Monday, 30 July 2018

Technology - Phooey or Phantastic!

First The Good News
By sometime Friday 27th July (time unknown) Travel South Yorkshire (TSY) had "found" Stagecoach journeys on route 65 between Buxton and Sheffield.
Previously TSY only advertised the two High Peak journeys, much to the delight of that company's management and the chagrin of Uncle Brian's boys!
What the new and correct version does NOT tell you is that the two 65s have different routes between Great Hucklow and Buxton. Don't get on a High Peak Bus if you want to go to Litton; avoid Stagecoach if your desire is to visit Waterswallows.

And Now The Not-so-good News ...

... here in central Sh*ff**ld.
An important stop on Charter Row, used by shoppers from The Moor ...
... also has accurate information now; up to a point.
There is, as usual in Sheffield, no timetable on display ANYWHERE in the city, even at the Interchange where there is plenty of display space. There is no map, ditto. This is important for the 65 as there is no guide to the different routes as above.

Poor.

But what is even poorer, as snapped by Sheffield newshound Roy, is that ...
... the 65 did not appear on the electronic display.
A good house point to Stagecoach for, at short notice, getting some branding on their buses for the 65 ...
... but a bad point for the destination displays.
The bus is going to Buxton, not Tidewell. Please do not comment that this is to comply with DaFT's "advice" on "split registrations" (to circumvent silly anomalies in the drivers' hours regulations.) It is utterly wrong to wantonly risk confusing the customer to satisfy some perceived piece of Pharisaic legalism.

If it really is "advice", then ignore it! Such is the privilege of listening to "advice". If it is a legal requirement to deceive the passengers - then still ignore it! The customer should always come first.

And Now The Really Bad News

When computers began to arrive in the hands of the general public, we were all told that they would change our lives, give us all more leisure, save money and make for more efficient home management.

The very wise schoolteacher put in charge of the embryo Computing Department at the school where fbb toiled offered a very different point of view.

"Computers will not save time," he said, "they will not save money; they will not be more helpful and they will not save on labour costs - but they will do the boring and repetitive things without making mistakes."

"If," he added prophetically, " they are correctly and sensibly programed." That was in 1973!

And this is 2018 and these are the last three journeys from Buxton on Stagecoach's route 65.
The 1535 from Market Place goes a long-long way round to Millers Dale to carry schoolkids on schooldays only.
On Saturdays and non-schooldays it leaves at 1606 and follows the normal Stagecoach 65 route.

The 1736 is a positioning journey to get the bus back to the depot at Chesterfield. At Tideswell it becomes a 66 (otherwise Hulley's route) but, cleverly, offers a path back to Sheffield by changing on to an X17 in Chesterfield. Note "c" tells us this and confirms that through fares are available.

Clever scheduling and helpful to the potential passenger.
Now let's ask Traveline's web site for a journey from Buxton to Sheffield after 1700.
Back pops the reply ...
... with no mention of the 1736 opportunity. The 1735 and 1755 options involve trains and the 1801 runs you via Bakewell.

Buxton to Chesterfield?
No 1736!
But the 1807 is fun!! You catch a bus to Macclesfield and then ...
... after two hours and 42 minutes you are in Chesterfield. Enjoy the ride - enjoy the fare. £25.30.

But it gets worse! Buxton to Sheffield after 1500:-
Hooray; a sensible answer!
But is it? The 1534 is that schooldays only route 65a. The enquiry was made yesterday for a journey today and Derbyshire schools broke up on 20th July. Whoops!
Just in case, fbb rang Traveline yesterday afternoon and asked for the last bus from Buxton to Sheffield for today. Yep, you guessed it; he was told the 1534 service 65a.

If you hang about for half an hour, the non schooldays version will turn up.

And, yet again, no mention of the 1736 via Chesterfield.

Thought for Stagecoach management - would Tesco be happy to hand their publicity over to a local authority managed system?

For a final fling, try Stagecoach's own journey planner.
Only two options? Really?

Complete gibberish. But, for the thrill, we will look at the 1606 departure, which should be the through journey to Sheffield running on non schooldays.

