Monday 3 July 2017

What's The Matter With Matford? (2)

Before fbb gets going, a response to a comment on yesterday's blog.
Ben has a point, of course, but fbb does not use websites "in a perverse way". If a web site advertises a timetable search there is nothing perverse about expecting to find timetables on it. And that is the point. The search on Stagecoach and Traveline should find timetables and the results of that search are shown below.

Ben may have used a different process, but fbb expects to be able to find what it says on the tin. That is sensible, logical and often simply doesn't work.

Read on ...

Searching the Stagecoach web site (remembering to reset the location!) for Exeter's Park and Ride services drew a blank.
Replacing the "and" with an ampersand was equally fruitless ...
... revealing Stagecoach's routes in Plymouth. Having set the "location" to Exeter this is daft and yet another example of web site technologists failing to understand what people need, replacing it with irrelevant clutter delivered by wonky search routines.

Try "Green"?
But when you know the secret code (fbb had to resort to a Stageoach's journey planner, brave investigator that he is), it all becomes blindingly obvious. You have to search for GRN, idiot! How stupid of the average passenger not to know that.
Before an eager passenger rushes off to find South Street, just bear in mind that the GRN Park and Ride has been merged with the blue (BLU?) Park and Ride and, although is still travels along South Street, you can catch it anywhere along the main City Centre (High Street) bus route.

So that particular heading is totally wrong.

Is Traveline's timetable search any better?

Park and/& Ride are no help ...
... neither is grn or even GRN. It doesn't find the Plymouth routs either!
But GREEN now delivers the goods.
With the help of a timetable, a route map and Stagecoach' City Centre information ...
... fbb realised that he could totter from the bus station along a little footpath to Cheeke Street ...
... outside the former but demolished Stagecoach garage and there board his "GRN" for Matford at stop 22.
The frequency is reduced to every 15 minutes and some GRNs are still blue ...
... the former colour of the Sowton Park and Ride, the two services now being linked cross-city. The green buses are now a different, duller and far less distinctive green.
And were every 12 minutes between the former 10 and the present 15.

In passing, fbb wondered how you might find the Sowton Park and Ride timetable ...
... again having to resort to the JP. But he refused at the first fence! BLU or Blue don't work either!

But the ride on GREEN was something special and, fortunately, your author was able o get a front seat on the way back, so it's the home ward ride that is here recorded.

Most of the route is via the industrial estates ...
... but then this happened:-
Surely we will turn left here - motor vehicles are banned straight ahead; and why are there traffic lights?
They control a narrow track between high fences, just wide enough for one bus - and with a little space to allow these lads who had ignored the red light, ti squeeze safely past. fbb was not sure who was the most surprised!

But there is more to come.
A sharp right hand corner, a low bridge under the main West Country railway line and a second set of traffic lights and boy was it tight!
After a sharp, left the terror is over and normality returns.

What about the Model Railway Exhibition, you may ask? It was a very good show indeed with plenty of interest even to non-modellers. There will be a report in due course, but for the time being, two highlights:-

One was a layout from the late 1950s and early 60s. It used Triang grey track, trains from up to sixty years ago and buildings from the same period.

Then there was lunch. Steak and kidney pie, peas and carrots plus a mugga ...
... all for £6.50. Well the "normal" customers are hard-nosed farmers out to buy or sell their animals; they would not tolerate anything less than "proper grub".

But if you think that bus rides are about gorgeous scenery, take the Matford Green - it's different, it's special and well worth a trip.

One final technological nonsense. fbb returned home on First's X52 from Exeter to Lyme Regis or Bridport. It left the bus station on time at 1415 ...
... with not a mention on Devon County's swish, expensive and often useless new system!

