Not even a mention of the fuel
Stick some electric motors in please. Then people may be able to visit Oxford Circus without dropping dead.
Move over, Blakey! Silicon Roundabout wants to "disrupt the bus". A shuttle operated by London-based app flinger Citymapper will trundle around the centre of the capital, demonstrating how incumbent bus operators are stuck in the Stone Age. From tomorrow, it's going to be smart. "We're reinventing the entire software stack for …
The idea that Bus companies are inefficient makes some sense. But not in the routing.
You need a vehicle that will carry as many passengers as possible. So they're going to be big. But because they're big, they can only go on main roads, serving popular areas. The moment you put a smaller bus in to action, capacity is halved on the same route. Go smaller still, so it enables you to use smaller side roads is a good idea, but you've got 1/4 the capacity serving places that aren't very popular.
It would be better to just develop an app that will tell you - accurately - how long your bus is, how busy it is, and how busy your proposed stop is going to be.
I'd also like to point out this was written at 9:38am on 9th May 2017. So Citymapper, if you like the idea, give me an email. Don't be stealing my idea, or I'll sue you. I know a good lawyer.
Except they don't need to be big all the time. At rush hour, yes. In the middle of the day, not so much. One of the dispiriting things about travelling in central London is seeing all the near-empty buses clogging the roads.
So ... expandable buses. Some sort of concertina section, but not like the bendy buses - something that can be fixed in an expanded or contracted configuration. Or inflatable modules, maybe. I'm only half joking here: I'm sure someone ingenious could come up with something that might work.
If the problem is busses too big for the smaller routes, but too small for peak demand, how about someone invents a double-decker minibus?
Or a bus-trailer?
Same problem on trains around here. Trains every 20 mintues, fine, but they alternate 4-car and 2-car Sprinter sets (type 150? not sure, you'll have to ask my trainspotting offspring) which means half-empty trains off-peak and people hanging out of the windows (almost) at peak times. The problem is that if you put all 4-car sets on at peak times, you end up with a lot of under-utilised trains unless you can park some of them up during the day, splitting the others into 2-car sets for off-peak services.
Except they don't need to be big all the time. At rush hour, yes. In the middle of the day, not so much
Which is why railways have this exciting new concept called "carriages". Busy time of day? Add one (or more) carriages. Less busy? Use fewer carriages - which has the bonus of costing the train company less.
It's so revolutionary and disruptive!
Apart from that trains now are made up of multiple-unit sets, so you'd have to add 2, 3 or 4 carriages or more to a train in order for it to function. Each carriage in a set may have a particular function, such as being a driving unit, a compressor car, or a power-pickup car or a driving unit or a non-driving unit.
Bonus fact... did you know that many trains, being operated as they are by a train operating company but using electricity from the grid supplied via Network Rail, have on on-board electricity meter which broadcasts the time of day, reporting number, train/car serial number, electricity meter reading and GPS fix etc to fixed wayside transceivers? Thus an electricity bill can be generated for each individual pick-up car / train and the TOC can be charged accurately.
Adding or removing carriages from a train is comparatively time-consuming; it's far quicker to join (or separate) a number of EMUs or DMUs to approximately the capacity required. Even if just one additional carriage would have been enough, adding a two-unit EMU/DMU tends to work out favourably despite the excess capacity because for those you don't need to have a switcher loco available. There's also the fact that conventional carriages are significantly heavier per seat than EMU/DMUs: any carriage can be the first behind the loco, with possibly a dozen or more hanging behind it and requiring them to be sufficiently robust to cope with that, where EMU/DMU sets have traction distributed along the set.
Prudent rail operators will own a mix of sets varying in length, so that they can flexibly cover the required demand. As an example, one leg of my commute has 3x3 DMUs during peak, 2x2 or 2+3 average, and just a single 2 at low times. The other leg varies from a single 4 EMU to 3x4 or 2x6 depending on the time
"You need a vehicle that will carry as many passengers as possible"
You need a vehicle which will carry the number of passengers you have at peak times divided by the frequency of your service.
Usually anywhere outside of peak hour these are wildly inefficient as they're nearly empty, but you don't want your fleet idled as there are significant standing costs even when the cost of the driver is taken out.
