Wednesday, 28 March 2012

What to Do? Walk Through? H2? [part 3]

Paul's Missionary Journey : Mission Completed

In Yesterday's blog we were aiming to travel with blog reader Paul to Hampstead Garden Suburb, where he and fellow choristers were performing at a special service. See "What to Do? Walk Through? H2? [part 2]" (read again) There are two churches at Central Square. To the south is ...
... a magnificent edifice ...
... under the jurisdiction of the Church of England; and, to the north of the "green" ...
... an equally splendid PW; place of worship, unattached denominationally.
It was here that Paul was performing, and it was somewhere near here where he needed to get off the bus. The Transport for London [TfL] journey planner does not count churches as of any interest and offered only this:-
What of "i-bus" ...
"iBus keeps you informed every step of the way"
... the on-bus electronic screens controlled by some remote computer system, backed up by satellite, the Russian Mafia and the Chinese Tangs.

Sadly this is what you get for your money:-
Paul also reminds fbb that the destination screens are now unhelpful. Once they told you ...
... where you were going, but now they tell you ...
... where you are starting from.
So, let's summarise:-
The destination screens are useless
On-line maps are unhelpful
There are no bus stop signs
The journey planner can't find the church
There is no timetable
There is no map at the stop
The i-bus system is useless
Paul's driver refused to speak to him
So much for TfL's much praised technology.
Well, you are desperate to know; how did it all work out? While the first bus load of choristers were having an unguided tour of the Garden Suburb to get to Central Square and the Church, Paul was advised by a helpful fellow passenger ...
... to get off the bus behind at Heathgate (just past Linnell Close on the non-stop bus stop list) and walk through to the Church; "not that one, that's St Jude's, but the one at the other end of the green." He arrived at the Free Church just in time to see his thoroughly confused colleague choristers getting off the previous bus, having had a full (almost) circular tour of Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Technology nil; real people 10/10! Yes, fbb has spotted it's left hand drive, but you get the idea, surely?

Finally, here's an extract from the timetable that TfL won't let you see:-
London timetables are available on Robert Munster's splendid and reliable site (here).

Perhaps Transport for London could provide a link from its swirly twirly confusing site so that Paul and his chums could find a timetable?
One solution would be to provide a web site for London bus and train information. But nobody seems to have thought of that.

 Next Blog : due Thursday March 29th  


  1. What about postcodes? Paul did not think of them? They seem the most useful tool if one can't find a location in planners by other methods.

  2. Do churches use their postcodes?
    I have not the faintest idea what mine is!
    Post is posted to the pastor but point taken!

  3. As you said in a comment on the Omnibuses blog last week - ‘Perhaps journey planners are like dogs; they wag their tales enthusiastically at those who like them and growl threateningly at those who don't’.

    That’s certainly true for me. I’ve always been wary of dogs and they are generally quite aggressive towards me, while my wife’s family always had a dog and they always seem very friendly towards her. (That's dogs as well as her family).

    Similarly – when I go on to the TfL website and enter ‘Golders Green’ (station) to ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb Church’ (place of interest), it immediately responds with 4 options at 12 minute intervals using bus H2 to Meadway/Bigwood Road and then a 12-minute walk via Bigwood Road and Northway to ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb Free Church, Barnet’.

    Job Done ! So, what exactly was the problem again ?

  4. NMcB, if the H2 goes to Central Square, that surely is nearer to the church than a 12 minute walk (I'm making an assumption from FBB's description)? Is the route you found via the stop at Meadway/Bigwood Rd actually quicker than the taking the admittedly long way round journey on the H2? the timetable that FBB shows gives a journey time of 17 minutes from Golders Green Station to Central Square. I would have thought that a public transport journey planner should provide routes by that public transport to the nearest possible location served by public transport (a.k.a. bus stop in this case!)? Walking part of the journey may be quicker for some people in some circumstances, but not for everybody.

    Incidentally, is the spelling of 'tales' in the quotation about journey planners and dogs deliberate? - that's a question for FBB, as I remember it was like that in the original!

  5. RC169 – on checking again, I think I must have made up the 12 minute walk – as the TfL website clearly shows the average journey time for the walk leg as 9 minutes, which is a bit more reasonable.

    The TfL journey planner (like most other planners) defaults to the fastest route – even if it involves a longer walk. However, if you ‘edit search options’, you can change the default to ‘Routes with the least walking between stops’, which then suggests continuing on the H2 to Central Square followed by a 4 minute walk to the church. The overall journey is 8 minutes longer – 13 minutes more on the H2, offset by a 5 minute shorter walk.

