Friday 31 July 2015

And That Other Journey Planner [3]

You'll Enjoy This, First Bus - Not a Lot!
See Yesterday's blog (read again).

Searching First Bus' journey planner [JP] for a journey from Watford Junction (Station) to Old Fort Road Shoreham Beach, we are offered THREE Watford Junctions.
fbb tried the first with a journey departure time of 1630; roughly when No 3 son tends to travel.
Back at the speed of a senior snail on a zimmer frame came the huge selection of answers ...
... with no journey at or after 1630.
Intrigued, fbb clicked on the answer panel (although nowhere are we offered this option) to view a detailed breakdown of the journey.

We begin by taking  724 to Heathrow ...
... then a couple of National Express coach routes to Brighton:-
Nowhere are we told that these services are book-ahead only. The grindingly tedious trip ends with the 700 to from  Brighton to Shoreham and the 19 to "The Beach".
Total journey time, four hours and 24 minutes. Might it not have been quicker by train? According to First Bus, there are no trains!

Undaunted, fbb tried the second Watford Junction, now with added "Dc".
Exactly the same silly answers appear but now with different departure and arrival times and an extra 2 minutes of journey time. Potty.

Attempt three uses "Watford Junction Railway Station" which is, as its name suggests, is the Bus Station. No matter; it gives the same results again.
Again, where are the trains?
Answer, First has pre-selected only "Walk" and "Bus" (which includes journeys that are not buses, e.g. by National Express). So, although here is no explanation to guide the frustrated traveller, we need to click on "All". Here we go again.

Oh no we don't.

[From] Sorry, we can't find that place,
did you type it in correctly?
Alternatively try the postcode.
If you need help contact us.

But the JP now cannot find Watford Junction Railway Station i.e. Bus Station. But the other Watford Junction does, AT LAST, give a rail answer.
The nearest to a 1630 departure offered is 0739. Potty and double potty.
It us not at all clear why you have to change at Haywards Heath as there are always through trains. But First's inherited creation then excels itself with the bus from Shoreham by Sea station to Old Fort Road on "The Beach".
What a spiffing wheeze. Catch a bus from (near) Shoreham Station to Old Fort Road; get off the 19 and catch bus 19 to Harbour Way then walk to Old Fort Road.

Potty and treble potty.

Or you could ask Traveline South-east.
Seemples. And this is he route used by No 3 son.

fbb wonders whether the First Bus techie people realise what drivel they promulgate. But then they probably drive flashy cars (if they are managers) or creaky bicycles (if they are computer nerds). From the evidence of their own JP, they certainly don't travel by public transport.

Answers from First Bus, please? Fat chance.

 Next tunnel  blog : Saturday 1st August 

Thursday 30 July 2015

And That Other Journey Planner [2]

No 3 son occasionally travels from Watford (Herts) to an address in Shoreham Beach.
So lets let First't national all-operators journey planner (JP) have a go at that enquiry. Oh yes, let's!
Remember, however, that this fantastic new service is only available to the privileged residents of Aberdeen, Manchester and Bristol.



[To] Sorry, we can't find that place,
did you type it in correctly?
Alternatively try the postcode.
If you need help contact us.

Deciphering the message in red suggests that the JP doesn't know where Shoreham Beach is; which is odd, because if you type in an address ...
... the bits and bytes start chuntering quite happily.

Interestingly the new "national" Traveline is equally baffled by the above "simple" (?) enquiry ...
... whereas good old regional Traveline Southeast finds an answer straight away.

fbb has long since been suspicious of Traveline's ability to knit together its weird data definitions into something that works. First Bus have simply paid a lot of money for crap poor quality information.

Here it comes again; fbb's first law of JPs:-

You can either be comprehensive OR comprehensible but NEVER both.

Write this out 500 times, First, and hand it in before break.