Larger vehicles inflict significant road damage (a 65 passenger bus does about 500 times the damage of 65 cars). Electric vehicles have lower running costs but standing costs are still high. Automated driving would at least allow more optimal routing, etc.
It's all a massive juggling operation to find what works best.
Actually, people have been doing this for a while. I know because I've been working on a project for the last couple of years to introduce a new bus company.
Many places already have a system for proactively managing the service, making use of geo-location; and many of those have made the data available so that end users can have apps to benefit from that data.
A key problem in our case was the data. It was demonstrated on numerous occasions that much of the reference data was inaccurate, and it took almost 6 months before we were finally able get that corrected. In addition, those involved in creating the master data on the routes, timings, schedules, driver shifts etc. were less than diligent in creating that data. Even though this had been proven on a regular basis to be causing problems, they simply ignored the advice, and usually ended up blaming the system, when in fact it was working exactly as it should.
But without question, the most significant reason for failure was down to the managers. They did not have the relevant business or technical knowledge, and refused to accept any advice that was contrary to their own beliefs. As a result, although the service was effective, it's clear that there were many ways in which it could have been significantly improved.
It was obvious that there were opportunities to extend the service; and those responsible for managing the city were keen to see this happen as they could see the potential benefits. But the company managers were unwilling to even consider any form of collaboration with external personnel.
All too often, they refused to use the actual data that was being produced, in favour of manipulated spreadsheets that showed them what they wanted to see, even if it bore no resemblance to reality. And that is what will most likely prevent City Mapper from achieving the full benefits of their work, almost certainly to the detriment of the travelling public.
If busses in London didn't stop every 200yds. The stops seem to be so close together these days that Tfl don't seem to want people to walk even 200yds. Lots of people I travelled with last Saturday were getting on for just one stop. Shakes head in amazement.
If stops are going to be that close together then how about some limited stop services on popular routes? Then it wouldn't take 90mins to get from say Warren St to Finsbury Park Stn when back in the days when I were a student it too 45 mins max. Less stops in those days.
As for the small busses, I hope that they are using low floor versions and not those horrid climb up three steps that you find in American Airport (shuttles). These are impossible for people with pushchairs/prams etc.
As for Battery Operation in Central London, the sooner that is mandated the better.
"...there are people for whom being able to get a bus to go 200 yards down the road is the difference between making that journal or not, i.e the elderly and disabled."
So give those who genuinely need it a pass that gives them nearly door-to-door service. Something electronic that lets them flag a passing bus for pickup at a non-standard location, or stop a bus they're on to be let off where they need to be. Place the normal stops at least a half mile apart.
Electronic pass for bus diverts is a beautiful idea but it could really fuck up some journeys (due to quirks of road networks in England) and cause some people to completely miss their stops to pick somebody else I up. I can't see that going down at all well and wouldn't really be an improvement over the current system.
Add to that the fact that someone would have to regulate who was eligible for a pass which would undoubtedly produce some weird (and unfair) edge cases.
Finally, what would happen if I twisted my ankle at the weekend? How would get a pass in time for Monday morning to avoid having to hobble potentially half a mile to the nearest stop.
Unfortunately I think it's unworkable in the real world, would cause too much grief across the board and probably be a worse service for everyone.
It could work as a separate jitney service though. Regular routes for the big buses with stops further apart but then an app to tell the jitney service where you are and have it ping you back with the closest few jitney stops, which direction they're headed in, and an approximate ETA (both to the stop and the destination). It does need a proper full standard bus service as well though or it'll be fucking chaos but could work really well for less popular routes and as you noted those who can't easily make it to the standard bus stops.
I'm reminded of the time I took the overnight coach from Glasgow into Victoria, and was meeting someone at King's Cross at 11am. My coach got me in at around 6AM on a saturday morning in July, not a cloud in the air, so I figured I'd just walk it.
It was a really nice walk, the traffic hadn't got going yet, and the sights were better than anything I'd get from the inside of a tunnel.
The people I was meeting looked at me like I had two heads when we moved on and they found I hadn't bought a tube ticket yet.
Does it go where I actually want?
Does it have a free seat next to someone that doesn't stink of piss, booze or both?
Is it rammed for of chavs gobbing off?
Is there a nutter on there waving a knife around?