Travel time
04 hrs 27 mins

16:06 Depart from Buxton, Market Place (Stop D)
bus 65 towards Tideswell
16:32 Arrive at Tideswell, Fountain Square

18:02 Depart from Tideswell, Fountain Square
bus 66 towards Chesterfield
18:40 Arrive at Brookside, Brookfield Community School

18:51 Depart from Brookside, Brookfield Community School
bus 91 towards Chesterfield
19:01 Arrive at Chesterfield, Cavendish Street (Stop T1)

19:30 Depart from Chesterfield, Cavendish Street (Stop T1)
bus 50 towards Sheffield Centre
20:33 Arrive at Sheffield Centre, Sheffield Interchange

More gibberish than gibberish.

Why?

The main reason for this DaFTness is that "advice" from DaFT, the Deprattment Not For Transport. Some journey planners, operated by confuser, not the useful human brain, cannot cope with the DaFT's helpful "advice".

Thanks to Sheffield newshound Roy for the route 8
65 stops and pictures outside Atkinson's store. And here is a better one of the branded 65 on Ecclesall Road.


 Next Jerusalem blog : Tuesday 31st July 

19 comments:

  1. More Traveline bashing when in this instance the fault more than likely lies in the quality of the data supplied by the operator.

    My guess would be that the holiday dates are missing and it has been supplied as two services rather than one consolidated timetable and guaranteed connections not defined. All in the operators control.

    Just wait until the effects of bus open data regs take effect. I guess you have read the consultation and seen what is proposed?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Except operators don't supply data to Traveline, that is done by the local authorities. It may be that as Stagecoach use Electronic Registrations then the council has simply plugged that data into the Traveline database given the time constraints (as I understand it there must be holiday dates in the system for the output to come out, they may be wrong but that would be unusual for all the other uses driven by that), in which case the operator couldn't provide a consolidated timetable as it can't be submitted as a registration as such. We have generally avoided these issues with our services but we still use old fashioned printed postal registrations (requiring the council to re-enter everything in their system to send to Traveline) and I always try to ensure a full timetable is included in the envelope to the councils to show how it will work in practice so they can put it into Traveline as a through service which most seem to do.

      As you say this is just going to get worse with the open data program as we are going to end up with electronic data not designed for the purpose being used by 3rd parties who neither understand the data format and the legal requirements affecting how it is set up or how the industry works and are completely separate from the bus companies with no contacts to correct errors (Traveline is bad enough as it is). Proponents claim that it is in the data companies interests to ensure their information is correct but we know from experience that customers don't blame the data holder for the issues when dealing with transport companies they blame the operator (if they found an old timetable in Google caches it is our fault for not changing Google) so I fear operators will be blamed for data errors they haven't directly supplied from organisations they have never heard of.

      Delete
    2. The Stagecoach website manages to plan through journeys on split registrations. As does Google (see X5 Oxford to Cambridge).

      This is done by head office "telling" the system in the background if a bus arrives at the termination stop of Service A1 it then becomes the first stop of A2 and so on. I am not aware of how Traveline lets you do this. This is not just a problem with split registrations though. it's also an issue where buses interwork and you are allowed to cross a terminus point.

      Delete
    3. There is a default time in Traveline to make a connection - I think it is 5 minutes. However, where the bus works through it is possible to reduce that time. I don't know exactly how its done, but I have asked our Traveline officer to make such connections.

      Delete
  2. Who, exactly, is going to complain if an operator ignores DafT's advice and shows correct destination information? Do they have armies of staff monitoring bus destination displays and cross-checking them against registrations? No, thought not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The DVSA who will prosecute you for drivers hours breaches (driving too long as domestic hours aren't as tight as Euro hours) & driving without a tachograph (and they will go into that detail we once got warned over our operation as the monitor thought the destination blinds were spelt wrong so didn't count them as showing the correct destination - possibly they were technically correct but the local staff disputed the spelling though used maps about 50 years old to do so). Different operators (& more importantly their legally responsible Transport Managers) will take a different view on how far they wish to deviate from the DfT guidance (Stagecoach Yorkshire appear to be taking a very conservative stance, many other operators including other Stagecoach ones are a bit more flexible on the destination displays). The problem is none of this is legally binding and until there is an actual prosecution over it (as happened in the Northumbria case over the 685 many years ago under the old rules where there was no indication anywhere publicly of the split nature & so the route was deemed to be a single one for the full length and so should have been worked under the tighter EU rules) then no one knows who is right.

