Note to rest of the world: it’s a bus
A proper bus, since this is a busy route. We will use bus stops just like any other bus. We will operate hop on hop off just like any other bus. The buses will be green though of course.
It’s a smartbus! Wired with our bus tech.
TfL spend £14m+ per year on iBus, their software system for running buses. We decided to build our own.
Tracking and management software
The buses are tracked with our tablets, commodity hardware that’s easy to setup and use, with screens, internet connections and the ability to use apps and update them as we learn. Unique to our buses, drivers will utilise our headway management system to keep buses running optimally. For example, we will solve for bus bunching, leading to more efficient services, minimised waiting times, and happier riders. That’s the hope.
Passengers need to be well informed, even in addition to smartphones. Our smart displays are aware of the state of the bus (waiting, moving, stopping) and will communicate relevant information at the right time and place to everyone onboard. They might do other things too.
We will count passengers anonymously so that we can communicate seat availability. We might not have this ready on day one but we will get there.
Contactless payment ££
Pay on board using a Contactless debit or credit card, and embrace the future. Tap and you’re done.
You can also use Apple Pay and Android Pay with your smartphone.
We may include payments through our app, but we feel contactless allows for ease of use for a hop on hop off service. It also means the bus can be inclusive to passengers without a smartphone.
Oh, and there will be USB charging on every seat. Sigh.
Robots will drive the bus
No, there are no robots driving the bus, only qualified experienced human bus drivers. This is East London! Robots wouldn’t last one night..
Integration with our app and the city
Just like any other route, CM2 will show up in routing when it is competitive, as well as in multimodal options integrated with the rest of the transport network.
We will also show live data from the buses in our app so you can follow them on the map, or see accurate arrival times at stops, using our own arrival prediction algorithms.
We will share open data on our bus route, so that other apps and websites can utilise our data, in the same way we expect public authorities to do so.
Well, we have to leave something as a surprise. Lets just say that the bus experience is long overdue some change. And if you want to try it, you’ll have to make it to Shoreditch on a weekend night. That’s not too much of an ask is it?
Busmapper -> Citymapper -> CM2- Night Rider -> ..
Gosh. How did we get here?
We started by building an app to help ourselves figure out how to use buses to get home on the weekend (probably from East London, probably really late).
And now we’re running one!
What else is possible in this world?..
Follow Citymapper.com/smartbus for more.