Do I have to listen to someone elses music?
Do I have to listen to someone elses phone conversation?
Do you get the impression I hate bus travel?
You don't hate buses, you hate brits.
> Does it have a free seat next to someone that doesn't stink of piss, booze or both?
Brits do tend to, yes
> Is it rammed for of chavs gobbing off?
The chav is a national embarrassment for sure.
> Is there a nutter on there waving a knife around?
Mental health care has been declining for decades.
> Do I have to listen to someone else’s music?
Part and parcel of the selfish ultra-individualistic mindset. Brits are free-range rude.
> Do I have to listen to someone else’s phone conversation?
> Do you get the impression I hate bus travel?
Buses aren't like this everywhere in the world. It's mostly your skank piss smelling little island.
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Loads of companies introduced them just after bus deregulation. Strangely they seem to have all disappeared. If you want to drive an incumbent out of business, running loads of small buses make sense; you need to offer a more frequent service and actually carry all of the passengers. The cheapest way of doing that is to have loads of small buses. Once you've driven them out of business, you can stop wasting so much money on drivers by going back to an infrequent service with big buses, just like (or maybe not quite as good as) the incumbent used to offer.
Just like here in Birmingham, where I commute to work every day via train. Centro appear to have actually spent money on providing free streaming wifi, videos and ebooks o the trains, presumably to 'improve the customer experience', when what us reglar commuters actually want is more carriages so we can sit down more of the time, and more staff to deal with miscreants faster (or indeed, at all). Oh, and the last thing we want is even more noise pollution from folk watching films, listening to music on the trains, even in the marked 'quiet areas'. (Hint to Centro - just marking an area as a quite zone doesn't make it so. You have to actually enforce it to make it stick, and you can;t do that without sufficient staff on the trains).
We could do with a few less mindless audio messages at train stations, too, so that we can actually make out the ones we need to listen out for about train problems and platform changes - when the train operators can be bothered to give out such information in a timely manner.
The automated smoking announcements are annoying. I do love, however, the announcements that say "Passengers are reminded that smoking is not permitted anywhere on the station, especially at the end of Platform 3. This applied to everybody, including four teenage girls wearing hoodies."
"Passengers are reminded that ...
You haven't been listening carefully. In rail-speak, the people who travel on trains are now "customers". They travel between "station-stops".
And they're congenitally incapable of remembering to take all their baggage and possessions with them when they leave a train.
I am reminded for of a sign from somewhere in South Africa once printed in Reader's Digest: "Please do not throw scoff at this notice"<p>
I am also tempted to seize the mic on the Overground and say:<p>
"Please take someone else's baggage with you, and throw something suspicious at the staff!"
"mindless audio messages at train stations"
Oh the memories:
* The guy at Worthing who told us the trains were all messed up because of (his words) "moo cows on the line".
* The guy at Paddington who told us that the outgoing train was delayed because the incoming train was delayed because it had been "hijacked by sheep" between Cardiff and the English border.
* At 5:30 am one morning, on the London-bound platform of a small station between Reading and Oxford, an automated announcement: "Oxford".
Note in passing: the first two weren't automated announcement.
pity the first two weren't automated / recordings ... SouthEastern could have borrowed first one yesterday and dropped-in the words "llamas" instead of "moo cows", and Southern could use "hijacked by idiots" on a regular basis (different drop-ins, depending on whether management idiots, luddite idiots, or RMT-making-political-points idiots on each day)
I used to work in Paddington, and my two favorites (Circle and Metropolitan line station) were:<p>
"London Transport regrets the delays which are due to complete inability to run a railway" <p>
"While you are reading this notice, water is dripping on your head" (Replacing previous sign about leaking roof).
if that's the answer, then someone asked the wrong question
The greatest tragedy of public transport is its unbelievable sloth, and the inability of planners to understand that people don't want to waste their lives and leisure time this way. I live outside Birmingham in Redditch, and the trains organised by the morons of Centro into the centre of Birmingham are unbelievably slow. Three quarters of an hour to go 14 miles - and that's after being "improved" by £65m frittered on electrification and a further £25m of additional investment on the line, and without factoring in any time waiting.
If that's the balance of cost and ambition of public transport planners, then they really do all need sacking.
