Friday, 3 December 2010

“Knowledge is Power”

Or so said Sir Francis Bacon in 1597 (apparently in his Religious Meditations, Of Heresies). I suspect he wasn’t thinking of the bus stops around Brighton and Hove and their GPS-driven Real Time Information systemsx real time info , but I was reminded of his comment whilst waiting for various buses during the current snow and ice. Big credit to the bus company for getting chains onto buses and buses onto roads during these below-zero times. And no criticism of the bus company for not being able to run the GPS system whilst buses are running to an emergency timetable. But, having got used to real time information, x P1050547 not having it is a real pain. In Brighton and Hove the system provides information on the next few buses which will be arriving at the stop - including the route number, the destination, and a countdown in minutes until the bus arrives, which is preceded by the magic word “due.” The system also gives information about current travel disruptions that may be useful in understanding implications for travel plans. Being real time, apart from the occasional technical hitch, the system means that in many areas of the city, you never need to look at a timetable – just the indicator at the bus stop. Today, despite the system not being operational, I noticed many people looking up at the real time signs, in what has become a reflex action around Brighton and Hove. The real time indicators demonstrate that power of information. Then, you can work out whether to jump on the next bus, wait for the following bus, take a different combination of buses or whatever. It’s a way that customers get more choices, and more power, over their public transport decisions. I reckon Sir Francis would approve.


  1. Wow real time GPS data sounds wonderful. Contrasts with my journey: I take the "First" number 25 bus from Keele University to Stoke which comes "up to every 10 minutes". This usually means around a 20 minute wait and there is actually no scheduled time that the bus stops at the university. It's hideous and makes me wonder why I don't just drive to work every day.

  2. Thanks for posting. I think you make a great case for giving users of public transport more information, hence more power. It would be interesting to compare door-to-door journey times (including parking, when travelling by car), just to see how long it actually takes. And doesn't the bus company enable you to text for details of the next bus at the stop? - then you can time your arrival.