Friday, 16 March 2018

Morecambe Map Mysteries (3)

Designing The Diagram
Whilst being well aware of the dangers of creating a diagram rather than a geographically "accurate" map, fbb has decided to "have a go" with the network of routes in Lancaster, Morecambe and Heysham.

Readers may remember that, by way of preparation, pages from a street map were glued together, routes were added and a 5 by 7 grid emphasised in dayglo pink.
The first stage, then, is to create a 5 by 7 grid in a confuser program. The technical term is a "vector graphics" piece of software which, in simple terms, draws lines and shapes and colours them.

In 1991 Computer Concepts Ltd introduced their ArtWorks program to an expectant and marvelling world.
It was designed for the RISC OS Archimedes range of confusers, themselves descended from the trusty old BBC Model B. There are many good vector graphics programs that are far more sophisticated (and far more expensive), but as fbb's computer abilities are antediluvian and ArtWorks is very simple to understand and use, your aged blogger can just about cope.

After the collapse of the RISC OS world, the product was taken over and further developed by MW Software.

The MW is Martin W├╝rthner, an urbane and bow-tied German national ...
... and a familiar sight at some of the more geeky RISC OS enthusiast shows. For the record, although the BBC range of computers and its successors ultimately failed commercially, RISC OS software powers the world's mobile phones! So the boys done good in the end. (RISC OS = Reduced Instruction Set Chip Operating System)

Back to the diagram. Next fbb draws the raw lines for each route using the grid squares as a guide.
As this progresses, it will become clear whether a "diagram" is going to work; or whether it will create too many misleading compromises.

More sophisticated programs allow you to create accurate 45 degree slopes, but fbb uses one of these ...
... a simple frame that can be laid over the lines which can then be jiggled. Nothing looks worse that an ostensibly 45 degree slope that isn't!
Next the lines are coloured and thickened. This is where the "skill" (?) plays a part. As far as possible the aim of this diagram is to help bus passengers find out where their bus is going; so it needs to be as simple as possible.

We want to avoid lines crossing other lines except where absolutely necessary; and we need to consider how much information we give. For example, at Bare (as in Bare Lane Station) Stagecoach has services 3, 3A and 4 which follow similar routes between Morecambe and Lancaster, similar but not the same.
fbb has chosen to use the same colour for the 3 and 4 as the services are advertised together by Stagecoach.
Ideally the colour should be purple to match Stagecoach's choice - but the Stagecoach map was not available at the start of fbb's research project. Colours are very easy to change, so no sweat! 3A is an evenings and Sundays variant covering parts of the 4 which does not run at those times.

Somehow, even in a diagram, sharp corners never look right. The least successful of the London Underground maps had sharp corners - and it was NOT designed by Harry Beck!
Again, expensive computer stuff can round off corners automatically; but fbb needs a bit of help. Either of two little pale blue  fbb-created squares can be placed over the sharp corner ...
... guiding fbb's stubby finger to add extra "points" to the lines. It  is simple, then, to get the clever electronics to round them off.
It is quite slow and a tad tedious, but the results are well worth it.
Lancastrians will spot that the current route numbers for the duration of the Greyhound Bridge closure (U2, U3) are not used and 4 (U4) has yet to be added; but progress is being made. This can be compared with Stagecoach's geographical map of the same area ...
Service 9 is operated by Kirby Lonsdale Coaches and NOT Stagecoach.
In contrast with Stagecoach, fbb has added the "time points" as shown in the Lancashire on-line timetables; but, as you might expect, some Stagecoach time points are different. Extra useful road names can be added to help the passenger find their way around.

This process is very subjective, but one of the mantras of public transport information comes into play.
Or, to put it another way, stuff too much information into your diagram or map and you confuse more users that you help.

The other important consideration is the need for good local knowledge. So far, fbb has worked from on-line information. Are "time point" names the most helpful? What about those Sunday variations? Should "oddities" for school or works be included or ignored? How do you show the town/city centre stops, so far cunningly hidden by fbb behind blank rectangles?

And what if your source information is just plain wrong?

Remember service 33, a circular via Bare?
Note "WHITE LUND Homfray Aveanue" ...
... but local correspondent Jim tells fbb that the 33 does not go that way any more.

Well done Lancashire! And it is wrong on Traveline as well ...
... and thus wrong on all the journey planners.

Well done Traveline!

So, ideally, fbb would like to visit the area and ride on as many bus routes as possible. That way, not only will mistakes become obvious, but stop names, road names and locality names can all be what the travelling public should expect. The important bits will become very obvious.

But Lancaster is a long (and expensive) way from Seaton!

fbb's exploratory and experimental work continues.

A few more mappy bits will be included as part of our usual weekend mixture.

 Next mixed bag blog : Saturday 17th March 

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