Tuesday 24 June 2014

Ghastly Google Gigo (2)

Care in the Community Required?
fbb pressed the wrong button YET AGAIN and published Episode 3 (briefly) yesterday; before today's Episode 2. The root cause is trying to rush Blogging in amongst other stuff. Doubtless he requires a new algorithm; a visit to the GP may be needed!!?? 
Service 30 mega-Diversion
See yesterday's blog "addition" (read again). Thanks Buses of Somerset for this update. Apparently the contractors for the road works originally said that they would allow buses through; then. at the last minute, said they wouldn't. TYPICAL! Buses of Somerset have had to reschedule vehicles and staff at the very last minute. Tweets had appeared on the home page by 0900.
Also a "travel alert" has appeared on the home page as suggested by a certain blogger. So somebody "on high" may well be reading fbb's pearls of wisdom.

Someset County has defined the diversion route:-
From the northern end of the closure proceed in a north easterly direction along the A358 to the Southfields Roundabout. At the Southfields Roundabout take the fourth exit and continue in a westerly direction along the A303 to the junction with the A30. Turn left and proceed in south easterly and north easterly directions along the A30 to the junction with the A358. Turn right [probably means "left" - fbb] and proceed in a north easterly direction along the A358 to the southern end of the closure, and vice versa.
It is a very long way round!
23 miles for 300 yards of road works.
THIS really is Part 2.

We are on Google Maps; we have asked for Seaton; we have enlarged the map to show detail and we discover that by clicking on the little blue bus / train icons we get information ...
... about buses from the station. This time the icon does look a bit like as US or European single deck front end; and significantly better than the routemaster which used to adorn some systems. Now what happens when we click on, say, route 20.
A similar message appears at every one of fbb's local stops. Why?

Clicking on "firstgroup.com" reveals ...
... a link to the correct First web site, but not to any of the timetables; in this case just the X53.

Clicking for stagecoach is even less helpful because you get ...
... whichever bit of their web site you were looking at previously. Services 20 and 52A in Northampton are less than helpful in Seaton, Devon.

"Traveline" links to the south west site.
The press releases announcing the new services available on Google Maps implied that every bus service was now in the database; so surely a link could be provided to each service timetable. Clearly nothing as useful as that materialises in fbb's corner of East Devon.

So, if it were working properly what should happen if you click on a route number. Things are a little better up the road in Axminster, so we will go to Axminster Station (that is the railway station not the bus "station" aka bus stop!)

It was No 3 son, who lives at Shoreham-by-Sea, who suggested that fbb should look into this "exciting new on-line facility" because he was struggling with one of his local stops. He was enquiring at tea time on Sunday 15th June.
His first question. When is the first bus to Brighton? There would appear to be Stagecoach 700s at 1713 and 1714 and, if the lad missed those two, 700s at 1731 and 1734. This panel doesn't tell you they are Stagecoach. Of course, he might prefer to use Brighton and Hove service 2 at 1710 or 1737 which also go via Brighton on their way to Rottingdean.

What about the late buses. Two N700s at 2357 to Brighton. Remember this is Sunday evening and, sadly, there is no 2357 bus to Brighton on a Sunday. Monday to Saturday, yes; Sunday, no.

Equally sadly, you will not get two buses at 0057, two at 0157 etc, to Worthing. But these are times for buses to Brighton NOT Worthing. Although there isn't even one bus at 0057 on Sundays.

You are confused. So was No 3 son who tries to understand. He has sold his car and uses public transport regularly so he's no amateur. But, without a shadow of doubt, there is something very wrong with Google's data management for service 700. Stagecoach does not run two service 700s at the same time. Could it be (surely not?) that Google's sophisticated data import routines (?) are importing two lots of times, one from Sussex and one from Hampshire?

It gets worse! Leaving aside buses going nowhere (19 to Shoreham-by-Sea!), look at departures for the 025 and 026. These are National Express coach departures and, well, the services must be really, really busy. FOUR departures on he 025 at 0440, and FOUR departures on the 026 at 0820. The little square spider in front of the times means "departures next morning" i.e. Monday.

With suspicions aroused, we return to Axminster where we have clicked on the single bus icon outside the station ...
... having noticed the obvious difference between a train and a bus icon (yes, they are different!).
Clicking on the route numbers brings up the expected departures list.
Analysis of this result is revealing, but in a negative sort of way. We are at Axminster railway station and, if we are old and decrepit or if we have luggage, we may desire the luxury of a bus up into the town; just two stops but useful nevertheless. 4, 4A, 30 and X31 offer nothing; its is only Auntie Frances' Axe Valley service 885 which will get us there, and it has left 15 minutes before our train arrived.

In fact service 30 and X31 will take us to Axminster town centre.

In even more fact, services 4 and the occasional 4A will take us to Axminster but not at the times shown.

The 4 group, the 30 and the 885 run via the centre to the "Millwey Rise" estate which doesn't get a mention on the 30 because it isn't a terminus; is listed as "Axminster" on the 885; but Stagecoach's "terminus" is ignored ...
... with no mention at all of service 4 (and 4A). Heal's Field is revealed as being a stop on the Millwey Rise estate, bereft of any service 4.

fbb thinks he knows why. Here is an extract from the Stagecoach timetable for the service 4 ...
... which clearly explains why Google gets it wrong (?). Need a clue?
There! it's easy now. For the record, the Mail On Line enthused about "real time"; but it isn't.
The data in the table is repeated as a departure list, but only with scheduled times. Maybe some areas have a real time feed?

So, the evidence from Seaton, Axminster and Shoreham-by-Sea is that the data in the Google Maps memory banks is of poor quality.

"It's an amazing shop window for our operators' services," said Julie Williams, chief executive of Traveline, a partnership of Great Britain's transport operators and local authorities. "The presentation and way Google has pulled together the data looks exceptional; we've not seen anything like that before."


Whilst there may be a more complete (ha, jolly ha) set of data in the new-look Google Maps, all the super smashing facilities revealed in the recent press releases do not manifest themselves. See "Ghastly Google Gigo (1)" (read again)

That's because we are looking in the wrong place!
Postcard from Kent
Alan, our Northampton correspondent, is enjoying a few days' break from the wearysome routine of retirement; he is in the Garden of England. But, hard working hack that he is, he sends back a few Kentish snippets. Here he muses over Sir Brian's diversification into on-bus catering.
"Single to Canterbury and a round of egg and cress, please." Alan wonders whether 13 varieties of the sandwich deal are a bit confusing and might delay departures from busy stops.

Chortle, chortle.

Here's the 13 (etc) for real - to Deal (via Sandwich).

 Next bus blog : Wednesday 25th June 

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