Thursday, 7 January 2016

Appy with Android Apps? [part 2]

Trawl for T M Travel Timetables ...
... using their "App". But first, the next button along ...
... is headed "Timetable" but fbb first prods the theree vertical dots, top right. Up pops yet another menu ...
... which links to the T M Travel web site, the T M Travel twits account and the T M Travel facebook page; all of which, apparently, are essential to keep passengers informed.
So off to "Find My Bus" which seems to be advertising commercial products with only one on show. That is the T M Traverl bus app.
Then there is the tappable header for "Terms" ...
... which is also headed "Support". fbb has no idea what this gibberish means; and anyway it isn't true. Large amounts of our personal data are whizzing round cyberspace all the time and web sites that use "cookies" are talking to our phones and thus know who we are. Be afraid, be very afraid!

The next heading is, indeed, timetables where fbb will expect to see timetables for all of the company's services. With that level of obviousness, we can divert via the lower three buttons; Buses, Stops and Route.

Here a technologically deprived fbb begins to struggle.
It shows you where each bus is at the time you look. This is on a list as above, but fbb has no idea what  196 mi  is. Therefore, if you are standing on a cold and dark street corner in the pouring rain, you can see if your expected bus is actually coming. Useful, maybe. More useful would be a number to rung from your smartphone where a real person could help you out.

Here is a bus whizzing haapily along South Lane at Sheffield Moorfoot.
Then "Stops" allows you to zoom in to see bus stops. Again it is not easy to see why this is helpful.
fbb thinks (hesitantly) that these are stops used by T M Travel routes and clicking on one takes you back to the red blob bus map. Again, is this useful or just there because it can be?
"Routes" allows you to see all buses in operation, route by route and a tap shows this information on a crude map overlay.
A useful entertainment to while away the passing minutes as you realise that your bus left five minutes ago and there are 55 minutes to wait for the next one.

But we are safe with timetables.

Or are we? Question 1 ...
... tap.

Question 2 ...
... tap.

Question 3 ...
... tap.

Questions 4 ...
... tap. 

And, eventually, an answer.
Not a "proper" timetable at all, but a list of a day's worth of times for your selected journey. Let's hope you do know where AG9 and AG10 are.

Now this facility would be more useful if you specified a time, and even more useful if it were linked to the buses plus routes plus maps data and provided you with real "real time" times.

Of course the real limit of this App is that it is limited. Does fbb really need an app for every bus operator in his area? Even in insignificant Seaton he would require four separate apps; First Bus, Stagecoach, Axe Valley Mini Travel and Dartline. Delivery is unlikely from two of the local companies.

Is there an East Devon Bus Services App?

In a few days we will organise, with due diligence and concentrated application, an appointment with another app and explore its appropriateness appertaining to real live bus use. Will there be applause and approbation? Or will fbb remain apprehensive in his approach to technology. Whilst eating an apple - or using one!
Whoops, crashed again.

 Next bus blog : Friday 8th January 


  1. 196/198 miles refers to the distance the bus is away from your location.

  2. The front page of advertises an App, which would possibly cover the role of an East Devon bus app.

  3. I will try it. Thanks, Sheildsman.

  4. Thanks Alex - a really useful thing to know! Presumably I am supposed to set my bus stop as my location and then watch the countdown.

  5. I'm sure you didn't expect me to sit idly by!

    It's a shame that you have missed the real main benefit of the app, which is to allow you to track your bus driving along the road in real time. Now you may say that you didn't know you could do that, due to the lack of a printed manual (!) or whatever, but in all the places that we promote the app (website, social media, on bus) we tell people that's what it's for. It's not intended as a general compendium of information about TM Travel - we have a very well stocked website for that.

    If you tap on any of the buses anywhere on the map, it shows you the position of that bus along with the route it's following, whether it's running time or late (and if so by how much), and then you can follow that bus as it drives along the road, updating its position every 30-60 seconds. Again, we don't provide lots of detailed info on how to use the app but we really do find that most of the target audience tends to find this kind of thing intuitive - I do appreciate that's not necessarily everyone, but we'll take that risk.

    We believe - and customer feedback tends to support this - that live tracking is more useful than a countdown system for real time information. The problem with countdowns is that they can be unreliable, rely on historical data rather than the here and now, and when they start counting back up again (which can be for perfectly good reasons) lose credibility.

    At least with a tracking app you have the comfort of knowing that your bus is really out there, and assuming some local knowledge (which we reckon most people who would find the app useful would have) can make informed judgments about its progress.

    It's therefore sad that you seem to have missed the main feature. To provide an analogy that you might feel comfortable with, it's as though you've taken a model railway loco out of it's box, felt it in your hands and admired the craftsmanship, set it down on the table, stared at it for a bit and then said "well it doesn't go very fast does it".

