Commuting in London

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Commuting in big cities can be really troublesome. As someone who has recently moved to London, I find its public transport fun: as long as I am not late or spending hours stuck on the wrong train, I enjoy discovering different parts of town and different transport options. No doubt there would be much more reason for stress if I wasn’t relying on modern technologies – GPS and phone apps that help me plan my journey from start to end point. Now, I have tried several, but found one worth keeping – Citymapper.

Functionality review

Citymapper is an iPhone and Android app that offers a large number of options, all of which have a common ultimate aim: to get you where you want to go. Unlike many other apps, it combines means of transport (buses, bicycles, taxis, etc), showing the shortest, cheapest, driest or most energy-consuming routes from which to choose. It also displays the weather, allows the user to set up the planned arrival time, and notifies of possible disruptions on the relevant lines. Favourite locations and routes can be saved, providing access to the information even when you’re underground (or London below, as some might call it) and have no access to internet.

Information about your neighbourhood, like ‘Boris bike’ docks, bus stops or train stations, is just a tap-of-the-finger away.

What more could you ask for in a commuter app?

Live departure times? Yes, it has them all: buses, trains and the tube. Predicted weekend disruptions? Of course, they are a good topic for a weekend chat with friends. Offline tube and train maps? Yes, there is no danger of getting lost underground. Possibility to report a problem? You never thought, about it, did you? It is one of the important features of a commuter app – it’s what helps it get better over time, and this app has it.

Design review

Apart from green not being my absolute favourite, I have no other objections. They have their own explanation of why green: it’s cool, healthy, natural… and everyone else is using blue. However, it is true that green and blue are calming colours, a very useful property in cases when you’re waiting for a delayed train for more than 30 minutes. The info section is orange – again, not my first choice. But forget the colour, those are personal preferences. There seem to be no faults in the UI/UX design: everything is clean and easy, navigation is intuitive, and icons have obvious meanings, making this app useful even for non-English-speaking travellers.

The unusual thing about this app is a dose a humor used in the design: a ‘take me home’ button should help you in case you get stuck, or drunk, in an unfamiliar part of town; when planning a route, there is always a catapult, jetpack or teleporter option suggested, including the time it will take you if you use that as your commuting choice and a little animation of how it works; and if you send them a good tip, they turn it into a cartoon and share it in the info section!

A special touch is the little man picture, visible only if you ‘overscroll’ to the bottom – it’s actually located under the app, in the empty space that’s not supposed to be scrollable.

Tech review

There is a lot going on behind this app: it needs to display information in real time from several different sources (Transport for London, OpenStreetMaps, Foursquare, Google, Apple, Cyclestreets, and others), so some slowness might be expected. However, it was not slower than other apps of this type. The app uses your phone’s GPS, so you don’t need to position yourself on the start point when setting up a route. To allow live bus tracking and the possibility to notify you on where to get off it, however, the app doesn’t use the GPS chip (according to their own explanation) but rather ‘geofencing’, which uses up less battery.

The app is available for London and NewYork, and the city can be changed within the app. The route algorithms are based on data the developers gather from different sources, and their own drive routing!

You can try the app online on their website:

You may notice that the map used is Google. This is not the case in the iPhone app, which uses Apple’s map. However, until now I haven’t had a problem with it. Yet.

The app gets a 5 star score from me, and a recommendation. Try it, it’s free.

P.S. All screenshots were taken on the web version of the app.