Citymapper: My go-to public transit app in Singapore!

Singapore has one of the best public transit systems in the world. With such an awesome public transport system, who needs cars? In fact, World Bank data shows that there are only 149 cars per 1000 people in Singapore as compared to 797 cars per 1000 folks in the United States. With cars so expensive and public transit so good (leaving aside occasional MRT breakdowns), most of the population uses the latter for day-to-day commute. Apps like Google Maps and MyTransport Singapore help daily commuters and tourists get around the city that has an expansive network of buses, trains and taxis. But the one that I prefer the most has got to be Citymapper. Regarded as one of the best iOS apps by Apple and having received a kitty of other prestigious mobile app awards, I had to give it a shot. After I heard they launched in Singapore (it’s available on iOS, Android and the web)and having tried it for a while, it indeed turned out to be the ‘ultimate public transport’ app that I needed. Citymapper, here’s why I like you —

  1. Intuitive UX and in-app navigation
Three tab views in the Citymapper iOS app.

The app has a very clean UI and a very intuitive and simple UX flow. The opening screen of the app takes us to the “Go” tab. I found navigation options to home/work on the opening screen quite convenient as those are what I use the most. You can navigate to your “Saved places” and “Recent trips” from the home screen. Citymapper does a good job of simplifying the workflows of navigating to your frequently visited places.

The “Near” tab shows all the nearby bus and train stops from your current location or any location for that matter. It also provides real-time updates on when the buses and trains would arrive. The tab is an awesome addition to the app to let users get a sense of the public transport routes at a place from where they might commute in the future.

SMRT Singapore and SBS Transit Twitter feeds displayed right within the app.

The “City” tab gives you all details of train and bus routes. In addition to the train and bus routes, it also provides Twitter feeds of SMRT and SBS Transit, the two main public transport operators in Singapore. Any news regarding train delays, free bus and train rides, is accessible all within the app.

2. Comprehensiveness!

Comprehensive details for all modes of transport — public transport, walking, cycling, taxi.

Citymapper provides comprehensive details for all modes of public transport, be it walking, cycling, taxi, trains or buses. For public transport, it provides arrival times for the next bus/train for each trip route that could be taken. Cycling and walking options also give estimates to the users on the number of calories they can expect to lose from the trip (take note, all weight conscious folks!). Temperature conditions at the destination are also shown to you. If you plan to take the trip at a future time, you can get transit directions pertaining to that time too!

So you have picked a route that you want to take to reach your destination. Citymapper provides a clear map view and step-by-step direction details for walking, getting on the next train/bus etc. It provides approximate times for walking and changing platform in addition to providing details of all the stops on the way in your train/bus journey. I really like the UI design of this entire view with all necessary details clearly displayed in all the relevant areas.

Most MRT stations have multiple entrances. Google Maps doesn’t currently route to a particular MRT entrance. It only shows the station as a whole on the map. Citymapper considers this detail when providing routing directions to a particular MRT station, eg. “Take Entrance B of the Somerset MRT station” etc. It displays all the entrances on the map as well.

Citymapper (left) tells you which MRT entrance to take during your route. Google Maps (right) only routes to the MRT Station as a whole and doesn’t point to a particular entrance to take.

3. Real-time updates

Citymapper now provides real-time assistance during the journey by sending you notifications about what do next e.g. Take Circle Line, walk for 5 minutes to the train station etc. It also provides real-time ETA so that you know at every step how much more time it would take to reach your destination. With Citymapper on Apple Watch, you can also get all of these live notifications without ever taking out your phone.

4. Humor! (Yup, it’s always awesome to have some)

“Catapult” to your destination in a minute if you are feeling too lazy to take public transport. Yes, the person in the red box is the one and only, Phua Chu Kang.

Taking public transport can be boring sometimes. Well, Citymapper does a good job of making it fun and humorous, at least, before you embark on your journey. You can choose its “Catapult”, “Teleport”, “Jetpack” and other super fast (less than a minute) modes of transportation if public transport is slow for you. The humor within the app is unique and local to every city.

Phua Chu Kang depicted in the “Catapult” feature, spick and span with his yellow boots.

When I used the “Catapult” feature in Singapore, I noticed Phua Chu Kang aka Gurmit Singh in his yellow boots as the person being catapulted. Being one of the most popular actors in Singapore, he is likely to click with Singaporean audiences very well. Citymapper does a good job of taking care of these details, even when it comes to humor.

Calories lost expressed as those contained in popular Singaporean foods like durians and chicken rice.

It doesn’t stop there. Calories lost during walking/cycling were expressed as those contained in popular Singaporean foods like durians, chicken rice and Singapore Sling.

As of July 2015, Citymapper is operational in 27 cities with Singapore being the first and the only Asian city it operates in. I’m quite excited to see them expand to more cities in Asia and around the world. More than half of the world’s population lives in cities with the number expected to reach more than 5 billion by 2030. This, combined with the exponential growth of smartphone usage across the world, presents enormous potential for Citymapper to help city dwellers commute in an easy and efficient fashion. It is doing a fantastic job in doing so thus far.