      Delete
  3. At my depot it was standard practise for drivers to change the blinds for the next journey as they unloaded the majority of passengers at the city centre stop. This meant that they ran quarter of a mile to the bus station (passing no other stops on the way) with the wrong destination.
    Mr Monitor came along and stood twixt stop and station. He recorded a large number of journeys which failed to operate and a matching number of unregistered journeys on other routes passing him.
    My Managing Director got called in to explain these irregularities to the TC. The local staff were tasked with providing an answer for the MD, and all of us recognised the car working patterns and knew instantly what was happening. OK the public wouldn't, the Monitor didn't, and a Notice to Staff was issued with immediate effect ending the practice.
    Not exactly the same as the example above, but they do notice such things.

    ReplyDelete
  4. "The main reason for this DaFTness is that "advice" from DaFT, the Deprattment Not For Transport"

    What does that even mean? Seriously, its just nonsense.

    Traveline isn't Local Authority managed. Must do better with the facts there.

    Furthermore when do you expect people to come round to your way of thinking by ditching computers and get back to paper and pencils? Maybe HSBC could get back to writing customer account details in a little book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed, and the constant use of DaFT instead of DfT and confuser rather than computer is neither funny nor clever.

      Delete
    2. That's the problem with this blog. The point gets lost in tortuous puns and volleys of abuse aimed at pretty much everyone.

      Delete
  5. Replies
    1. Looks like somebody has hit a nerve.

      Its odd that somebody who sets up a blog purely to criticise others can't seem to take any criticism himself.

      Delete
    2. "Purely to criticise"? Really? You can't have read the same blogs as me. FBB gives credit where credit is due.

      Delete
  6. Oh the irony!

    FBB regularly contends that bus companies don't really want passengers as they don't do publicity as he wishes, yet now he orders us to stop reading his blog (maybe he wants to withdraw it due to declining umbers)!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really... You have the choice to stop reading the blog if you don't like it, just as a passenger has the choice to stop using a bus service if it doesn't meet their needs.

      Delete
  7. You have a choice whether to read is all he was saying. FBB may not get everything right but he takes time out to write this blog and I for one thoroughly appreciate it. If you don't like don't read, simple. I'm sure you don't watch a tv show that annoys you this much so why read other than to pick fault. Sad. Keep up the good work FBB

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  8. Does that 65 say City and Meadowhall on departure from Tideswell?? How would I know it meant Sheffield?

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  9. If you use the national Traveline site, www.traveline.info you will find it is unable to support term codes and will give both the schoolday and non schoolday options in the same enquiry. At our regional site www.travelinesw.com we manage this using school calendars, but an enquiry for the same journey also came up with the error which seems to suggest it is not in the traveline Yorkshire data either which is why that table of inset dates looks to include all the normal holidays.
    Traveline south west can do journey planning for the whole country but it is dependant on the quality of the data received from the other regions.
    Through journeys (guaranteed connections) are easy to do, at South West we simply define the appropriate stop, then specify the service and arrival time(s) and link it to a departure service and time(s) either single journeys or across the day, then define the type of connection - same service number, different service number, through bus, change of bus etc and it all works fine. It is necessary to check these when a timetable changes to ensure they remain valid but the underlying software is intelligent enough manage simple timetable changes automatically.
    As we are yet to see what the data standards are to be for open data, whether it is Transxchange 2.1 or a newer TransXchange that supports more features, or the new Netex schema that supports a lot more functions we have yet to see. Whatever is chosen it will involve a data repository from whch app developers or downstream users can draw data but it will still need further processing to make it public friendly.
    With regard to getting information on real time displays, it all depends on the system supplier and their timescales for the receipt, import and uploading of data. As I manage the data for the Poole area system, and we have a very good working relationship with our supplier, I can update the system within a couple of hours if there's an urgent change. For the Dorset system I have to send the data to a different supplier and they require 10 working days notice but can usually get that down to three days if I can warn them it's coming.
    As with all these things, the data requires management at the various stages. TransXchange files from operators save the time and remove the possibility of errors compared to manually inputting the data for the times stops and route. All the fringe bits necessary for traveline or RTI still have to be done on top, and if that means having different versions of the service file for different functiond then that's what you have to do. FBB's teacher was correct.
    Ken Traveline Dorset

    ReplyDelete
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