When it comes to getting around London by public transport, an Oyster card is no longer the only game in town.
That’s because our favourite public transport app Citymapper is rolling out its own all-you-can-eat pass, covering pretty much all methods of getting from A to B. And indeed, C, D and E. Amazingly, it’s actually cheaper than using Oyster.
Sounds good, right? So how does it work? Where does it cover? And – most importantly – how do you get one? Read on as we navigate all you need to know.
What is Citymapper Pass?
It’s a subscription service for using London’s public transport system. Just like Oyster, you get a contactless payment card that you tap every time you use a bus, train or tram, but unlike Oyster, it also extends to Santander’s bike hire scheme (aka Boris Bikes) and even Citymapper’s Ride taxi-sharing service.
“The idea is to make public transport effortless,” Citymapper’s CEO and founder Azmat Yusuf told Wired recently. “The way our app makes it easy to plan, we want to make it easy to pay.”
As anyone who’s used Citymapper will tell you, it makes getting around town a hell of a lot easier, showing you all your transport options within seconds. Citymapper hopes that by applying the same streamlined approach to having people pay for travel, it can replicate its success and make cities more navigable.
And Citymapper has certainly had plenty of success. It’s consistently ranked among the best transport apps in the App Store and Google Play, and won an Apps of the Year award from Apple every year from 2013 to 2017 (not sure what happened the last couple of years).
How does it work?
As well as covering more transport modes than Oyster, it also works out cheaper. £31 a week gets you unlimited trips on the tube and buses in zones one and two, while £39 gets you the same plus unlimited rides from Santander’s bike hire scheme and two taxi journeys using Ride.
The basic subscription works out £4.10 cheaper than a weekly zone one and two pass on Oyster. And two trips in a Citymapper Ride taxi comes to about a tenner, while a Boris Bike costs £2 a day, so if you’re using either or both of those regularly, the pricier option works out cheaper again.
Downsides? You have to sign up to a weekly pass, as there’s no pay-as-you-go option like with Oyster. It also only applies to zones one and two – stray outside and it’ll switch to pay-as-you-go Oyster fares.
But you’re not locked in to a contract – you can pause or cancel your subscription at any time from within the app. And the shiny green contactless card that Citymapper sends you can be linked to Apple Pay or Google Pay, so you can touch in and out using your phone.
Where can you use it?
It’s limited to zones one and two at the moment, so it’s only really suited to commuters. That stretches from Hampstead in the north, and going clockwise, encompasses Finsbury Park, Mile End, Blackwall, Brockley, Brixton, East Putney, North Acton and Willesden Green, plus everywhere in between. So it’s a fair chunk of town.
Citymapper plans to extend this, saying it’ll cover the whole tube map “as soon as possible”.
At the moment, availability is limited to only a few thousand users. To sign up, just update to the latest version of the app, then pick a subscription option. Then your bright green contactless card will be in the post.
What does the future hold?
Citymapper has grand plans for Citymapper Pass. It wants to expand it beyond central London and into other cities. Then you could theoretically take it on holiday to somewhere like Barcelona and get around using the same pass. But its plans go way beyond geography.
It wants to add so-called ‘micro mobility’ transport options like third-party hire schemes for scooters and bikes (think Ofo and Mobike). Once it knows how you get around, it will then offer you a personalised subscription package based on your commute.
Say you walk 20 minutes to your local station, then take an overground train into central London and the tube from there. Citymapper Pass could tell you about a new bike hire scheme near you, speeding up the first leg of your commute. Your subscription would be tailored to your journeys, so you could sign up and know your commute is covered.
As we say, it all sounds very grand. But Citymapper’s previous forays into providing actual transport haven’t been a huge success. The custom bus routes it launched to cover routes not served by TfL were hampered by regulations and red tape, while its shared taxis are yet to launch outside of London.
Still, it’ll be fascinating to see how this trial pans out. If Citymapper can make paying for transport as easy as finding it using the app, it’ll be onto a winner.