But even with the address on Shoreham Beach, we can't go yet. Because we have to choose our Watford. And that is fun!
A check with No 3 son reveals that we need Watford Juncion (a railway station, mayhap?) because he works just round the corner. We have a choice of three.
Instantly we are helped by those clearly differentiated pretty little icons for "bus" and "train".
See, it is SO easy to tell what they are - ideally designed for folk with weak eyesight. 

Clear as iconic mud. What's wrong with "bus" and "train"? Nah! That would be too simple for today's techies.

Because fbb knows (why do they call 'im big-'ead?) he can identify the top two as the two completely separate (?) stations called Watford Junction, one serving the main lines ...
... and one for the LMS DC electric trains (as indicated by Dc and obviously everybody knows that!).
Clearly either Traveline or First Bus data managers live in a mysterious world of abject unreality. There is (and always was?) only one Watford Junction station.

The third Watford Junction Railway Station is, as its title suggests, NOT the railway station but the adjoining BUS station served by buses and not trains. Here is a bus for the benefit of the appropriate data managers.
Look! No rails.

We still don't know for certain which Watford Junction to include in our journey planner; but again, because fbb knows, he can guess correctly. 

Possibly. But the old man's brain hurts; so that will have to wait until tomorrow.
Bone, Bash and Boats
This is a T-Bone:-
And This is a T-Bone:-
And this looks as if it might be!
But it wasn't - they missed.

Boat photo sent by Alan, our Isle of Wight correspondent. Thanks!
 Next technology blog : Friday 31st July 

Wednesday 29 July 2015

And That Other Journey Planner [1]

Better Answers than Stagecoach
And It Isn't Traveline - Or Is It?

Journey planner
Please enter your starting point and destination below
to get started.
Entering "Seaton" pulls up an extensive list ...
Which is encouraging. (And apologies for the pink bits; the web page highlights where the mouse pointer is - even when you don't want to point.)

The icons are unexplained but, the majority seem to have a symbol with means "bus service" with a small number with something which MIGHT mean bus and train** and just one with a little walking man. So there you ave to walk! A neat idea which would be better if it were explained and of the icons were clearer.

Stagecoach insisted on a 27 minute walk to Beer ...
... but from today's investigated Journey Planner [JP] we get something quite different. 
The 899 is Auntie Frances' Axe Valley service 899, and the X53 is, of course, First Bus.

So who provide this all-operators JP?
Steps back in amazement! The national all-operators (including rail) JP is on the new-look First Bus web sites, currently in operation in Aberdeen, Manchester and Bristol.

For Sheffield, for example, First shows its own journeys on service 120 (Crimicar Lane - Hallamshire Hospital City - Crystal Peaks) but also the overlapping Stagecoach 120 (Hallamshire Hospital - City - Crystal Paks - Halfway)
The above snippet is for an enquiry for a journey from the Hospital to Barsley which uses the train service.

The "front end" is credited on the enquiry page:-

Nominatim Search Courtesy of MapQuest

MapQuest is an American free online web mapping service owned by AOL. The company was founded in 1967 as Cartographic Services, a division of R.R. Donnelley & Sons in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1969. When it became an independent company in 1994, it was renamed GeoSystems Global Corporation. MapQuest was acquired in 2000 by America Online, Inc. Company headquarters are in Denver, Colorado with a second office in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

But it looks as if the data is pure Traveline; and unthinkingly not edited at that. Here is part of the above Sheffield enquiry.

Number 120 Bus Departs from Glossop Road
Adj Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Western Bank
at 10:21

Well, is it Glossop Road or Western Bank? The Hallamshire Hospital is nowhere near Western Bank but the traavline data mis-managers have to have a "locality", so have invented one which is actually nothing more than a road name.
Hospital, bottom left
Western Bank (labelled A57), top right 

Number 120 Bus Arrives at Charles Street Cs3 (Cs3),
Arundel Gate, O/S Sainsburys, Sheffield Centre

By the same lack of logic Charles Street Cs3 (Cs3), Arundel Gate, O/S Sainsburys in NOT, in a month of Sundays "Sheffield Centre". Here is the distinctive facade of Sainsburys with a 120 departing. 
If you must have a "locality", this is Moorhead but "Arundel Gate Charles Street" makes sense without the clutter. Clicking on a journey leg does bring up a map (click thereupon for a better size) ...
... which helps with "Sheffield Centre to Sheffield" with the word "Station" confusingly absent from the latter; but you have to click experimentally - it doesn't tell you.

