Saturday, 26 May 2018

The M3 Is Almost Here (2) ...

... And It's Very Easy/Difficult To Use!
Every stop on Bristol's new Metrobus network will be equipped with a huge and expensive black monolith. Each is about ten feet high!
It is hard to gauge the size of these monsters but set against average people their immenseness is clear.
Of course the ticket issuing bit is very low so that wheelchair users can ackle it ...
... and so that normal bipedal creatures will get a sore back reaching down. To extend the discomfort, the top bit is high because ...

... dunno really ...

... to look trendy and to ensure that average height folk get a crick in the neck? Has anyone considered sunlight?

But the bad news, certainly for the occasional user or untrained Bristol visitor, is that these towers, not filled with stars, will not accept cash!
Of course we must all get used to new technology - BUT - frankly, off-bus ticketing does not have a good track record in the UK. And what about the expense of these huge thingeys. Surely "wave and pay", smart card and the occasional cash customer would not slow the service down that much. And who cares if their trip take 3 minutes longer - and time savings may well be negated by traffic conditions despite super bits of bus lane.

What happens when the machines break down? There is only one at each stop.

What happens when  the Bristol youff, searching for a little alcohol infused excitement, seek to put the boot in at the lower level?

An Informed Source tells fbb that this is the first such installation for real from a hitherto untried company.

Ooo-er, missus!

Reversion to conventional fares system before Christmas?

The "Hello Metrobus" card ...
... extols the benefits of the cash-less society but fbb suspects that Mrs Miggins of Wick Wick will be less then convinced.
No reflection intended on little old ladies in general. fbb is married to one!
Fares are straightforward, but fbb could find no explanation of what "one zone/two zones" etc. meant on the printed material.
IF, as might be apparent from the zone diagram, the Park and Ride (Lyde Green) and the Bristol and Bath Science Park stops are outside the inner zone, there will be complaints!

Which brings us to the timetable leaflet, a style of publicity now almost unknown in Sheffield.
Are hot drinks allowed on Metrobus? 

The route map is excellent, covering the main part of the service in a geographically accurate piece of top-notch cartography showing all stops.
If the two stops outside the ring road are in a different zone, a delightful anomaly is revealed. Fare from Emersons Green to Lyde Green or Science Park £2.50 (OUCH), fare from Emersons Green to Emerald Park or anywhere else on the route of the M3 £1.50.
From Begbrooke, the bus joins the M32 via the Metrobus only link road and zips into the city centre.
What is obvious is that stops are mostly widely spaced like tram stops. Oh yes, and the stop called "Broadmead" is not at Broadmead! The Cabot Circus stop is actually easier for the Broadmead shopping area than the outbound Broadmead stop on Lewins Mead.

The actual timetable suffers from a common failing. If you are using "repeat patterns" then the pattern of the last journey before the repeat and the first journey after it should match the "and then at these minutes" panel. Most of them on the M3 don't!
Is there a 1900 from The Centre? You might guess that the journey before the 1905 is at 1840 but you shouldn't need to make that assumption. Sometimes this wooliness is done to save space, but on this leaflet there is plenty of room to do it proper like!

Disappointing on a leaflet that is otherwise so good!

Now for an fbb confession. He had planned to be in Bristol on the first day of operation of the M3 (Tuesday 29th May, very exciting) ...
... until he was reminded by a comment writer that the service is free for the first few days.

The interests of blogging observation, when the service is carrying real fare paying passengers, outweigh your author's desire to be there on the first day.

So the visit is planned for Tuesday June 12th.

By then it should all be working wonderfully well ...

... or not!

 Next news snippets blog : Sunday 27th May 


  1. How or can we of the Crustian era use the service without paying? Do our concessionary cards work with those monstrosities?

  2. At the behest of the Borough Council Maidstone Park & Ride is going cashless from June.

    I don't have any objection to introducing such new technology and forms of payment but going cashless is not going down well with many users. It is also seen by some as a direct attack on bus pass users who will now have to pay to park to use the service. Walking in from neighbouring residential areas is also stopped.

    The service was previously pay on bus.

    With a wide range of alternative shopping destinations that have free parking it does seem to be a policy more likely to loose custom and revenue. The largest group travelling off peak has been bus pass holders.

  3. The Informed Source is wrong. The ticket issuing part of the equipment, at least, is by the same supplier as the roadside Robin Hood smartcard machines all over Nottingham.

  4. The Edinburgh tram is another pre-pay system. When I used it I struggled to understand how the ticket machines worked. They didn't seem intuitive and there was no-one to help. Do I miss the tram and struggle on or take a chance that I can sort it on board? I chose the former option and when I asked the tram attendant what would have happened I got the sense that I would have been fined for travelling without a ticket.
    Off-bus is fine, but there has to be some safety net for those who can't make it work. Or perhaps operators will provide me with a free smart-phone so I can use their facilities to the full!

  5. But Mrs Miggins won't need to pay (unless she travels before 0930 on a weekday). Her ENCTS card will work exactly as it does on any other local bus service. As will other smartcards and mobiles (the latter having achieved a very large market share in Bristol).

  6. Why does this smack of FBB wanting to find fault? Or is it that his correspondents have fed him duff information (again)?

    Dare we have a game of FBB bingo when he does visit the mother city?

    "Low passenger figures"
    "Departure times"
    "Lack of printed timetables"
    "Ticket machine - out of use"
    "Beyond belief"
    "White elephant"

    The reality of modern life (rather than the rose tinted sunlit uplands of the 1950s) is that many passengers are now using off bus ticketing in Bristol - I know, I'm one of them! Cash fares are very much in the minority and, as another poster mentions, Mrs Miggins isn't going to wander out before 0900 (heaven forfend she has to pay) and her ENCTS pass is valid after that.

  7. So many things wrong with this post:
    The zones are on the route map. One zone is the central Bristol stops the other is the stops once the bus leaves the m32.
    It does make a big difference if people don't use cash.
    The top bit is a departure board so is high up so can be seen from further away.

  8. Why do these apps require access to photos, media and files on my phone? Some require access to contacts. Rhetorical question really as the quest for personal data by companies continues.

  9. Bob
    If you mean the mobile ticketing apps, it is (a) to disable the screenshot function to prevent copies of mobile tickets being made [though they are usually animated for this reason] and (b) so the ticket can be stored on your phone.
    Scanning of a QR code or smartcard should generate data for the operator, that can identify where passengers get on (but not off). That should be useful for service and fare planning, rather than any innate desire to capture personal data.