Friday, 17 April 2015

So Who is to Blame? [2]

Traveline, T M Travel? Travel South Yorkshire?
Yesterday we saw that the sainted Traveline is wont to make you walk away from City Centre stops t6o catch your bus to Rininglow. There is a reason, not a good one, but it can be explained.
Geographical databases (e.g. Google) tend to locate the "centre" of Sheffield outside the town hall at "A" ...
... which makes the service 4 stop at "Charles Street" (purple blob) a reasonable bet. Whatever the geographical correctness of the location, (pause for background) ...

During construction, the building was criticised for its expensive embellishments. The friezes depict the industries of Sheffield, and the 64 metre high clock-tower is surmounted by a statue of Vulcan. Bells were never installed in the clock-tower, but in 2002 an electronic bell sound system was added to provide hourly strikes and Westminster-style quarter chimes. The building was opened by Queen Victoria, using a remote control lock from her carriage. The turning of the key in the lock triggered a light in the building which was the signal for three concealed men to open the gates.

 ... it is NOT the centre of the city for omnibological activity. Solution: "move" the centre of Sheffield to, say the Castle Square tram stop and the journey planner should pick up all the central stops including the bus station.

But why can't you get back from Rininglow (without changing) on T M Travel's service 4. Travel South Yorkshire's new non printed leaflet solves the problem beautifully.
The information is now designed for printing out with no chance of creating a standard paper-based leaflet. But the contents are still appallingly bad.

The map is now coloured (pretty!) but still useless with no road names and only a few arbitrary locations stuck on. It is quite difficult to follow, nay, impossible to follow in the Bents Green area.
The "Stopping Points for Service 4" are just that same as ever, namely nonsense.

Sheffield Interchange : Arundel Gate : Furnival Gate : Fitzwilliam Gate : Sharrow : Boston Street : Cemetery Road : Psalter Lane : Sharrow Vale : Brincliffe : Banner Cross : Ecclesall Road South : Ecclesall : Knowle Lane : Bents Green : Rininglow Road : Ringinglow : Sheephill Road : Dore Moor : Long Line : Hathersage Road : Whirlow : Ecclesall Road South : Parkhead : Ecclesall : Bents Road : Bents Green.

The places highlighted above in red are WRONG in various ways; and they don't match the map. But it is the timetable that gives the game away. Here is the lunchtime outward trip from Traveline ...
... and here is the timetable extract.
Now here is the timetable for inwards journeys ...
... with not a mention of any trips from Ringinglow. So Traveline responds disapassionatelydisapassionately ...
...with electronic drivel.

T M Travel produce a leaflet with outward and inward journeys positioned so that the user can follow the timings to and from.
But the best solution, as always, is to show outward Ringinglow journeys as far as Parkhead; thus removing
& the bafflement of two Bents Greens (which are, in effect, the same place). Then show times from, say, Common Lane (the stop after Bents Green at the start of the loop) all that way back into town.
When fbb has suggested such a common sense plan before with "loops", fans of Traveline (there are some) have come up with several objections.

This would mean you would register two journeys round the loop and thus have to operate duplicate buses.
Nonsense. The Traffic commissioners have no authority over the presentation of public printed or on-line material; indeed bus operators have no legal obligation to produce any public timetables. The commissioners may wish to "advise" but their statutory duty is to file and publish the registration. If the Traffic Commission cannot understand loops and the needs of the public, he/she should be sacked forthwith!

Journey planners would show two journeys and confuse the public.
Nonsense again. The only people who would find duplicate journeys are the crowds travelling within the loop. Because such journeys must,usually, be one way only it would be rare for a journey planner to produce double answers. Maybe crowds will flock to travel from Common Lane to Long Line?Journey planners produce enough nonsense anyway without worrying about this minor technicality.

If these solution cause angst, then T M Travel could  register the whole route as a "circular".Seemples.

So who is to blame?

The fault lies with everybody's over-reliance on technology and a failure to operate the best computer ever designed, namely the human brain. fbb knows from conversations with TSY staff that there are those within the organisation who know what garbage their deep throat computer systems spew out year after year. Some of these people read fbb's blogs!

Get it RIHGT, stupid!

