Tuesday 19 April 2011

A Tale of Two Cities

First, Portsmouth; now Southampton.
West Quay shopping, Southampton

Soon after fbb's horror at poor public transport information in Pompey (read again), the old codger was off again; this time to Portsmouth's neighbour and sporting rival, Southampton.    Most foot passengers would use the Red Jet fast catamaran service from West Cowes, but fbb, eschewing speed in favour of a full English cooked breakfast, took the car ferry from East Cowes.
The crossing was fine, and fbb, replete from a substantial repast, had an hour or so so "kill" before his onward journey.

Information in Southammpton, then?   As one would expect, there was nothing about bus services posted on the ferry itself, nothing to encourage foot passengers to catch the free shuttle bus from ferry terminal to city centre and the station.   But in the opulent terminal building, designed (?) to look like a heap of builders' "Portakabins" ... 
... there is a clear sign to "buses", and, joy of joys, in an information "carousel", there was some Public Transport information.

There were leaflets for "Unilink" services,
originally run independently by the University of Southampton but now by BlueStar (Go-Ahead group) under contract. Sadly, none of these calls at the stop indicated in the terminal and visible (just!) to the left of the above snap.  They stop just round the corner on Platform Road.
Not totally clear even with a map, but it's better than nothing.   Also in the "carousel" is the official route map of all buses in Southampton, produced by the City Council.
The diagram is miles away from being geographically accurate, with very angular lines in some weird colours, but it is better than Portmouth's nothing.  Sadly NO copies of First's superb local timetable booklet, of which more in a later blog.  [Yes! you did read correctly, First does produce a superb timetable booklet!]

Next, fbb  took the free bus into town and alighted at West Quay (there's no quay now although there was once; it's a shopping centre, see above) and walked briskly to Above Bar (it's not a bar, it's a street name) to watch the world go by.
Each shelter here has huge display panels, intact and unvandalised; with oodles of room for good informative publicity, maps, fares information etc. etc.   But, yet again, same old - same old, we are only offered lists of departures. Of which more in a later blog.  There was also a dot matrix "next bus" display,
 dot matrix display from London - not Southampton 

which, in the 30 minutes of fbb's observations, was gazed upon by not one single passenger!   Had any gazed, they MIGHT have noticed that buses arrived and departed quite frequently and the times on-screen changed equally often but there was little synergy between the two. Bearing in mind we are just one stop from the City termini ... !   And BlueStar's 1109 to Millbrook Estate never did materialise.

But there is hope yet!   And the hero of the day is Phil Stockley, obergruppenführer of Velvet Bus, a small independent operator from nearby Eastleigh.
Because, in one of the extensive publicity frames, fbb excitedly espied ... 
 click on the image (above) for a readable version! 
... a real, informative, up-to-date and useful timetable - with times, and destinations.  Hooray!  Much rejoicing!  Dancing in the streets of Southampton!   fbb could actually find out what time his S2 would arrive in Shirley.    And the bus arrived at the time indicated on the screen.   Just one niggle: better with a bit if enlargement, Phil.

How can this be achieved technologically?   Well, it's rather complicated, but here are the basics:-
Using the above hardware, "download" the appropriate "clip" from your timetable leaflet (sorry, hard copy database), then ...
... "copy and paste" the "clip" onto the backing card in the display frame at the bus stop.  It works for maps and fares information as well.   Isn't technology wonderful?

Southampton?   Better by far than Portsmouth; but still way short of getting that elusive fbb gold star.

next blog : due on Wednesday April 20th    

No comments:

Post a Comment