    Finally, I must take issue with your criticism of our privacy statement. It's one thing for you to say you don't understand it or don't think it should be there, quite another for you to accuse us of lying! On what authority do you say we're telling an untruth? I appreciate there may be lots of personal information flying around on the web generally, but that's precisely why we like to reassure people that we're not collecting personal data about them. I know exactly how many people have downloaded the app, I have no idea who they are.

    Next time you're in this neck of the woods I will of course be delighted to buy you tea and buns (from a real person in a real shop) and discuss what we're already doing and what more we can do to furnish our customers with good, useful information.

    1. I have to echo the comments made by Phil that the app is excellent. I have to endure First on a regular basis and their app (admittedly driven by TSY's awful and outdated real-time bus software) is dreadful in comparison.

      I had the opportunity to use TMT's app and it was a breath of fresh air. The bus was held up in roadworks but the app afforded me the comfort of knowing that it was still there and naturally the queues of traffic in the area confirmed that there was an issue. The app reassured me the bus was on its way and I'm delighted as a bus user to be privy to that information.

      As a comparison, I spent over 30 minutes waiting for a bus from Intake into Doncaster as the next bus software didn't take into account that some buses were terminating short and running light to town to form a service. Wonderfully frustrating to see the countdown from 3 mins to near then it pass with 'Not in Service' on the destination display.

      FSY would do well to invest in this software as this is a true step-change in realtime information to the end user. I do enjoy reading your blogs on a daily basis and mostly I agree with your sentiments but I feel on this occasion you have missed the most important points here and viewing this from the wrong angle.

      I have admiration for Phil and his thinking outside of the box and not lumbering customers with the usual system. I'm sure the TM traveller who has this app will echo my comments that it is by far a fantastic alternative to what is out there already and the team should be congratulated for their efforts of delivering true informative detail rather than the half-hearted effort from TSY.

    2. Phil - articles like this are usually a forerunner for him offering to make you a "business proposal":

  6. Thanks for th last two comments. I did hope for a response, but my error (misunderstanding) was very genuine. I think that the concept that "everyone" can work a smartphone is the weakness in this game. I thought I was getting there.
    Thank you VERY much for your responses.
    I would still like a timetable book, please.

    1. I don't think there is an assumption that anything like everyone can work a smartphone but for those who can (and it is a quickly growing segment of the population) these sort of apps are a boon, and this is a segment that the bus industry needs to grow in of young (or young at heart) & socially aware so less hung up on big status symbols like cars.

      There does need to be as wide a range of publicity mediums as possible to catch all groups, and to be fair to TM I believe they do. Printed timetables as a base that all can use providing the basic normal data (it can be hard to found outlets who are willing to actively stock them, not just taking them but putting them out in a clear location & replace & restock at the correct times), a website with full information for general planning with latest information on disruptions (as long as you don't make it too 'whizzy' - certain big groups take note - then almost everyone can use them adequately) and then apps & other mobile platforms that can provide up to the minute information on delays & disruptions and allow people to adjust their plans on the move as they need (which by its nature will not be able to be used by everyone - I myself don't own a smartphone and don't really want to buy one - but could not be provided with that convenience any other way).

  7. To Fat Transport Bloke. At least we can agree on the awfulness of Travel South Yorkshire!!!! Sadly the high-ups therein think eveything is wonderful. How do you convince such people?

    1. I'd love to know this myself! Sadly there are few who are willing (or able) to take them to task for their failings and perhaps explains why operators choose to go it alone. I do question the value of a PTE who quite clearly would struggle to run a bath let alone a comprehensive transport system.

  8. I think that when we talk about bus apps as part of the range of information media, more thought needs to go into what the end user actually wants from them.

    Generally, if I'm planning a journey in advance from home, the laptop gets fired up and then depending on how well I know the area, it will start with a map and timetable PDF being downloaded to a visit to Google Maps to locate the nearest bus stop and see what buses serve it.

    On an app, I wouldn't generally do timetable searches in the same way you would use the Traveline website, unless I find myself deposited in an unfamiliar location with a specific destination in mind.

    Generally on an app the routine is the GPS locates where I am on a map and shows local bus stops to click on and thence the next few departures, which may be real time or may be the scheduled time.

    The thing with the live departure board facilities however, is a computer is estimating how many minutes away a bus is based on average journey times of previous buses and isn't always perfect.

    The great thing with the TM Travel app, despite the fact it wobbles worse than the set of Prisoner Cell Block H and gives out nonsense information on the departure boards if you use an I-Pad, is that little bit better in you can see on the map where the bus is and make your own judgement.

    It is also interesting that with private hire taxi firms including Uber increasingly providing apps for customers to order taxis which then show the taxi coming for you on a map, taking card payment through the app and quoting the fare on the app, it is commercially sensible for bus operators to be doing similar.