One of the first needs of a visitor to any city is to get around effectively. In New York City that means using public transportation, especially the subway. That used to involve pulling out a map, figuring out what lines were near to both start and end points, and trying to figure out what line would take us the least time. Google Maps did a good job at initially mapping public transportation and allowing users to plan routes but the Citymapper app blows it away. Why?
The big reasons:
- Unfailingly chooses the most optimal route, be it one subway line or bus ride or a combination of two. This is the most essential feature and Citymapper wisely chose to keep it front and center in the app. Everything else is icing on the cake.
- Easy to follow route, with instructions and a map to help users reach the right starting point and transfer at the right station.
- Many route options, including a few “subway only” or “bus only” in case one mode of transport is prefered.
- Using actual timetables to provide an estimate of how long a journey will take.
The small reasons:
- Having a pretty accurate database of existing locations by name in addition to the traditional location search by address. Four tourists it is much easier to enter an attraction or a restaurant’s name than an address. After all, it’s easier to remember the “Museum of Modern Art” than “11 W 53rd St.”
- Remembering recent locations and allowing saved locations. There’s really no reason to re-enter our hotel every time, it’s right there on the list.
- The calorie count for walking or biking the route motivates exercise, and justifies that muffin.
- Estimating the cost of a taxi for every route option. I’m sure native New Yorkers can do this without hesitation but as tourists looking at a few routes helped us decide to just get a 7-day MetroCard.
- Offering Hoverboard and Rampaging Android (virtually picked up at start point, carried, and dropped off at destination by a huge Android) options. Priceless!
Improvements, but really, these are minor quibbles:
- Include cost for every option. Right now Citymapper provides the estimated cost for a cab ride for the journey selected but it would be nice to see costs for other options as well, even if that cost is simply $2.75 per ride. This is more helpful for longer routes, for example, getting to the city from the airport. A taxi costs around $80 but using public transportation requires a combination of systems and costs
- Include a drive time if the nearest public transport station is too far away. Right now Citymapper’s only option is to walk but in the ‘burbs, driving to a station is more productive than walking. Bonus: say how much parking costs at the station’s lot.
Finally, the one feature that puts this app way ahead of the competition: it knows the weather! I tried it when it was raining and, along with the usual time-optimized routes, Citymapper offered a “Rain Safe” route: one that might take a little longer but keeps users out of the rain.
Have you installed it yet?