On the (smart) buses..


Today CityMapper made a big announcement. They are launching their own bus…oh sorry it is a Smart Bus.

I am in danger of coming off a little cynical on Twitter at the news (what me?) so for the record I love the CityMapper app. It is a bit part of why I am more comfortable in London these days and it was also brilliant on my trip to Berlin last year. I also suspect I’ll be using it loads in New York in a few weeks as well. I totally believe it is best of breed.

Much as I hate this word I also have no doubt the bus companies are in need of disruption. I can neither drive a car nor ride a bicycle (for all sorts of reasons — don’t ask!) so I have spent an ungodly amount of my life on buses in Bristol. They are not good. They are expensive (though this has improved a bit), regularly late due to the traffic (real or imagined), occasionally just don’t show up (who knows why) and while there are some semi-useful apps now they are not on the same planet as something like CityMapper.

So I want to believe.


The idea of data driven routes sounds amazing. USB chargers on the seats sounds like a novelty that won’t last two weeks on urban buses. Real time buses on the app Uber style? Useful and always a crowdpleaser but doesn’t feel a million miles from what you can get now from all sorts of providers. Automated information telling passengers the next stop? That is a bit 2010. Also the idea that small buses are a revolution is a bit weird. Bristol had a fleet of them in the 80s and 90s. They couldn’t cope with demand.

Now lets be clear if the new West of England Metro Mayor was announcing something like this I would be ecstatic. It is definitely more interesting and potentially more useful than the bloody MetroBus and that mayorship will live or die on its public transport policy.

The thing is CityMapper works so well already because of TfL. The quality of the open data and the existence of an integrated transport provider is the backbone of its success. They have great software and world class user experience on top of that but the TfL data is key. I’m sure their partnership here will do something impressive as well.

Want to impress me? (Well why would you but you know what I mean!) Do it in Bristol. Or Manchester. Or Cardiff. Or Birmingham. We have a bunch of new elected mayors looking to make names for themselves.

Anyway — couldn’t get all of that into a tweet 🙂

Oh and we had very green buses in Bristol a long time ago!