Friday 19 December 2014

Frequency Frustrations : France and Filton

When's the Next Bus?

fbb is always going on (and on and on) about the lack of Bus timetables at stops. Because you can buy a confuser program to do it for you, many bus operators stick up a departure list (some even call then "timetables"!!) and leave the passenger to guess when thy might arrive.

In London, bus timetables are officially banned. Completely. They don't exist**. On the most recent Transport for London web site you get even less information. Once you could download a copy of the full departure list as printed and posted at bus stops. Now you have a bigger display (for those on the tablets) and less information.
And, of course, you have to calculate your arrival time in your head (or on the calculator on your tablet). This is dead easy at a bus stop, in a queue in the pouring rain. It also means that any chance of planning a connection is impossible. You are forced to start earlier and allow extra time.

The new-look Buses of Somerset has no timetables displayed at Taunton bus station ...
... so you are well stuffed if the enquiry office is closed.

Obviously, if the bus service is frequent and short, or if you are a regular used of the route, a departure list is fine. If the service is less frequent, again a regular traveller will soon get used to a tidy repeat pattern.

fbb is currently beginning the planning process for his big boys outing to Paris next May. Lo and behold, there are no timetables on the RATP web site for any city bus, tram or metro route.
This is the offering for bus 92.
Note the impossibility of calculating every 13 or 14 minutes. Here is a simpler (ha ha!) panel for bus 20.
Will my bus come in 6 minutes? Or 20 minutes? Or somewhere in between?
And a similar system for one of Paris' superb tram services.
Assuming you get he right bit of the day, the right day of the week, and the right section of the line (the horizontal bands) you are forced to make allowances for "between every 14 and every 18 minutes". A lovely quick and cheap tram service slows you down because you don't know when the next one will arrive. Counterproductive!

But occasionally, the timetable defies any sense of passenger friendliness however it is presented.
Our Bristol correspondent informs us of some changes to the Wessex Star (whoops, sorry, that should, of course, be Wessexstar.) timetables, services to the University of the West of England. Mainly, these are reductions in frequency, possibly as a result of the success of new First Bus services. For example, the Monday to Friday 13 ...
... in reduced from every 10 to every 12.
But, look at the 13 on Sundays : an INCREASED frequency ...
... from every 30 minutes to every 25 minutes. Crazy or what?

Likewise the Saturday service 19 is REDUCED from a memorable every 20 minutes ...
... to a profoundly forgettable every 25. But don't try looking in the Wessexstar website for this second example ...
... 'cos the "new timetable" link doesn't work!

Frequencies do funny things to passengers. fbb remembers an anecdote (perhaps apocryphal) told of a town service on the Isle of Wight. To save half a bus in the schedules, it was reduced from half hourly to every forty minutes. As a result of further declining passenger numbers it was then reduced further to every hour. Passenger numbers promptly increased because Vectensians could now remember when the bus would come.

For whatever reason, every 25 minutes is a daft frequency and is attractive to nobody.

** Actually they do. Here is one for the 108 as shown "officially" above.
But this man ...

... Robert Munster has them all (here)
   Ch 19   
  from Luke  
But does it really matter? The Nativity story is all well and good but is it relevant?

These words were written down about 2000 years ago and they predicted doom and disaster for the people.

If you only knew today what is needed for peace! But now you cannot see it! The time will come when your enemies will surround you with barricades, blockade you, and close in on you from every side. They will completely destroy you and the people within your walls; not a single stone will they leave in its place, because you did not recognize the time when God came to save you!

 In AD70, about 35 years after these words were spoken, "not a single stone was left in place" in Jerusalem. The words, of course, were spoken by Jesus ...
... just a few days before he allowed his life to be taken. His words seem strangely relevant today.

In a nutshell, the people had ignored Christmas.
 Next bus blog : Saturday 20th December 


  1. In an interesting counterpoint to FBBs preference for full timetables at bus stops (a stance that I personally agree with wholeheartedly), my employers are currently involved in a Community Bus Partnership on a rural route in our area and one of the first things raised by the community representatives at the initial meeting was that the full timetables that we currently put up for the roadside are replaced with a departure time list. This is on a infrequent rural service with just 4 departures a day almost all of which are different from each other in some way and so every departure would require some form of note on it. It seems that no matter how sensible we think we are not even all our passengers are going to agree with us.

  2. Unfortunately we can all be guilty of asking for what suits us (as, perhaps, regular passengers) forgetting that public transport should be available to all - and that includes occasional users and newcomers to the area. Departure lists are of no help whatsoever to the latter groups. A printed timetable through the door, with map, is so much better. The public, as an amorphous body, has never been very good at considering wider objectives!

  3. Sadly, I fear that the assumption of most readers of this blog that proper timetables are better isn't always shared by the public at large- as Dwarfer's comments suggest. Past research (can't remember when and by whom) has shown that an alarmingly high proportion of the population find timetables hard to read- and the results of South Yorkshire PTE's consultation, featured in this blog earlier- show that a significant number of punters don't think that keeping traditional paper alive isn't terribly important.I fear that many punters, when confronted with a paper timetable, feel the same incomprehension as I do when faced with a set of IKEA instructions! See-