 Next bus blog : Saturday 18th April 


  1. Not sure what back end system is used for Traveline in the area but the problem is simply solved by having one timetable instead of two for the service. The system I am familiar with has Out and In timetables and if you have a circular or loop service you simply have an Out timetable from/to the same point. Nothing to do with technology, simply computer logic c**p in c**p out!

  2. It's called a "frying-pan" route. The terminal is the same, and only one direction of trips is compiled. All schedules programs understand this logic. Unfortunately, unless the operator and the relevent LTA talk to each other coherently, the input from the LTA to Traveline is often re-typed to fit "the model", which is an A to B and B to A structure.

    It was once the aim that operators would input registered timetables directly into an electronic system, which would then update Traveline without manual interference.
    ISTR that (vintage 2010) this was progressing along . . . the main problem being the myriad of smaller operators (up to 15 buses) who actually didn't use a schedules program couldn't take part, and wouldn't purchase a program (costing many £'000) just to upload timetables in a specific format.

    The "simple" answer, of course, is Excel, which most schedules programs can interface to, and which the smaller operators can, at the most basic level, just type in the data. I did propose this, and heard . . . . silence.

    I guess that the consultants didn't like a simple answer . . . it wouldn't justify their fees!!! Another opportunity missed!!

  3. Sypte geographic information is woefully out if touch. They insist on saying that first rout 53 to lowedges/ bradway goes via highfields and lowfields, it as never been routed via high fields.

  4. Does a circle have a start or end point? If you insert a break it is no longer a circle, but a bent line. Computers just are pedantic and don't add extra knowledge.

    Looking at two examples; Taunton town services are all The Parade to The Parade via estate. Plymouth 50 timetable is Derriford to Ernsettle Bull and Bush, but returns from Ernsettle Mayflower Inn giving the loop on both in and out bound. However on VOSA the 50 was registered as Derriford to Derriford via Ernsettle as a single continuous journey.

    Loops can be presented helpfully. It just requires education of the staff involved. Computers have different rules to paper and pencil.

  5. Minor correction, Roy (see comment above). The districts to which you refer to "Highfield" and "Lowfield" - no "s". Pedants unite!

  6. There is a third option available to those Traveline areas using MDV software, which is the "guaranteed connection". For this I would simply need to specify that each arrival on service 4 at Bents Green makes a guaranteed connection to each departure on service 4 from Bents Green. I could specify a block of times or, if not all journeys return, filter out those that run off. By coding the connection as "passenger remains on bus with final destination" the journey planner will not even tell you that you have made a guaranteed connection it would simply put you on the journey at xx01 at Ringinglow and put you off in Sheffield.
    With regards to moving the National Gazetteer centre point this can be done by local authority staff with editing rights. I moved the centre of Blandford Forum to stop the journey planner putting people off buses at Blandford Hospital and walking them to a notional centre point that was totally irrelevant, when they wanted the Market Place which most people would accept was the centre anyway. However you have to have regard to other programmes that may use Natgaz data. A large city such as Sheffield may have good reason for the centre point being the Town Hall, or it may be that it has existed thus since before journey planners existed and nobody has considered moving it.
    Each locality should be judged on its own criteria. I am working through close on a thousand such localities throughout Dorset testing their relevance to transport links but occasionally you come a brick wall. For example Moreton station near Dorchester is nowhere near the locality of Moreton being actually in Crossways, but the Dft will not let me change the locality name.
    Ken Traveline Dorset

    1. Thanks Ken. It is helpful to have your professional comments. I learn how it really works, rather than just guessing from observation (the effect of mistakes is usually enlightening).

    2. And also thanks from me as well! I wasn't aware of the ability to move nominal central points (and I suspect many other aren't).
      The ability to use a "guaranteed connection" is also interesting, and might solve many problems with journey planners.
      As always, though, it's the amount of "alteration" to the basic software that is needed, and whether the user has the level of knowledge required to make the changes.
      So often nowadays it's the "computer says so, therefore it's right" attitude, and no-one peers into the detail to check it.

  7. Re 'Anonymous' @ 10:13: The second 'to' in your comment is redundant... Pedants unite!