“You wait ages for a bus, then two come along at once!”

This well-known aphorism has long been one of Britain’s favourite expressions of irony, and it’s not surprising that we use UK bus schedules to communicate its lamentable truth: customers have big expectations when it comes to their bus services – expectations that operators must fight to reconcile with the challenges and setbacks of congested roads.

At Passenger, we’ve developed technology to help close this gap between customers’ arrival time expectations and actual on-the-road reality. Live Buses provides real-time information on the physical location of buses, replacing customer guesswork with concrete evidence.

Live Buses

We’ve been using predicted departure times from 3rd-party real time providers since the early days of Passenger, but we knew from our research that their accuracy isn’t always reliable enough for customers to trust what the apps are telling them.

This was compounded by the fact that an increased number of bus patrons using Passenger apps were telling us the provided real-time passenger information (RTPI) was inaccurate, and that they wanted a better way to know when their bus would arrive.

In discussion and partnership with our operators we were able to action this feedback and launch our Live Buses module.

How does Live Buses work?

Humanity has spent billions of dollars in sending satellites into space. A few of these satellites are responsible for providing us down here on Earth with accurate location positioning. Information like Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) tracking using a standard SIRI-VM feed, which powers Live Buses.

For the person waiting at the bus stop, this means seeing, in real-time, where their bus is physically located at any particular point. Passenger’s Live Buses takes the tracking information and plots it as live positions of vehicles on an interactive map. Vehicles are associated with their line and route and display onward journey information, as well as providing more context to estimated arrival times.

Depending on the refresh rate of the SIRI feed, vehicle locations are updated up to every 10 seconds. With each update the live bus marker location is updated for each service on the line, including its direction of travel.

“You wait ages for a bus, and continue to happily do so as two are definitely coming”

Would the famous adage of the two tardy buses be as popular if people knew where those buses were – even if they couldn’t see them?

If a bus is late, Live Buses won’t address the issue of the customer running behind schedule, but it does reassure them. We all know how frustrating it is to wait for a bus – it’s the lack of knowing when that bus will eventually arrive that compounds the frustration. With Live Buses, that consternation is lessened: the customer knows where their bus is and when it is likely to arrive, thus making any period of waiting that much more tolerable.

Live Buses is currently deployed for three Passenger partners – Yellow Buses in Bournemouth, Blackpool Transport and Reading Buses (including their Green Line and Kennections brands too). Three more Passenger partners are already due to implement Live Buses in the coming year. You can learn what some of them are saying about Live Buses below.

Jake Osman, Marketing Manager at Reading Buses, comments: “Live Buses is the feature customers have wanted since the world’s first bus ever left its depot! Real-time bus location information makes the decision to take the bus that much more attractive: customers can determine exactly when they need to leave the house or office to meet the vehicle at the stop. With Live Buses, the days of walking up the road, fearful that the bus will thunder past before you make it, are over.”

Matt Harrison, Marketing & Communications Assistant at Transdev, comments: “We’re incredibly excited about deploying Live Buses across the Transdev Blazefield network in 2019. Buses have big competition in the car – a mode of transport that the driver knows is always going to be there when they need it. Live Buses helps to level the playing field; customers can be that much more confident that their bus is going arrive just when they need to set off.”

You can learn more about Passenger’s Live Buses functionality in our Reading Buses customer story.

Please get in touch with the team or sign up to the Passenger newsletter if you have any questions.

Photo by Mavis CW on Unsplash