Could these simple ideas boost bus ridership?

It looked more like a pub crawl than public transit: Londoners laughing, taking selfies with strangers, and enthusiastically sharing their thoughts on social media. For a few months last summer, most of the images tagged with a popular transit app featured people having the time of their lives—on a city bus.

Last May, the transit app Citymapper announced that it was putting its data to use by launching a bus service in London. The idea was that by studying the transportation habits of its users, the tech company could design an experience that would better serve riders. Almost a year later, the tech company is reporting on how well it worked.

To start, Citymapper’s Smartbus provided a well-designed, well-branded, tech-forward experience for riders. In addition to brand-new interiors, the buses had USB ports in the seats that lit up when people plugged into them, and large, full-color screens for sharing route and stop details.

The buses also offered more options for paying than most transit networks do. Passengers could tap with a contactless debit card, use Apple or Android Pay on their phones, or pay directly through Citymapper’s app. This is where many cities are going—or trying to, at least—but a U.S. city has so far not been able to unify so many methods of payment on a single bus.

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