** If it does mean "bus and train", fbb would love to find out about the train service from Seaton which last ran in 1966!!
Ditto Seaton Kent and Seaton Cumbria? Perhaps fbb has misunderstood the distinctive icon?

More excitement from First tomorrow.
Transport of the Future?
An interetsing development In Cambridge
A group of "experts" has designed a rocket engine for a typical punt on the River Cam. It is powered by nitrous oxide (appropriately known as "laughing gas" and Chelsea Buns.
And it isn't even April 1st.
 Next JP blog : Thursday 30th July 

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Exciting (?) News from Stagecoach [2]

 due to the exigences of the situation, 
  this blog was originally planned for  
              last Thursday             

A Journey Non-Planner?
fbb's work on the Great Britain Bus Timetable and the ultimately doomed xephos has taught him one thing; Traveline is a poor tool indeed. Its poor quality was compunded by he governments Transport (Now) Defunct. But Traveline has made its data available to third parties "in order to allow a wider range of journey planning services" to develop. Is this the data source for the Stagecoach offering?

So let's give the technology the once-over.

Try Seaton to Torquay.
So far so good.
Hmmm? But keep going.
A total journey time of 2 hours and 28 minutes, not much longer than the typical bus to Axminster and train journey.

But ... "St Leonards, Livery Dole"?

Livery Dole in Exeter, Devon, is an ancient triangular site between what is today Heavitree Road and Magdalen Road, in the eastern suburbs of Exeter. It was most notoriously used as a place for executions, and has contained an almshouse and chapel since 1591.
The chapel is still here and the newer old alnshouses contribute successfully to today's traffic problems by making Heavitree Road narrow.
And here is the St Leonards Livery Dole stop, just a few yards past the narrow bit.
Now your aged blogger has taken some stick over recent days, quite rightly, over several bludners. (Heeley Retail Park, BR built Great Western Autocoaches etc.) BUT he thinks he on solid ground here by stating that the shelter above in almost certainly, probably, possibly, hopefully, NOT Exeter Bus Station!

But the clever journey planner knows that the X46 leaves the bus station via Heavitree Road and gives an interchange at a suitable suburban stop. Very clever, technically correct, but ...
... it doesn't tell you to cross the road. How are you supposed to know?
It's a fair way to run if you do manage to spot your X46 approaching. But journey planners and their designers, even Stagecoach Exeter staff, have probably never made the interchange. Technology can be too clever.

Could be better..

Let's try Seaton to Axminster.
Auntie Frances Searle's 885 didn't seem as slow as that when fbb last travelled, more like 27 minutes. So what is the Stagecoach journey planner up to?
Answer : It only shows plans for Stagecoach buses! You  are taken a very long way round indeed ...
. because it doesn't know about the 885 -  unlike some JPs.
 The above plan is also from Seaton to Torquay.

And if Stagecoach doesn't run a bus to a destination, even by a circuitous route, it either makes you walk ...
... e.g. 27 minutes from Seaton to Beer; OR ...

Need to plan a journey or find a timetable?
You can select either your from and to locations
and search for results or
enter the route detail to find your timetable.

We're sorry but we have been unable
to match your requirements. Please try again.

... gives up completely. That's because Stagecoach doesn't run to Lyme Regis, so ...

... tough cheese from Uncle Brian.

And a raspberry of substantial proportions from an average customer who doesn't keep an up-to-date list of all Stagecoach's bus services (nationally!) concealed about his or her person. 

Will it be better on the new web site? Only three days to go! Coming Soon.


Tomorrow we take a look at the above example from one of the "some" journey planners which do know about fbb's Axe Valley local route 885 - and it isn't Traveline.

 Next journey planner blog : Wednesday 29th July