Some of the best things you can do with Citymapper

Public transport planning in London and New York

There was a time when friends would come and ask me about the best journey planner app for London — I wrote a massive series about the topic! I would pull my best connoisseur face, listen to their needs and begin my monologue: "you have this app for the buses, this other one is great for trains, and yes, you can download this crappier one that is free because you are too cheapskate to pay for Agant's awesome UK Train Times".

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Over the last year, as if Transport for London for its act together and didn't have any 'signal failure', nobody ask these questions anymore. My usual transport app presentation while waiting for a night bus has died. Nobody wants to know which is the best commuter app these days; they know. Everybody uses Citymapper.

According to Citymapper's founder Azmat Yusuf in this article, the app must be installed on half of iPhones in London. This is actually a lower estimation than the word on the street that "everybody uses Citymapper". Sounds the same as everybody plays Candy Crush and everybody is tired of Angry Birds, so it might be accurate. For the lot of Londoners and tourists who want to use public transport without the pain, here are my special tips to get the best of the app.

Set your home and work address

A bit like the way Google knows what you are going to type on that search box, Citymapper knows where you want to go. I reckon these are, in no particular order:

  • Oh no! I'm late to work again!
  • I'm too drunk to know how to get home from this smelly pub.

The developer has been kind enough to add two bookmarks on the main screen to speed up the process. This is ideal when you are too sleepy or too tipsy to be fidgeting with your mobile phone. Although Citymapper has a lot of complex combinations, this is the most basic and first thing you should set up. Don't be afraid to add your home and work address: nobody is going to stalk you and you are going to be using these bookmarks daily.

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The feature works as expected and doesn't need much introduction: tap the 'Get Me Home' or 'Get Me To Work' buttons to get a calculation of the best transport combinations to get to your destination right now.

Bookmark your frequent destinations

In the same style of the 'Get Me Home' button, you can create your own custom bookmarks for other places you visit regularly. Of course you don't need directions to get to the gym; it's probably walking distance from your house and don't even need to use Citymapper to ask for directions. This is exactly the point: you use your home as a reference so you will rarely consider things like going straight from work to the gym without stopping at home.

Imagine going to your favourite pub in Central London where you always meet your mates for a quick Friday drink. You know how to get there and the best way to return home. Although you are familiar with the area and its transport links, would you know the best way to get there from Paddington or Euston?

Bookmarks allow you to be a little bit more creative with route combinations you thought you knew. You've probably used the same bus to get to your favourite cinema or to a train station for years. When one weekend your line is not in operation or your bus is diverted, panic kicks in. The genius of destination bookmarks is that the app identifies your starting point based on your location and presents you with alternative routes.

Forget postcodes, use shops and restaurant names

Stop bothering your friend asking for the postcode to go to Saturday's barbecue. Citymapper's search engine uses Foursquare locations, meaning you can use actual names of shops or restaurants instead of addresses.

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In my case I never remember the street name of my friend's house — I roughly know how to get there, can recognise the building and know he lives on the ground floor. Using Citymapper creatively, I can set my destination as if I was going to the Co-Op supermarket close to his plan and walk from there. This trick is also great going to restaurants and other venues that might not be included on your iPhone's Maps app.

These are the three basics you really want to use to make the most out of your Citymapper app. If you are a Londoner with a smartphone or just visiting the city over the weekend this is a must-have app that will easily earn its place on your homescreen.