Posted by Neil Bennett 28 April 2014
This week's tube strike will be the real test of London's travel apps
Photo by Eric Parker
With three days of disruption, will Citymapper and TfL’s mobile site be useful for those left stranded?
London has become a lot easier to navigate since the launch of TfL’s recently upgraded mobile site and the beloved-by-hipsters Citymapper app. We rely on them to get around, favouring them over the big boys of ‘how do I get there?’ services: the car-centric Google Maps and Apple Maps.
TfL provides an immediate way to know how to get home from a night out in Shoreditch – or what the last possible minute we can leave our offices in King’s Cross to get to that gig in Brixton – via tube, bus, DLR, overground or dangleway. Citymapper throws in other options: cycling, walking (with a calories burned estimate), getting a cab, teleporting and being fired from a catapult. The last two are jokes but come the tube strikes from today, Londoners may wish that they were real options – as danger-of-death aside, they might be easier than negotiating the gridlock that will almost certainly ensue.
So we’ll need help if we want to stand a chance of getting into work or going out without being hours late or stranded at Victoria station. Both site and app boast access to live data, so on each morning you should be able to tell if the strikes have been a damp squib or brought everything to a halt. And when things inevitably go wrong and you’re kicked off your bus in a nowheresville like Kennington for no explained reason, you’ll need them again to work out how to progress (or whether to progress, or return home defeated).
But will they be able to deal with the amorphous nature of a tube strike, when decisions made to help the flow of the masses around London throw off the journeys of the individual (hence chucking you out in Kennington) Both Citymapper and TfL will be running live blogs to help commuters, as will the newspapers and the BBC – but these aren’t much use unless you’re into misery porn. Wading through comments about how people are pushing themselves onto buses at London Bridge isn’t helpful if you’re trying to work out how to get from Clapham to Camden.
What you need is accurate live data. This is the promise of the mobile internet. Let’s see if it delivers.
Or you could just work from home (if you can) and leave public transport for those who really need it – like doctors, nurses, the police, firefighters and teachers. Sending a few emails and watching Netflix all day is your public duty to help the public sector. Now see if you can sell that to your boss on Monday.