Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Exciting (?) News from Stagecoach [2]

 due to the exigences of the situation, 
  this blog was originally planned for  
              last Thursday             

A Journey Non-Planner?
fbb's work on the Great Britain Bus Timetable and the ultimately doomed xephos has taught him one thing; Traveline is a poor tool indeed. Its poor quality was compunded by he governments Transport (Now) Defunct. But Traveline has made its data available to third parties "in order to allow a wider range of journey planning services" to develop. Is this the data source for the Stagecoach offering?

So let's give the technology the once-over.

Try Seaton to Torquay.
So far so good.
Hmmm? But keep going.
A total journey time of 2 hours and 28 minutes, not much longer than the typical bus to Axminster and train journey.

But ... "St Leonards, Livery Dole"?

Livery Dole in Exeter, Devon, is an ancient triangular site between what is today Heavitree Road and Magdalen Road, in the eastern suburbs of Exeter. It was most notoriously used as a place for executions, and has contained an almshouse and chapel since 1591.
The chapel is still here and the newer old alnshouses contribute successfully to today's traffic problems by making Heavitree Road narrow.
And here is the St Leonards Livery Dole stop, just a few yards past the narrow bit.
Now your aged blogger has taken some stick over recent days, quite rightly, over several bludners. (Heeley Retail Park, BR built Great Western Autocoaches etc.) BUT he thinks he on solid ground here by stating that the shelter above in almost certainly, probably, possibly, hopefully, NOT Exeter Bus Station!

But the clever journey planner knows that the X46 leaves the bus station via Heavitree Road and gives an interchange at a suitable suburban stop. Very clever, technically correct, but ...
... it doesn't tell you to cross the road. How are you supposed to know?
It's a fair way to run if you do manage to spot your X46 approaching. But journey planners and their designers, even Stagecoach Exeter staff, have probably never made the interchange. Technology can be too clever.

Could be better..

Let's try Seaton to Axminster.
Auntie Frances Searle's 885 didn't seem as slow as that when fbb last travelled, more like 27 minutes. So what is the Stagecoach journey planner up to?
Answer : It only shows plans for Stagecoach buses! You  are taken a very long way round indeed ...
. because it doesn't know about the 885 -  unlike some JPs.
 The above plan is also from Seaton to Torquay.

And if Stagecoach doesn't run a bus to a destination, even by a circuitous route, it either makes you walk ...
... e.g. 27 minutes from Seaton to Beer; OR ...

Need to plan a journey or find a timetable?
You can select either your from and to locations
and search for results or
enter the route detail to find your timetable.

We're sorry but we have been unable
to match your requirements. Please try again.

... gives up completely. That's because Stagecoach doesn't run to Lyme Regis, so ...

... tough cheese from Uncle Brian.

And a raspberry of substantial proportions from an average customer who doesn't keep an up-to-date list of all Stagecoach's bus services (nationally!) concealed about his or her person. 

Will it be better on the new web site? Only three days to go! Coming Soon.


Tomorrow we take a look at the above example from one of the "some" journey planners which do know about fbb's Axe Valley local route 885 - and it isn't Traveline.

 Next journey planner blog : Wednesday 29th July 


  1. This is one of the examples of why Journey Planners should be left to neutral suppliers and operators keep away. Effectively you have 2 choices for your journey planner:
    1. Only show your services leading to misleading journeys and confusion of places not being listed.
    2. Link to a full database showing all operators which then promotes your competition to your customers on your website (First's journey planner appears to be all operator and does this - a journey in Leicester from Beaumont Leys to Evington searched on the First website on almost all journey options during the day tells you to use their main competition, Centrebus, on at least one leg of almost all journey choices).

    To be fair to the journey planner looking at those timings I would be telling people to get off the incoming bus early as it is clear that if you stayed on to the bus station you would arrive just in time to watch your next bus leave and the frequency of the X46 at that time is (unless they have recently improved it) somewhat patchy. The Livery Dole is the first stop you can do that change and the interchange times are getting a little tight as you get any further in, the instructions could be clearer but the intention is about right though I suspect that is more by luck than programming judgement in this case.

  2. I think this is something that suffers from the fact that each stop is considered individually in NaPTAN. To me it would make more sense if each group of stops were named, then you had "platform numbers" per the railway (or stop letters, if you prefer) with those displayed separately from the "station" name.

  3. Indeed this principle was at the core of the doomed xephos. It worked very well and allowed the editors to group bus stops, railway stations etc. as one location but give them their correct names.

  4. First Bus' journey planner features later this week.

  5. When I worked for Stagecoach there was talk of developing a journey planner that worked off trapeze data and presumably it is this that they are using for the new site. It (obviously) won't carry other operators routes, unless timetables for these were entered.
    This is possible. One instance where you would do this is where your drivers used another operators service to get to or from a depot as part of their shift.
    The old SBL/SV practice of carrying other operators timetables wasn't commonplace at the time and is even more unusual now.
    Perhaps journey planners ought to be a function vested to local authorities not operators specifically? This depends on the interest (usually financial) they'd have in such a project, and most hide behind traveline as the be all and end all when it comes to journey planning.
    From my own experiences of it, it is very much dependent on the network knowledge of the data co-ordinator, some are brilliant (our local one is encyclopaedic when it comes to precise routing as he is a time served busman) and some are terrible. This reflects in the standard of information offered.
    One hopes that the 'new' Stagecoach site is more user friendly than the present one, which is cumbersome and difficult to use. I can click on a First/Arriva/Go Ahead website and quickly locate the timetable I seek, but Stagecoach continually ask me to reference the area before it provides any sort of information and then not everything I need.