Saturday 18 September 2010

Sheffield Sojourn - Episode 5

So what's wrong with spiders, eh? [blog pubished early for "operational reasons".]

A deep sigh, a sinking of the heart and a gritting of teeth for the horrors to come.   South Yorkshire Travel has got some "spider" maps!  The spread of this craze is down to the efforts of Transport for London to explain a hugely complicated bus network in a simple manner.  But, sadly, it can't be done.   You can't air-brush out complexity by drawing a simple diagram because someone will be misled.   SYT claims it's "maps" are in "London Underground" style.

When Harry Beck invented the iconic (and world renowned) Underground map, he realised that geographical accuracy was less important if you were travelling in the bowels of the earth.  Also, when most lines had very frequent services, interchanges were more important than accurate directions and distances.   His map has always produced a few "sillies" [you can SEE Bayswater station from Queensway, no need to change at Notting Hill Gate] but overall it does its job well.

With buses, it's not so easy.   With varied frequencies (some as low as every 30 minutes) and widely differing journey times at peak and off-peak times, only the brave would trust a spider map for making anything other than simple short trips - even in London.   And London's maps are usually fairly "accurate"!

But - oh dear....

Compare an extract of SYTs Rotherham "spider" with what actually happens on the ground:-

fbb's version is on the right.

Points to note:-

1. all three services stop at Conisbrough Doncaster Road, Warmsworth and Balby and NOT as shown by SYT.

2. the main bus service to Conanby is the X78 : the 220 and 221 are supplementary and penetrate further into Conanby's housing estate (Chambers Avenue).

3. The SYT "map" implies a non-stop run from Thrybergh to Conanby - poor Hooton Roberts, wiped off the face of the earth.

And then there's Maltby:-

fbb's version is the lower one.

Points to note:

1. For most of their route services 1 and 2 are identical - they run round the "loop" at Maltby in opposite directions, both calling at Braithwell Road and High Street - better known locally as The Queens Hotel. SYT thinks they follow different routes!

2. The service 10 (straightforward according to SYT) also does a "one way" loop at Maltby, calling first at Tickhill Road (traditional terminus name "Quilter Road") and returning to The Queens by way of Muglet Lane (Duke Avenue).

You could go on (and on and on and on.....

and on!)

Please, SYT, bus operators, local councils et al; beware of the dreaded "spider".   Spray it with something noxious, stamp it beneath the foot, expunge it from existence.   And if you do some sort of opinion survey ["do you like our lovely spider maps or would you prefer to guess where the bus goes?"] in favour of the beast - the DO try very hard, no really, really hard to GET IT RIGHT.   Maybe go for a ride on the buses and see where they go?   Now that WOULD be fun!

And if you are fed up with maps, here is a nice 60s shot of a Rotherham Corporation AEC Bridgemaster on the predecessor of the X78; simmering gently in Pond Street Bus Station, and about to leave for Doncaster via Conanby. Hey-ho! Those were the days!   By the by, the bus station has been rebuilt and the block in the background (Rail House) has been demolished and is now a multi-storey car park.   Only the Sheffield College (now Hallam University) block on the right remains. 

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