Ah - I think I've identified the source of your problems. How about you move somewhere better - Slough perchance?
I have indeed lived in Slough (well, Langley, to be precise) some years before I moved to Redditch, and I can assure you that Redditch is a bucolic, relaxed paradise compared to the scrofulous sh1thole that is Slough.
Any automated message deserves to be attacked with wirecutters, and the person responsible for it "reminded" with a cattle-prod, an open window with a suspiciously-low sill, a builder's skip three stories below, and a free trip to a lonely forest clearing wrapped in a roll of carpet in the back of a van.
If something's worth saying it's worth someone saying it. My ears are not an empty space to be colonised by whatever idiotic Safety'n'Security State propaganda might impinge on the space inside some moron manager's skull.
Any automated message deserves to be attacked with wirecutters
I remember, years ago, flying from Heathrow to San Francisco. As the result of several factors (first long-haul flight, free booze since we were travelling on airline staff standby tickets, lack of sleep and forgetting to pack any migraine medication) by the time we got to SFO I had a migraine big enough to kill several grizzly bears.
The repeated-at-5-minute-intervals safety announcement made me (for the first and only time in my life) want to reach for the traditional US response and go postal.
And then we had to deal with the car-hire staff - who were clearly instructed to try to maximise revenue and sell people add-on packages that they clearly didn't need.
Fortunately, my wife was travelling with me and made me go and sit down while she dealt with the sales droids. And by that time, we'd recovered our main luggage and I had access to migraine tablets again.
Equally fortunately, we were staying with friends and I could collapse once we got to their house.
If something's worth saying it's worth someone saying it.
And just the relevant info, thankyouveryfsckingmuch. The REALLY RELEVANT info, such as the upcoming stop and at best the two or three after that. Info that's also on the displays in each carriage anyway, as well as departure times of connecting trains and their respective platforms, but some people need acoustic prodding to wake them up or divert their attention from their tablets. I don't need to know about the weather (it's extremely rare that ALL windows are fully covered in graffiti) nor about the unexciting things to do in whatever city we're stopping next, and especially not at length using weird intonation and pronunciation.
We could do with a few less mindless audio messages at train stations, too, so that we can actually make out the ones we need to listen out for about train problems and platform changes
bing-bong. Brimish Rull regret that mumble maz bem dermumble a mir mumble mumble bimble late. Passengers mizzing to mumble rimble mumble are advised to momble mar at murmble. Thank you mor mumble mimbling Brimble mum. bing-bong.
-- Gaz on railway announcements
What they are smoking is 'we've got about as far as we can with our app whose income stream is zero and we now have three options: become a toxic ad-slinger like google; charge subscriptions for the app; or start running a public transport business'. They are trying the third, which will fail, and they will then change to the first (because they have a lot of data about you if you use the app).
This is the beginning of the end of citymapper as a useful tool.
- Right, brainstorming guys. What can we do before the money runs out?
- I once went on a weekend break to $CITY and saw $THING on a bus. Let's copy it.
- Ok, anything else?
- I once went on a weekend break to $CITY and saw $THING on a bus. Let's copy it.
Ok, anything else?
- I once went on a weekend break to $CITY and saw $THING on a bus. Let's copy it.
I thought they were very efficient, tbh. Relatively low power consumption, highly reliable, versatile. But not as efficient as the old rubber hose along the roof of the bus that blows a lightly sprung plunger onto a brass bell in the driver's cab. Now THAT was very energy efficient.
I live in Edinburgh - we have a really good bus service. I
Good route coverage? Check
Good accurate info on times and arrivals by app? Check
Free WiFi? Check
Good arrival/service info at bus stops? Check
Reasonable pricing? Check
Hybrid/Electric vehicles? Check
If it hadn't been for the ludicrous splurge on the white elephant tram service, we'd probably have an incredibly good bus service, but LRT seem to be doing all of what this startup claims. I commute by bicycle - if I didn't I'd use the buses, not my cars, because up here, they work pretty well.
I lived in Edinburgh for 23 years (until 2012, so not that long ago). I agree the LRT service was fine: in my time the exact-change thing was a significant annoyance, but I think that's gone now since there's some Oyster-like thing. The tram was, obviously, a catastrophe (has anyone senior yet lost their job / gone to jail for it? it certainly smelled badly of corruption to me). About £1,700 for every inhabitant of Edinburgh is not a good deal.