 Next as yet unwritten blog : Tuesday 4th July 


  1. Calm down, dear . . . . it's only a website!

    fbb and his Sunday correspondents all have good points to make, but sometimes we do lose sight of the main user . . . . Joe Public. Joe will always starts with a general search (Google or similar) and then refine from there. Search engines are fiendishly complex (as RC169 points out), and Google has the best brains and decades of experience behind it.
    Sometimes Google to start and then investigate further for the detail is a good way to proceed.
    I always check the results if possible (pace Wikipedia . . . . good to get the basics, but never rely on it for 100% accuracy).
    I'm also bound to say that I've not yet had the Stagecoach website catch me out, but sometimes changing location doesn't always work at the first attempt , but will always at the second go.

  2. Hmm... I too had a thought this blog would develop as Ben and RC169 thought it would yesterday.

    As was suggested in the Sunday comments, this is often the case of a limited amount of information being willfully used incorrectly to "prove" some point about how journey planners are awful, usually expressing a lack of knowledge both as to how such systems work and how the average user, who has little or no idea who runs their buses, would look for times.

    Firstly, the Stagecoach website appears to be arranged by operating company, as it always was, hence why Plymouth services show when Exeter is selected. The locales merely allow some items to be localised (e.g. Plymouth residents may not be given a Service Update regarding a road closure in Exeter, if the programmer has selected it accordingly, but wide-ranging service changes can be made available to all within the area). What FBB has failed to point out is that GRN and RED are the next results upon clicking "see more results" from his search. Numbers are always sorted prior to letters in such lists, as they are on Traveline, and I daresay his own allegedly wonderful App. I actually got a result by searching for nothing more than "Park" or "Gr" - you just have to be patient for the search box to come up. I could even be as pedantic as FBB and ask why he searched for "and" when the service map and vehicles show an ampersand.

    Secondly, as other commenters have suggested, I find it highly unlikely anyone looking for a Park & Ride service in Exeter would use either the Stagecoach website or Traveline straight away, but simply start from Google. Even if not, what is wrong, for example, in searching by location. I found the green timetable thanks to a search for "Exter, Matfrod"! I find it hard to believe anyone would go to such lengths before resorting to a more generic search.

    Finally, Park & Ride users are frequently not bus users, but car drivers, and the services are designed with little more in mind than keeping cars out of the city. Only in recent times with budgetary difficulties has it become vogue to link them to a "normal" service requirement. The timetable is often little more than a list of departures (Maidstone, Canterbury, Cambridge, Oxford, for example) from the relevant termini (or suitable city centre stop). In some cases, they may be frequent enough (Oxford, I believe, does this) that a bus is always, or nearly always on stand at the P&R site. This is also often reflected in higher fares from the City Centre than the P&R site.

    FBB is correct: there is nothing perverse with expecting to find timetables in a timetable search. What is perverse is willfully choosing an illogical manner in which to search for it, expecting it to be the first result that comes up come what may (including some pedantic over-precision that no normal user would use), and screaming that it "doesn't work" because it doesn't work the way you want it to.

  3. Falcon never used to come up unless you knew to type FLCN.

  4. To be fair to FBB (and the ordinary members of the public who are aware of individual bus operators), it is perfectly logical to look for a timetable on a specific operator's site if one knows that the said operator operates the service in question.

    What is illogical is that the Exeter Park and Ride services are not numbered in a normal way, and are only identified on the official publicity (e.g. leaflets - departure times only!) by their respective locations in any case.

    Consequently, a timetable search for those routes is most likely to use search terms such as (in this case) "Park and Ride" or "Matford".

    "Matford" of course works perfectly well, but there is no excuse for "Park" or "Park & Ride" to list Plymouth services first (or at all) if the location is set to "Exeter", and to hide the Exeter services beyond a "See more results" link, which even I missed the first time around, most likely because I was put off by seeing lots of Plymouth routes instead of the Exeter ones in the first place.

    However, to be fair to most people who will just search on Google (possibly for something obvious like "bus seaton to matford centre"), those results came up a with a route map, followed by a list of next journeys (albeit with some interesting changing points in Exeter), followed by the relevant timetables on the independent Bus Times website. The Stagecoach website was listed a distant 5th and 6th, with two rather unhelpful pages: "No services updates" and "About Stagecoach South West", which seems to beg the question of what exactly did they get with all the time and money that they spend on their shiny new website?