Diamond Buses recently announced on their website that they would shortly be introducing a new website and mobile app that would take advantage of new GPS technology installed on their buses to show real-time information, so passengers could see when their bus was actually going to turn up.
NX Bus, the region’s largest bus operator has been providing real-time information (RTI) to Network West Midlands for a couple of years now, which is shown at interchange departure boards (as pictured above) as well as on displays at many bus stops, and not forgetting through the Network West Midlands and NX Buses own mobile apps.
Even Google Maps now provides real-time bus departure information, as well as other third-party smartphone travel apps.
In my opinion, RTI gives the passenger more confidence, even if a bus service is running late. Without RTI, if a bus is due at 15:32 (for example), a passenger will arrive at that stop at 15:30, in plenty of time. As 15:32 passes by, with no sign of that bus, what does that passenger do next? Keep on waiting? Just when is it going to arrive?
In the past, from my own experiences before RTI, I’d wait about five minutes, give up and then start walking. And then the bus would turn up!
With RTI, I can arrive at that same bus stop, expecting to catch the bus due at 15:32. OK, it’s running late, the display shows the bus as due in ‘6 mins’. But at least I know that the bus is going to arrive, and when it will!
OK admittedly, traffic congestion can result in that time taking longer than it would normally – for example Sunday afternoon I waited over ten minutes for an 11A that was supposedly due in ‘3 mins’.
My point is that at present, while I rely only on NX Buses to get me around, I do have that comfort of having RTI to tell me when my bus is due, even to the extent that I check before I even leave the house – and why not, otherwise I could be unneccesarily standing around in the cold at a bus stop.
But when it comes to catching other operators’ buses, I don’t have that safety net. I could walk around the corner and catch Diamonds 36 service, which runs every 45mins. But am I confident that it will turn up on time, or at least only a couple of minutes late? At present no, is the honest answer. All I can do is turn up at the stop and hope for the best!
All operators should be providing RTI to Network West Midlands in my opinion, and I understand this is one of the agreements set out between bus operators as part of the West Midlands Bus Alliance.
Passengers will have more confidence knowing when a bus is going to turn up even if it is not running on time.