After that I lived in London for a while, and it turns out that the bus service in London is *also* fine. Not sure about WiFi, but the rest are all there.
So this is just Citymapper grasping around for some way of making any money at all I think: it will be very sad when they die (or become a google mouthpiece which they already may be) which they probably will because it's a fantastic tool.
OK, so they haven't failed (yet)
Hong Kong has the minibus fleet which his highly flexible (red) and more regulated (green). There are loads of these buses all over HK and are used on both short (2 miles) and much longer (10+ miles) routes.
There is also the possibility of the fleets being more optimally managed. I often see many buses queued waiting for their next run, especially in places where routes are attractive: Mong Kok to Yuan Long or Mong Kok to Sai Kung.
The data from the application could inform waiting passengers of the wait time and capacity of next buses. One some routes the buses depart with a certain number of empty seats, others only depart when full.
Given that HK is much smaller than London, but has a similar number of people (7.5 million). Most journeys involve public transport 90%+, the fleets already exist, HK is covered with almost 100% coverage of 3G or 4G and there is often free WiFi, I think they're missing an opportunity.
More importantly, if they want to corner this market, Tencent is across the border in Shenzhen and they're probably already reading this and thinking about it.
Living in the Midwest USA, I have enjoyed using almost every bus, subway, or train service I've used outside of where I live. London is one of my favorites. Paris is probably better. Dublin is okay, but hard for visitors to use. Washington DC was a bit of a pain to figure out, but useable. I'm warming up to Chicago.
Where I live, they recently improved some of our bus stops with actual shelters from the elements, where before there was just a Bus Stop sign nailed to a telephone pole. Things that most bus stops here don't have:
Rubbish bins (and therefore are surrounded by a sea of scattered litter)
Indication of what bus routes they are on
Indication of when the next bus is coming
Indication of when the last bus of the day runs
Information about connections and destinations
Printed timetables of any kind
Where I live, they recently improved some of our bus stops with actual shelters from the elements, where before there was just a Bus Stop sign nailed to a telephone pole.
You know, they could save a lot of money and make the busses run much faster if they removed those Bus Stop signs.
Wait... smart busses roaming the city streets... looking for.... people to run over?
Also, love the picture of what I call a "clown bus" - the wheelbase is so small that the ends of the bus can't help but tip up and down at alarming and amusing angles when changing velocities or encountering bumps (or pedestrians)
WMATA can disrupt its own transit any time it cares to.
But really, I live in Washington, DC, a city with mostly reliable public transportation. What creates delays is not a lack of instrumentation, but rather an excess of cars. For the forty-five minutes following 5 pm, the traffic along the street my buses travel goes at less than walking pace. Once they can make the turn to my bus stop, they usually travel at an adequate speed. I don't see how all the apps in the world are going to change this.
Small buses can go to small roads / outlying areas "spoke" routes, dropping off passengers to switch to a big bus for the "hub" routes.
Since the spoke buses and hub buses will know where each other are, they don't necessarily always have to meet in the same location, which will avoid dropping people off and having them wait 10 or 15 minutes for the next bus if one was delayed or the other is running ahead of schedule. Ideally if software does the on-the-fly route planning well enough, they would meet, people pile on/off each bus, and away they go with the stop taking only a minute.
So, they post a list of jobs on their site, including a facility to apply online
then they go on to state:
Finding quality referrals and recommendations is a better way to get our attention than just applying here.
Oh, and no more positions for Robots.
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It's usually a good idea to consider the economics of any proposal. Around these parts I believe the main expense is the driver's wages so putting him/her in a smaller bus with fewer paying passengers doesn't make any economic sense. It actually is cheaper to use the same big buses half-empty out of peak hours, rather than have a completely separate fleet of smaller buses. We get live updates on the actual time the actual bus we want to catch will arrive; do you not get that in London? On the other hand, there is no live data at the bus stops, everyone has to have a smartphone and use the app. On-demand buses that don't inconvenience other commuters by taking them out of their way already exist; they're called taxis. It's no coincidence that the mini buses exist in low-wage countries. I fear it will never happen in London.
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