Type a destination and get me there
In the first part of Journey Planner series for Citymapper we covered how to find all the public transport options available near you. The second episode will explain how the app uses your location and live transport data to give you the best route for your destination. If you want to follow along, you can download the Citymapper app now for free.
Who wouldn't like an automatic route planner without the hassle of having of checking Transport for London's mobile web version? Citymapper uses your phone's location services to find where you are and pulls live data feeds to present you with the quickest options to get from point A to B right now.
Although you can bookmark your frequent locations to have them available directly on the main menu, let's begin with the search function called 'Get Me Somewhere'. Tapping this will open a full map view with a search bar. If you have the address, postcode or name of the place you are going, you can just type it there. The results are powered by both Foursquare and Citymapper, tending to be a little slow to load but really rich in results. Names of shops and restaurants will be recognised easily, unlike Apple's native Maps app.
Another cool option to select a destination is dragging the map around to release an end journey pin. This works great if you're familiar with the area you're visiting and it's generally quicker than typing and waiting for the results to load. You can also zoom by pinching, which is useful to reveal street names as you get a closer view of the map.
Once the destination is set, Citymapper will calculate the most suitable routes and present the results as options. Now you can refine the time of departure or arrival with a toggle button and see the expected weather forecast at the destination. Cute tiny icons indicate the walking distance and the time expected taking a cab, as well as the cost in calories burnt and pounds (sterling) respectively.
If the destination is so close you decide to walk, tapping on this option will display a map with a recommended pedestrian route. Choosing the car option gives you a generic quote for black cabs and mini cabs for that trip. You can follow your location on the map to know if the driver is actually taking the shortest route!
The suggested journeys section includes the transport methods and combinations most suitable at this time — something like what you would expect from the TfL website. In the Citymapper app, a small icons shows the line, price and estimated duration of the journey. Even if these first results are giving you what the app thinks is the best combination, you can still filter a little more the results. Selecting specific transport methods, like bus only, might be more convenient depending on the travelcard you have and what it covers.
A nice touch is something called 'Rain Safe', which appears to be the recommended combination with less walking for rainy days in London — you can imagine how handy this is. The Cycle option shows the cycling route either for your own bike or using a public 'Boris bike', starting and ending at docking stations and continuing the journey walking if necessary. While the app doesn't appear as specific as other cycle street type apps, it gives you two routes: quiet and fast.
Scrolling all the way to be bottom of the journey option results will show a funny transport method that I don't want to spoil for you. Don't you just wish you could teleport, use a jetpack or be catapulted? A certain blond mayor will try this for you with a silly animation.
One of my favourite features in Cityplanner are the green buttons at the bottom of the screen in the full map view. These allow you to toggle views with just one tap and see the different journey combinations right on top of the map. This is extremely useful to plan ahead, rearrange or avoid certain areas with road works or other restrictions.
What's next for Cityplanner?
Opening its API to third party apps like the event-listing YPlan is a great start to push Cityplanner ahead of, not only transport apps, but also Google Maps and Apple's built-in solution. Sharing destinations via text message works great even with people who don't have the app installed. The new changes in interface, availability for other platforms — namely Android — and regular updates will definitely keep Cityplanner on its current high level: a must-have for any Londoner with a smartphone.
Hopefully, future versions will be allow users to check in with their Oyster to check balance, have alerts and tailor the journey to the zones covered on their travelcard, for example. Waiting for that level integration for a true killer app.