Tuesday 23 April 2013

Studying at St Andrews [2]

Just came across this blog from Leon Daniels ...
... very big cheese with London Buses. Even if you don't usually follow his (occasional) blog, this one is worth having a look at.
The link is (here).
Back to the Kingdom of Fife ...

Continued Computer Created Confusion
Until 1966, to get from Dundee across to Fife (and thus to St Andrews), you would need to go a very long way round or take a ferry.
At Newport-on-Tay you could change from ferry to bus. All this changed in 1966 when the Tay Road Bridge opened ...
... speeding journeys southwards considerably. Originally charging tolls, these were removed in 2008 as part of the Scottish government "get-rid-of-tolls" policy.

 It is this new road that is taken by route 99 as it whisks the passenger between Dundee and St Andrews via the A914 (bottom right), ...
... Pickletillem, St Michaels, Leuchars and Guardbridge.

In May 2006 the route was improved to run every 15 minutes complete with ceremonial tape-cutting and picture of assorted important people.
The service was branded Taylink 99 and was presumably super-successful because it now runs every 10 minutes.
But the column headings for 99, 99A, 99B, 99C and 99D might lure the unwary into thinking that the ten-minute service followed different sets of roads between St Andrews bus station and Dundee railway station. But, be not alarmed, cautious and fearful blog reader, these five routes are exactly the same, as shown above.
The only anomaly in the information system appears to be Dundee Council's "interactive" map which doesn't seem to have quite grasped the fact the the buses run to and from Dundee's railway station.
The little confuser-generated orange line starts unceremoniously at Seagate bus station.
Why? Possibly because the 99 "terminates" in a loop via the railway station (inwards only) and, as we see all too often, computer systems don't like loops. Although, to be fair, Traveline Scotland gets it right!
So looking at the poster in the frame at Leuchars station, you would expect something to encourage you into trusting information about that excellent 10 minute frequency with its surprising selection of suffix-supplemented service numbers.

But instead ...

You are invited to catch the hourly 99B to Dundee ...
... or, perhaps, the hourly 99C to Dundee ...
... or, if you would like a change, the hourly 99D to Dundee.
Sadly, fbb did not notice "timetables" (i.e. departure lists) for the hourly 99A to Dundee bus station OR the half hourly 99 to Dundee bus station. A quick email to Fife council, however, suggests that they were in an adjacent panel not snapped by fbb.
A regular Leuchars interchanger might be able to confirm this. Equally sadly, the identical route descriptions miss out the delightfully named Pickletillem ...
or is it pickletillUm
or is it pickletillEm
or is it pickletillUm
or does anyone care?

... nor does it mention that the bus runs via parts (at least) of Leuchars village.

Of course, the differing route numbers may well be important in the other direction, i.e. towards St Andrews, as we shall see tomorrow.

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 24th April 


  1. You blame the computer for the problems with loops, but I have little doubt that the problem is the human element. As you say, some get it right; and, out of interest, how does Xephos handle that situation?

    I would imagine that the solution would be either to treat the whole out and back journey as one; or to cover the loop section as an overlap. To explain in a little more detail, taking this instance of the 99 and its variants, the first option would involve treating the working St Andrews - Leuchars - Dundee - Leuchars - St Andrews as one single journey. Database queries for a journey from St Andrews to Leuchars would generate two results at the same departure time, without change, so the query would need to be coded to identify the shorter option as the 'correct' result, but that would not be impossible. Theoretically there might be an issue with queries for a journey from Drumoig to Leuchars generating results via Dundee, but again it should be possible to eliminate alternatives that start earlier than one that gets to the destination sooner.

    The other option would be to record the outward journey as starting from St Andrews and ending at the last point on the loop in Dundee; while the return journey would start at the first point on the Dundee loop, and end at St Andrews. The loop section would thus be duplicated, so that database queries would need to eliminate duplicate results, but again that is not difficult.

    It should also be possible to avoid the separate presentation of the different variants of the 99, although it might need some human intervention - or perhaps an extra data field to indicate that the journeys should be grouped together.

    The computer system is only as good as the people who operate it!

  2. Am I right in thinking (I have only had limited exposure to this area) that loop problems in Traveline (and presumably in other systems) can result from Electronic Bus Service Registrations (EBSR) whereby operators registering a service cannot set up the schedules to have overlapping sections due to mileage having to be recorded correctly? This is not presumably a problem for printed & posted registration documents.

    If so, it does require human intervention between registration schedule and 'publicity schedule', so that loops can be set up as overlapping sections (my preference).

    I recall an example where Traveline results showed 15 min frequency in one direction but only 30 min in the other as half the service was provided by a loop.

  3. It would be easy to show the service (electronically) as St Andrews, Dundee, St Andrews; BUT the various different service numbers run through to loops at the St Andrews end as well. Tomorrow's blog begins the investigation.
    The problem seems to be that duplicating the loop (TO Dundee on one table and FROM Dundee on another), as the Stagecoach printed timetable does quite happily, upsets the electronic registration system. I am quite sure such duplication could be sorted with a simple bit of code; but apparently such a low tech answer doesn't exist.

  4. Public transport is one of the most common but important business or service in which many people are interested.There are plenty of public transport companies in the market.