How not to convey bus strike information

Published on 22 June 2012 in , , , , ,

There’s a bus strike today in London. As I rarely use the buses (I travel mostly by tube and train) I confess to not really noticing the absence of buses in the streets near where I live, although this was helped by a high court injunction stopping the drivers of three companies from driving. One of the affected companies was Go-Ahead who operate buses out of the Merton depot, and as such, have a few of the key bus routes in the area.

However I was less than impressed with Transport for London’s initial communication on the bus strike. First thing this morning their website had a list of which bus routes are expected to operate normally (namely those of the three companies who have the injunction, and those operated by Arriva the Shires whose depots are based outside of Greater London but run some cross-boundary routes) which is good. How they chose to display the data wasn’t.

The simple two page PDF was, inexplicably, ordered by operator first. Then it was ordered by depot, even giving the bus user information on the depot’s address and it’s two letter depot code! (Merton’s depot code is AL – why? Why knows.) Then, shoved on a column at the end is a list of the routes running.

Screenshot of a Transport for London PDF on bus routes running during a strike

Of all the ways to present the data to the bus passenger, this is probably the worst way they could do it. After all, how many people in London actually knows who operates their bus? All the buses are red and the operator logo is pretty small. Recently bought buses even have a large TfL roundel on them. The image Transport for London want you to have that this is a LONDON bus not a STAGECOACH bus. Now I happen to know that the 200 bus route near my house is operated Go-Ahead London General, and the 470 is Quality Line, but to most people they’ll be red buses.

To follow that by ordering by depot… Words can’t even describe how bonkers this is for the passenger. The Go-Ahead 93 bus route runs from North Cheam to Putney over ten miles. Which depot runs that bus? How am I supposed to know? (Apparently it’s Sutton – depot code A.)

Clearly what’s happened is that someone from Transport for London phoned each depot and asked “What’s running?” then compiled a list. Then it was published. And as the information was split over a mere two and a half pages, this wasn’t too arduous to find out, but it’s still far more complicated than it should be.

Far more sensible for the bus passenger – who is no doubt struggling to know what’s going on during this bus strike – would be to simply list the information by route number. Most people will know this. “Is the 152 running?” may be a question on their lips. Scanning down a list of routes, ordered by number would solve that. Indeed this is what happened a few hours later when more up to date information was posted online.

The big question is, why wasn’t it done like that before?