From feedback I've received it seems that the hardest part of bus travel is finding out where the bus actually stops and making sure you are in the right place. It's easy by train, once you've found the station where there is usually enough information to find the correct platform and with trams the presence of the track is a reassurance that one will be along sooner or later. But buses are "flexible". Transport planners see this as a virtue - an ability to react quickly to changes in circumstances - but for the occasional passenger it's a problem. Because the industry is so poor at selling its services you will discover bus stops that have no indication of which buses use them, much less when they go!
It's here where the internet and the smartphone comes into its own. Zoom in far enough on Google Maps and you'll eventually come to a layer on which the bus stops are shown. It's pretty accurate, although as with anything on computer it depends on the accuracy of the data that's been entered in the first place. Click on the bus stop symbol and a box opens showing the bus stop name (Yes, every bus stop in the country has an official name, although it's not always the one the locals use!) Sometimes, as here at Braunston Church, you'll also see the times and destinations of the next few buses plus a link to Traveline. In other places,such as here at Wigan Top Lock there will be a link to Transport Direct and a departure board showing rather more departures. In all cases, clicking on "more" in the box brings up a link to Google's Street View - here's Braunston Church, which I find particularly useful in confirming I'm waiting at the right place.
All this information is also available for smartphones via a number of apps. You can find a full list on Android Market under "Transport" I used to use "Catch That Bus", which I paid-for but which since its last upgrade is now "incompatible with my device"!! So I've changed to the free "UK Bus Times" . It will either find your location using GPS or you can type in a remote location or select a favourite. In all cases it will show the location of the nearest bus stops. A click on the symbol brings up a box with the stop name and the numbers of the services that stop there. Click on that box and you get a list of the departure times of the next few buses. A WORD OF CAUTION HERE: The list is of the NEXT few buses irrespective of which day they run on. An enquiry made on a Saturday evening for travel the following day might show departures at convenient times. However, if there is no Sunday service these will be MONDAY's buses!
The app can show all the services from a particular stop - not just those due to depart shortly - and clicking on a service brings up a list of stops for the whole route, which can also be displayed in map form. Clicking on one of the stops on the list brings up all the same information for that stop, including Street View, which I find useful to help identify my destination stop if I've not used it before.
And another word of caution. You may find, as I did in Alrewas last year, that the information on the app conflicted with that shown on a printed timetable displayed at the stop! I resolved the matter by asking a passer-by, who confirmed that the bus to Lichfield stopped at that stop and not opposite as suggested on the app. I reported the matter via the app and am pleased to see it has now been corrected. The problem, as ever, was incorrect data in = rubbish out.
TIP OF THE DAY: Check and compare all possible sources of information - and if in doubt - ask a bus driver.
Next Time: How to find your bus stop without the aid of technology.