Unless you live in a rural area, or your phone battery ran down in 2012, or you're still relying on a Nokia with a copy of Snake on it, there's a fairly good chance you've used CityMapper. The urban transport planning app has proved so popular that, at time of writing, it's available in 27 different cities.
One reason the app has been so successful, we'd warrant, is that it's pretty reliable, flagging up where routes are disrupted rather than simply letting you find out the hard way.
Another is that it's agnostic about which mode of transport you take. It doesn't assume you'd rather take a quick trip on a crowded tube train than a longer walk through a park. Just tell it where you want to go, and it'll lay out all the options for you.
Including, as it turns out, ones that don't actually exist. Check out this screengrab from a journey I took yesterday:
This will be a pretty good route for anyone trying to get from King's Cross to Gidea Park in about 41 months’ time. Right now, though, thanks to the whole Crossrail-not-existing thing, it’s not.
At the moment, in fact, CityMapper is reminding you of the future existence of Crossrail whenever it can find a reason to justify it. It shows up on the list of lines on offer on the app's front page:
And it pops up on the list of options for almost any east-west journey across London (albeit, at the very bottom, beneath more viable routes involving walking, cycling, and tunnels that have actual trains in them). This is what the app suggested when we asked it the quickest way from our offices out to Southall, in west London.
It's the "every 6 minutes" that really hurts.
This service is, best we can tell, specific to London. We asked CityMapper for routes in a few other cities with major transport schemes under construction, but in none of them did it offer any routes that involved travelling forwards in time first. (The first phase of New York's Second Avenue Subway line is due to open next year, a good two years before Crossrail; yet CityMapper remains oddly silent on that one.)
This service does highlight quite how much the new line will speed up certain journeys. At the moment, getting from Canary Wharf to Heathrow will take you a minimum of 71 minutes; with Crossrail it'll be 63. Abbey Wood to Ealing Broadway? 86 minutes at the moment, 44 minutes after 2018. It does highlight that Crossrail will be useful.
In the mean time though, it kind of feels dangling the future in front of us, then snatching it away and cackling. The app is playing Lucy to our Charlie Brown.
Thanks, CityMapper. Thanks a lot.