Licensed Private Hire, Ride Share And Now Taxi Buses....Everyone Wants A Piece Of Our Action.

When is a bus not a bus? When it only seats eight people and changes its route on demand.

Journey planner app Citymapper is extending its reach on London's roads with the launch of a service somewhere between a bus and a taxi. It's been dubbed Smart Ride.
However, this wasn't the company's intent. Citymapper wanted to launch a "responsive", "smart" bus, but Transport for London (TfL) regulations limit its buses to "dumb", unchanging routes and restrict its on-demand services to a van — with Omid Ashtari, president and head of business at Citymapper, suggesting those rules hinder innovation.

"We don't see enough encouraging frameworks that allow private entrants to actually play in this field," he says. "I don't want to single out TfL here — it's a global phenomenon. There's a clear distinction between what cabs can do and what buses can do… currently the cab frameworks are the easiest way."

Ticket to Smart Ride
Citymapper says the regulations it faces have led to the mutant Smart Ride, a bus service using a van that operates like a ride-hailing app limited to a specific catchment area. So rather than go stand at a bus stop and wait for one to trundle by, travellers book a seat in a Smart Ride vehicle at a specific time along a route shown in the Citymapper app. "Think of it as a bus, because it has stops and can be shared, but think of it as a cab, because you can book it as close as possible to you on the network," Ashtari says.

The not-a-bus is an eight-seater Mercedes-Benz Viano, with rear seats arranged facing each other to encourage social interaction, Ashtari says — suggesting a surprising lack of understanding of how silently Londoners commute. 

While there's space for guide dogs, the vans are not otherwise accessible for disabled people and drivers aren't trained to offer such assistance. "We're working on ways to make this accessible too, but it isn't available off the bat," says Ashtari, noting the larger buses Citymapper wanted to use are designed for accessibility.

So far, the coverage area is limited to one small slice of the capital's centre, from Waterloo to Clerkenwell, conveniently taking in Citymapper's headquarters. (Ashtari says his staff want to try the not-a-bus, but are "a little bit lazy".) The route will change depending on requirements, but stick to a specific network of roads, in response to "demand fluctuation throughout the day", Ashtari says. "We have a lot of dynamic information about the city's pulse… the network could evolve through the day or week."

For the first week, the rides are free. Ashtari would not reveal the final price, but said it would cost — in fitting with the entire idea — something between a bus ticket and a cab fare. A single ride on a public bus would cost £1.50; a cab from the company's office to the centre of Clerkenwell would cost about £10.

See full article on Apple News- WIRED UK

from Taxi Leaks