Tuesday 4 July 2017

It's All On Line Episode 235

Technology Tries Too Hard?
Comment and discussion about the "huge complexity" of web search engines following on from the Matford Park and Ride (service GRN) blogs prompts fbb to ask, "Are web designers trying too hard; trying to be too clever?"

The first manifestation of the First Bus App was laughably unusable in many aspects with unfathomable and unidentifiable lists of services plus a whole raft of incomprehensible maps. fbb was "not Appy" (chortle chortle).

The new App has ditched most of this, just leaving a journey planner ...
... which, unlike that on the Stagecoach App, shows all operators with First Bus journeys highlighted.

There is a map option ...
... which shows the nearest stops to the set location. Tap a stop and the next few departures are listed.
Tap on a journey and you get a list of every stop.
Tap on any stop and that takes you to a departure list for that stop.

fbb is not sure how you might use this option; possibly only of use if you intend to break your journey and continue on the same route? Perhaps fbb is missing something.

But there is no way of obtaining a real timetable, even of the chosen journey.

There is a tap for "tickets", which tells you nothing apart from the possible available of m-tickets.
But to make electronic ticketing really useful, you do need something like Oyster, or simple wave and pay on you bank card.

The only other link is to "information", but ...
 ...the First Bus link just cycles back to a very general nationwide page on the web site.

But the journey planner seems to work well; it draws its data from Traveline, but sometimes fails to tell you what you need to know. The 899 as shown in the screenshot above is a schooldays bus, but nowhere are you told.
Perhaps it automatically vanishes once the school holidays start?

But it is good that First have reverted to something simple, uncluttered and usable. But (off goes fbb on his boring and repetitive beef once again) why cannot we have "proper" timetables?

Useful Or Not?
On a similar theme, the team behind the GoTimetable App and web timetable system have been taking a look at the usefulness of GPS.

But first, a health warning. Most of us know that our snazzy mobile phones have a link to GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) data - the phone knows where it is unless "location" is turned off. But inside your home or office, the phone connects via wifi and thus uses wifi's version of a GPS locator. It is not the same system and can give less accurate results.

The other problem is that the only way you can experience this GPS-ing of a timetable App is to go to the area of operation, travel around and see it happening.

Here is a short journey in Seaton with screenshots taken as the bus proceeds through the town. fbb boards at Harepath Road Industrial Estate.
The user has selected their start point from the "three dots" menus, likewise their arrival point. Harepath Road Industrial Estate has acquired a green bar; the health centre is some distance away.
Note how the bars change colour. Next we arrive at the Tramway stop.
The Tramway and Marine Place stops are close together, so both show green.
A quick trundle along Harbour Road and the GPS has delivered fbb to the nearest stop to fbb mansions.
You may have spotted that fbb was not actually on the bus - he was following by car.

When the techie team sent this to fbb for testing, the old man was unsure of whether it would be any use. As instructed he set off on a round trip; Seaton, Exeter, Axminster, Seaton. Your author had never previously ridden service 4 between Exeter and Axminster and the benefits of the changing colours was immediately obvious.

As the bus trundled along, bars turned to green in just the right amount of time for ringing the bell for next stop. It was very impressive and would offer great comfort and confidence to a passenger who might be unsure of here they were or where they wanted to be.

A great confidence builder, clever technically but oh so simple to understand. And, of course, it is totally independent of the actual time of the bus, however late (or early) it might be.

GPS plotting will be added to GoTimetable Sheffield very soon.

Still Not Appy!
At the risk f further arousing the ire of correspondent Ben, fbb still has to know that the name of the bus to Matford is GRN ...
... and there is no mention of the other end of the through route, namely Sowton Park and Ride. The journey planner, favoured by many users of technology, still has no idea ...
... that you might want a bus to Matford. And there are no timetables.

For the record, the GoTimetable sites use a pathetically simple text search to delve into all the files on the particular system. For Android phone users the App is downloaded and needs no signal once in place. This means that searches are instant. Her for the word "cross".
It currently only looks for single words, but its speed and the way it displays the response means that an iterative search is easy peasy. It can be a very very tiny tad slower in the on-line versions, but still very effective. But it is simple.

 Next catch-up blag : Wednesday 5th July 


  1. You wrote,
    >>But there is no way of obtaining a real timetable, even of the chosen journey.<<

    Can the modern Jack or Jill actually read one?
    on a local circular recently the driver was told, an old timetable was in the frame, and the bus should be leaving xx:11 & xx:43, so why was it departing now, 15:55? He was reading arrival times, one of the 2 busues/hour visited a supermarket taking the extra minutes.

    Perhaps he should be excused: he was not local and from Wales.

  2. Andrew Kleissner4 July 2017 at 08:26

    Oi! May I say that, here in Cardiff, both CardiffBus and New Adventure Travel provide excelent information. Online there are complete routemaps with live times at each stop and also complete timetables for each route; NAT don't provide live times but they do have full timetables. CardiffBus have all their printed timetables available and well-displayed at all public libraries; NAT don't but do have them on buses. And the City Council has excellent information at stops, both printed and digital (although the live times seem to be a bit iffy just now and older buses aren't included). So Welsh people - at least in the capital - can read timetables!

  3. With Exeters P&R I always go to the Devon CC website.

    This not only gives Red and Green but also PR3 operated by Dartline for the Hospital and PR6 to County Hall with limited journeys.

  4. When I taught younger kiddies in a prep school I always did English lessons on reading and understanding a bus timetable and obtained a set of 30 books for my Maths colleague to use as part of his curriculum. Both worked well although the efforts of another teacher to get ALL her class to come to school by bus were profoundly unsuccessful.

    Because the industry has mostly abandoned printed timetable books, such useful education is no doubt impossible.

    And, anyway, it is all on line!

  5. Perhaps on line timetables are really meant for railways. (groan) Traveline is very variable in it's offerings too. Although living in the SW region, I prefer what SE & Anglia produces.