04 September 2017

Information at your fingertips - Part 1

It used to be difficult to get timetable information. You had to reply on being able to get printed booklets and leaflets and more often than not they were never available. There were reasonable full timetables stuck on some more important bus stops which were quite handy but otherwise you had to try and phone the bus company who seemed to take ages to answer but sometimes would then post you timetables. (Western National was always pretty good at this if you asked them)

laughing_thumb3Of course its all a lot better now. Now we have the Internet. A massive resource which all bus companies and local authorities, big and small have taken advantage of to supply bang up to date information on all their bus services along with plenty of notice of any coming timetable changes

The amount of time I have spent trying to put my regular Devon & Cornwall Transit post together and all the additional information which goes into PT Bus Services which aims to be the full service history for bus services in Devon & Cornwall has shown me that statement is far from the truth, and if anything, its actually getting worse…
The big three - Go Ahead (Plymouth Citybus), Stagecoach (Stagecoach Devon) and First (First Kernow) have all had updates to their web sites making them more corporate along the way which has left us all with a worse local experience than we ever had before. The aim seems to be set everything up to look good on mobile phones but in the process loose all the good stuff that was available on proper PCs. New all singing mobile apps which offer so much but deliver so little seem to be the way things are now. National web sites which local companies seem to struggle to keep up to date.
In the latest round of service changes taking place this weekend I have actually been praising Stagecoach as they were the first ones to get their changes online in plenty of time. I have had plenty of emails from them reminding me that my buses will change this weekend. So far so good, especially as its rare for me to praise anything about Stagecoach Online.
However all is not brilliant here and there are inconsistences in how these changes were published.
If when you log in to Stagecoach and set your location to Exeter  you will see the service updates section in the middle of the page and if you click the Service Updates menu you go to the page with all the details on. Great - its working as you would expect it to.

SC Exeter
so we click the > Read More link to see whats changed in Exeter.
and you get this
A totally unnecessary page with yet another link to follow
But then you do get a page of all the changes which are well detailed and explained. There are also links to downloadable PDF files with full timetables. It would be nice to have links to the online page so you can view the timetable from here rather than downloading a pdf though. There is no download link for service 4 even though there is an extra journey added to the timetable. You can search via the timetable menu so enter 4 into the Download bus timetable box (even though I don't want to download it)
4results_thumb1Confusingly there are 4 lines for the 4 but they all click through to the online timetable which is what I wanted.. although at the moment the timetable is dated April 2016! Maybe this will work correctly on Monday morning when the new timetable starts but technically the change is from Sunday 3rd so the correct one should be current
There arer of course other annoyances such as when you search for GREEN park & Ride timetable
You have to search for GRN to get that - very poor programming designed for the database rather than the user. For Falcon you need to know its FLCN.
OK, so know we know how all of this works then the Plymouth changes should be nice and easy as they use the same system?
So no service updates for Plymouth? that's funny, I know there are.
Well if you leave the home page up long enough you will see the scrolling message box which will eventually give you a big notice
so click in this and you get the page with all the details. At least this was available in plenty of time. There are links to most of the new timetables - again only as downloaded PDFs, but once again- not all of them. The new 36 is mentioned but no links for it at all.
If you search via the timetable link you do get a timetable for this - albeit a pretty scruffy page rather than the nice Stagecoach designs. Also there is a lovely timetable note on the timetable
Prd1 Only operates within limited dates (dates not known) -
why not just say term times only - even if the operator don't know the dates - the passengers will - this comment just makes the company look silly (a minor point I know!)
Also - there are no decent maps or even route descriptions for most routes at all.
So, there are quite a few things that SC get right - and it was possible to see all the changes in plenty of time but its all a bit inconsistent and still to many unnecessary steps designed around the database rather than the passenger, and the lack of decent maps is a shame for a company the size of Stagecoach.
Maybe I am being picky but you are trying to sell your services to passengers so at least try and make it easy to find the services you run
We will look at the others over the coming week or so…


  1. Stagecoach have also shipped down and branded some of the 371** e200 from exeter for the 2/2a

  2. Anyone who works for Stagecoach (any part of Stagecoach!) will tell you that their IT department is the most incompetent and hated section of the Group.

    Everything has to be done by their own IT personnel, although occasionally a favoured minion will be allowed to upload harmless files to the public site (additional minions, usually some of the less intelligent managers, are allowed to upload to the increasingly useless Intranet).

    Problem is that Stagecoach Group have devolved into a bunch of accountants only interested in cutting costs and filling jobs with people who will do what they're told, so half the Group's managers are incompetent Yes-men or Yes-women; Stagecoach Group today are just like FirstGroup were fifteen or twenty years ago, with all that implies.

    No, I don't work for any part of Stagecoach today; yes, I used to work for them; no, I wasn't sacked by them (unlike many, many others) but yes, I'm incredibly pleased I decided to get out!

  3. The 4 doesn't change till October. I live on a new estate in Exeter and had Travel Devon staff blitz the estate yesterday with travel plan packs including 6 months free bus travel which is great BUT the pack promoting the buses all contained the pre September 3 maps and data and so is completely wrong. I pointed this out to the guy presenting it to me and he was unaware of the changes and said it didn't matter as "people could find out info on line". This is true but why bother printing old info and it hardly attracts new custom when you turn up to a bus stop and find your bus doesn't exist the same day you are told about it!

  4. I see 19322 has an advert for plymouth college and being used on 36

  5. Graham I do love your posts like this even going back a few years. (Any chance of tagging them all together to see any form of "progress" (or lack of / the opposite!)

    You make perfectly valid points, all people want tis to find out what time their bus is, why make their lives so difficult! As you say problem is big national websites which relies on the user inputting a set location to actually get what they want. Yes you get one website across the group but is it actually a benefit of its so hard to get what you wat?


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