Monday, 21 March 2011

Confidence or Confusion [1]?

A look at Travel South Yorkshire's New Interactive Map
Part Two is planned for Monday 28th March 
It is very impressive, technologically: very impressive indeed.   The big question, however, is how does it respond to use?  fbb immediately dons his innocent user mode and searches for Dobbin Hill;  this is where one of his Sheffield pals lives and where fbb occasionally stays on his Sheffield visits.
It's not clear why the simple "Dobbin Hill" has to be described in such a complicated manner - "Dobbin Hill Sheffield" defines the road precisely.   A click here brings up a map of the area ...
... and, if you have a good sense of direction (note; "if"), you can scroll to get to the nearest stops, in this case at the top of Dobbin Hill and the bottom of the map.   Click on the obvious "to city" stop and the complications begin to be apparent. 
There is "no service information"  because nothing serves the stop - yet the stop was still in place when the magic street view car passed by.
An unwary visitor, having spied lots of buses going up the hill, would wait in vain for ANY to come back down.  [Memo: check later this week.]  Also, please note, there is no such place as Dobbin Hill Cemetery.  It should say "Dobbin Hill (top) opposite Ecclesall Church graveyard"; maybe more sensitively "oppposite Ecclesall Church Hall".

So, to avoid obfuscation, fbb has to behave a bit less "innocently", because the unwary traveller needs to know that he is on one of TSY's not-very-well-explained loops.  All buses to and from city use the stop on the opposite side of the road; BUT any sensible local yokel will walk 100 yards to the bottom of Ringinglow Road ...
...where everything to stops without the tedium of  a tour of Bents Green.  [see an earlier blog (read again)].  It is USEFUL information like this that only a "person" can give.  Also, TSY, spell Gisborne Road correctly, please (no "u").

But, innocent abroad, you are unaware of the local yokel's advice.  So, once you have "guessed" what is going on, you can click on the tiny little "dot" (not good for those with less than perfect vision) representing the stop opposite the obvious one and get a list of buses that call there.
EXCEPT THAT THE 88A DOESN'T and never has done! Clicking on the red squiggle (that's the logo for a PDF file; everybody knows that.) next to the number 83 - takes you, eventually, to the standard PDF for the 83 timetable leaflet, complete with its previously-blogged inherent failings.  In an inexplicable bit of unnecessary computer complexity ...
... you have do do some more clicking to get to the actual timetable pages.  Why not go direct?   Of course, computer people and their web designers LOVE to make things complicated.

Also from this point you can call up a list of "real time" departures.  To what extent this is a useful facility on a route that runs every 5 minutes is, at best, debatable.  Maybe if bad weather or traffic disrupts.   fbb is hoping to test how "real" the real time is later this week.
Again, you have to be quite a skilled bus traveller to understand what "real time in mins, timetable in 24hr clock" actually means in practice.    And fbb is not telling.

So that's it.   It does what it says on the tin.  It IS an interactive bus map which simply (? complicatedly) delivers information from an existing and flawed database.   The questions remain:-   Is this information for information's sake?   Is this an example of "we have the technology, so let's provide it"?   How many people use it?   And, more importantly, of those who use it, how many find it useful?  What do you think (try it yourself)?

Regular readers will know that fbb pines for good old fashioned data provision.   He was, for many years in Sheffield, the owner and user of one of the most reliable and easy-to-use sources of multi-modal public transport information, available cheaply and pocket-sized.  It also had the benefit of not needing batteries or recharging.  It was, of course, a timetable book.   With its companion route map and the services of "the man who knows" at the end of a local phone line, it provided everything  needed far more reliably than modern over-engineered technology.

Or is fbb just being Luddite?   After all, he is only 4 years short of his Biblical sell-by date.

And you STILL cannot view or download an official map of the Sheffield bus network. But, there he goes again, you can use fbb's own version (here).

PART TWO (coming soon) delves more deeply into  the map and its facilities.

Next blog : due Tuesday March 22nd
fbb is off to Sheffield and tomorrows blog is offered a day early -  instead of Wednesday 23rd

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, having been brought up in this area myself even I struggled to work out all the loops at first! Your map is excellent though!

    I believe the stop in question is still in use, but only for the Summer Sunday only service 284 (assuming it's not being cut as nobody really uses it), but in another case of TSY being unhelpful, they remove the timetable in the winter when they could leave it up but say it runs summer only.