Transit App Citymapper Will Go Head-to-Head with Uber in London

Citymapper has been granted a license to operate a taxi service.


Last year, transit app Citymapper moved from tracking transportation services to actually operating them when it launched a bus service in London. Now the company has been granted a license by Transport for London, the British capital's transit agency, to operate a taxi service. TfL is the same agency that refused to renew Uber's operator license last year.

The Financial Times first reported the news after spotting a since-deleted post on the TfL website about Citymapper's taxi service. Citymapper recently updated its Medium blog with posts titled "Good Bus Part 1/3" and "Bad Bus Part 2/3," so details on the taxi service may be included in a third post.

Citymapper started out with a small-scale "pop up" service using Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibuses, before moving up to full-sized buses operating on a regular route through East London on Friday and Saturday nights. But now Citymapper wants to add taxis because it believes they will offer more flexibility.

In the second blog post, Citymapper said the bus service is too encumbered by regulations. When it decided to switch the route based on early rider data, the company said, a decision from regulators took weeks. TfL allows up to eight passengers in taxis and other for-hire vehicles, and Citymapper thinks that will suit its purposes while allowing it to "innovate and iterate" more freely.

The ability to send vehicles anywhere at will is part of the reason why companies like Uber operate cars instead of buses. But that system doesn't do much to decrease the number of cars on city streets. If Citymapper tries to put multiple people into one vehicle, it could strike a balance between flexible dispatching and reducing traffic congestion.

Citymapper launches its taxi service as Uber continues to fight the decision to revoke its London operator license. In an attempt to placate officials, Uber has changed the way it reports violent incidents involving its drivers. Uber is allowed to continue operating in London while it appeals the decision, a process that London Mayor Sadiq Khan has said could take years.