Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Buses For Sheffield (BFS) OR BFFS? (1)

Buses Farce For Sheffield?
Routine day-by-day blog readers may have picked up fbb's abject despair at the "Buses for Sheffield" sticking plaster attempted rebrand of the Sheffield Bus Partnership fiasco. Remember?
Actually a "We're Reducing Services" exercise!

Sticking plaster had been affixed to some buses and fallen off, but fbb is advised that the problem has been resolved. Some adverts (some internally illuminated) for "Pick'n'Mix" ...
... i.e. the standard multi-operator tickets that have been available for a few years, have appeared, plus normal maps and a few timetables with the BfS logo. But nothing new, nothing positive.

But what we have been on the edge of our seats to see, enjoy and maybe even use, is the promised "Underground-style" frequent services diagram showing useful interchanges. These have begun to appear at city centre stops.
fbb is not impressed.

Correspondent Bob (one of two folk who kindly sent fbb a better picture) seems to think it is "pretty good", so divided opinions as usual.

So let's go back to first principles.

When the great Harry Beck came up with his revolutionary diagram ...
... he was trying to solve a specific problem. As the underground network expanded further into the suburbs, the potential size of a legible geographic map was becoming untenable. If you include the far reaches, the centre would be a small illegible blob! (click on the map below for a slightly enlarged view)
He worked out that if the network was simple, and if the frequencies were high, a passenger did not needs accurate geography BUT a good guide to interchanges was essential.

Can these principles be usefully applied to Sheffield buses? Certainly there is a reasonable limit (the city boundary) to define the scope.
The map advertises buses every 15 minutes or less. Really?

81 and 82 run every 20 minutes each.
97 and 98 ditto.
Both 7 and 8/8a are every 20 for 9 months of the year, but every 30 minutes each at the moment, and every 30 on Saturdays all year round.
Ditto 83 and 83a.
We might excuse the map for the 20/20 split of the 3 and 3a at its northern extremity ...
... but surely we should know something that defines each leg; Sandstone Road for the 3a and Newman Road for the 3?

But, without a doubt, the map's advertised "recipe" is somewhat misleading. fbb would suggest thinner lines for the thinned-out ends. Cutting out the "split ends" completely would leave a very empty map!

And what do those arrows (above on the 3/3a) mean? There are some on the 7/8/8a as well!

In Sheffield, the Beck philosophy fails on frequency. Even the wilds of Epping has a Central Line departure of between 8 and 9 trains and hour. Watford is one of the weakest headways with an off-peak train only every 15 minutes.

And, in case you wondered, fbb is currently working on his own version of an "Underground-style" map for Sheffield, extracts from which will feature later. But the big problem is what to include and what to leave out.

fbb will look at interchanges tomorrow.

One of Beck's golden rules was to keep diagonals at the same angle. He experimented with more right angles ...
... and even attempted a 60 degree slope.
But he was always consistent.
Not so for Sheffield. There is no real reason for these deviations.

Likewise Beck tried for consistency with his corners.
The whole Sheffield production has an amateurish feel about it, as if it has been cobbled together on a laptop by someone who does not really know where the buses go.

But already fbb can imagine a cluster of anonymice sharpening their venom glands and suggesting that such objections are picky and do not materially detract from the usefulness of this diagram.

That might be right if the map were not riddled factual errors.

So please wait until after tomorrow's blog before the come-backs!

The planned railway blog has been postponed for a couple of days.

On A More Lighthearted Note
From the recent Nottingham rally!
Thanks, Roy, for the picture.

All letter keys are now working fine, but the space bar has given up completely! A new keyboard will be fitted by No 3 son at the end of the month. Various techniques are being used, e.g. a combination of THREE keyboards, to overcome the problem, but reduced blogs are still likely until further notice.

 Next "Underground" map blog : Wednesday 6th June 


  1. The success, or otherwise, of Buses of Sheffield is surely whether it increases knowledge of what is available to the general population of the area, and not whether it helps those who already have good or excellent knowledge?

    Available research keeps coming back saying that people don't understand buses, that they would use them if they were simpler to understand. If that means Stagecoach and First buses both prominently carrying the same logo, whatever we might think of its application, so be it. If it means showing all services on a diagram, which doesn't actually follow design guidelines, so be it. If it provides endless material for a blogger, whilst also informing those for whom it is intended, so be it.

    If, however, at the end of whatever timescale Buses of Sheffield has set on the campaign it hasn't increased ridership, then questions should be asked. In the meantime I'd say that it I next to impossible for us with knowledge to judge the effect on those with none; we're simply starting from such a different point.

  2. Andrew Kleissner5 June 2018 at 14:05

    I think you're right, and that's why (for instance) we have departure times displayed at bus stops rather than full timetables (although I hope these are available "somewhere" - probably online in preference to at an enquiry office miles away).

    To take an interesting point. Our local hospital in conjunction with the bus company runs a P&R service. It's very convenient, especially as parking at the hosp[ital is limited. From today, the parking regime has become more stringent while the bus has become free. It's a very simple service to understand - once every 20 minutes each way, non-stop (it may soon go to a 10-minute frequency). But despite what we would consider to be an easily accessible online timetable, one local resident still asked about the times on the community Facebook page.

  3. And that is the issue about communication. Loud, varied media and often.