    Afraid I have no explanation for the dogs’ tales in the quotation – but I suspect it is something to do with shaggy dog stories !

  6. Just to put this story into context, those travelling on the bus in front of me were the Japanese members of the choir. They had not come across a hail and ride bus before.
    The difficulty they had was, firstly the bus departs from Golders Green Station showing the destination Golders Green Station as it is a circular. Secondly, the same information is given by Ibus as the first stop is before the Hail and Ride section. Thirdly, once past the first stop Ibus goes to Hail and Ride mode - the screen goes blank and there is no audible information. Fourthly, their driver would not talk to them because the bus was in motion. If he had paused for a moment perhaps he could have told them the best place to get off, but he wasn't that cooperative.
    The route of the bus, trying to serve as many people as possible, makes it difficult for a stranger to get their bearings. There are no stops that can be counted or have names checked, it is not easy, given the leafy nature of the area, to see street names.
    The situation does, however, highlight how standard TfL policies on destinations, Ibus, etc do not work in this particular case.

  7. Thanks, Paul – that’s set out the issues really well.

    Regarding the destination screens, TfL seem to have chosen the worst possible option for this route. Almost anybody boarding the H2 in the Suburb will know it is going to Golders Green, as it is the only bus around – so you could argue that the blind is almost superfluous there. Where you do need it is in Golders Green, where the H2 is surrounded by any number of other red buses – and displaying ‘Golders Green’ is of zero value whatsoever. While maintaining the TfL standards, there are at least three possible options
    a) Show ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb’ or ‘Garden Suburb’ all the time. This would be strictly incorrect on the inward part of the circle, but wouldn’t actually mislead anyone who knew the route was a circular.
    b) Show ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb’ as far as Hoop Lane and ‘Golders Green’ for the rest of the circuit. This would require the driver to stop and change the blind – but would only take a few seconds, and no extra time if there were alighting passengers.
    c) Show ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb (Circular)’ or ‘Garden Suburb (Circular)’ all the time. This wouldn’t be misleading, and the blind wouldn’t need to be changed – but may be a bit long for the TfL standard display.

    Re Ibus, I have to say I was somewhat surprised to hear that the announcements went quiet – as I would have assumed that the stops would be announced as per those shown on the H2 timetable/frequency guide on the TfL website at*&linePreSel=tfl:63:*
    Presumably, this isn’t done as the wording of the announcements would suggest that these were fixed stops. However, this could easily be got round by referring to the stops as ‘Meadway/Bigwood Road Hail and Ride Area’, etc. without any change to the software.

    Perhaps you should write to TfL recounting your experiences and asking if they have any plans to address these issues. The worst they can do is to say No !

  8. To NMcB above. There is no such place as "Hampstead Garden Suburb Church" - as the blog explains, there are two quite different churches. Once again, finding the answer is easy if you know it already.

  9. Re destination blinds, why not display 'Golders Green Station via Hampstead Garden Suburb'? This would avoid the need to change the blind mid-journey. Some form of annotation to indicate a circular service could be included if there is space - for example, Newport Transport used to use an 'A' or 'C' for anticlockwise and clockwise on some routes - such that the blind showed 'Bettws C', etc.

  10. RC169 – Why not, indeed ? As I understand it, the current TfL policy on destination blinds (partly driven by disability legislation) mandates a single-line destination with a large character size. ‘Golders Green Station via Hampstead Garden Suburb' would almost certainly fall foul of this as the text would be too small if on a single line. Other readers may know the precise dimensions which are laid down and whether any flexibility is allowed. Can anyone advise ?

    fbb - I realise that there is no such place as ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb Church’ (and so does TfL) - but my enquiry was based purely on the information you had given in Part 1 of the saga - 'He and the choir were singing at a special service in a Church at Hampstead Garden Suburb.'

    So, trying to simulate some-one who didn't already know the answer, I entered 'Hampstead Garden Suburb Church' and TfL offered a journey to the Free Church. Of course, if I had actually wanted St Jude's I would have realised this didn't help and tried entering an alternative destination (such as Central Square).

    Quite why TfL doesn't know about St Jude's is a bit of a mystery. If you enter 'Hampstead Garden Suburb Church' onto Traveline South East, it correctly offers you the choice between the Free Church and St. Jude's, but TfL clearly uses its own list of 'places of interest' which seems to exclude locations it thinks may be obscure.