Going on vacation is my way to see what Citymapper has been up to. It’s pretty much the only app that continues to surprise me every time I update with some new, useful feature. Last time it was the journey companion (hitting Go on a chosen route provides cards throughout the trip and reminders when to get off) and this time around it was integration with the local bike-sharing service.
Paris, like many cities, has a bike-share program with multiple docks throughout the city. Like many of their counterparts around the world, the Paris bike-share system has its own app, which shows docks with their available bikes and empty slots. Like the advantage of a complete route planning app over a static Metro map, bike-only apps are good at a providing bike information, not information on what transportation option is overall better given user preferences. Citymapper offers not only bike routes but also combines bike segments with other public transport options like the Metro. It also has updated information on the number of bikes available at a pickup dock and the number of empty spaces available at the destination dock.
What I don’t know, because I didn’t actually use the bike-sharing option in Paris, was whether the app has the ability to change the destination bike dock en route based on the closest bike dock to the user’s final destination that actually has available slots for checking in a bike. On several occasions in Paris I saw riders cycling towards a dock only to discover that there were no available slots, pulling out their phones and then cycling away in frustration. This is one situation where Citymapper can offer more value, like Waze and other navigation apps, by changing planned routes due to changed conditions along the route.
One other feature I could see use for is predicting availability ahead of time by looking at and studying docking patterns throughout the day and week, similarly to how Google Maps considers historical traffic patterns when predicting times and routes for future travel. This could be useful during periods of high demand for bikes and slots during rush hour, when bike traffic can be more unbalanced and demand higher for bikes and open slots in certain locations.
Finally, and I know this isn’t a simple request, but it would be so useful for those users with no international data plans (ahem) that need route planning on the go. The Paris Metro has dense (in the city center) crisscrossing lines, with trains arriving every few minutes. Helping tourists find just one, optimal route even when they are not connected could be extremely helpful. Another lesson learned in Paris is that there are some stations (Châtelet-les-Halles as the the most obvious) that should really be avoided for transfers between lines because they are so huge. I haven’t seen Citymapper offer routes that specifically avoid large stations and it could be a helpful option, and doable seeing as it already offers routes that aim to be rain-safe.