Important Bus Business

This is going to add minutes to my life – every time I take the bus. And I have Guardian columnist Tim Dowling’s truculent teenage kids to thank for it.

Disdaining the sorry business of relying on a published timetable and standing frigidly at the bus-stop, Dowling’s offspring, with preternatural anticipation of how the world is supposed to work, informed his father (and this reader) about the Next Bus London app he had on his smartphone.

The what?

A quick Google search later and I realised there is an abundance of these apps (for the iPhone at any rate). Cheapskate that I am I demurred on the Β£1.99 price tag for Next Bus London and opted instead for BusMapper, which is free. Much more my price range.

And two days later we are very happy together. The app knows where I am, knows where the nearest bus stops are and, best of all, knows when the buses are going to show up. I don’t know how it works, GPS or some such nonsense. I don’t care.

But I do care that it works. My morning coffee can be ever so slightly more leisurely because there is less uncertainty in my life. This is a good thing.

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17 Responses to Important Bus Business

  1. Stephen Moss says:

    These things are indeed useful. I invested in BusChecker a few months ago for the princely sum of 69p, and use it every morning to get my son out of the house in time to get to school.

  2. Eva says:

    I might download the free one for the next time I’m in London, too.

    A friend of mine was in the news in Canada for developing a similar thing for Toronto streetcars (streecars = trams, the main mode of surface transport downtown)–need-a-streetcar-there-s-an-app-for-that

    In Cambridge I just have to wait at the bus stop forever. But I usually cycle (much faster!) so I’m not wasting too much time standing in the cold. (Only yesterday, when there was too much slush to cycle)

    • Stephen says:

      I’d read a while ago that these sorts of apps were already working in some other UK cities but hadn’t yet come to London. But now I realise that I was further behind the curve than I thought… Oh well. it’s good to have caught up.

  3. That is very cool indeed. Here in Torontonia we’ve only just recently gotten to the stage of having subway (=”tube”) signs that tell you how many minutes to the next train, so we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Eva’s friend’s project sounds intriguing though.

    • Stephen says:

      Yeah – Richard mentioned above a Tube app for London (Tube Deluxe) that seems to give train arrival times. However, I imagine it doesn’t work where you might want it – in the underground. At the moment there is no 3G down there in London. But at least we have those info boards so I never felt the need for an app for tubes. Buses are different since many stops in London don’t have the arrival time info.

  4. Frank says:

    Stephen – you should follow @londonist to get everything related to London travel. That’s how I first heard about the Countdown system. It isn’t 100% perfect, but still very useful. I still tend to use it too late – I check it at the bus stop or on my way to the bus stop, rather than using it to control what time I leave home/work and thus avoid a long wait.

    I don’t have an app but I also like the TfL web page that shows the departure boards at each tube station.

  5. Carl says:

    those apps are very cool. my girlfriend travels a lot and she wondered how i always knew if her flight was delayed or how i was always got to the airport on time, etc. at first i had her believing i had ESP when it came to airplanes, but eventually i gave in and showed her the air traffic app on my phone.

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    The Vancouver version is great, too – I have two options to get from my house to work (fast bus then SkyTrain, or slow bus then stinky slow bus), but the fast bus only runs every 15 minutes during weekdays and every half hour or less on weekends and evenings, and it finishes early too. The slow bus runs much more frequently, but is much worse. Being able to see the real-time location (updated every 2 minutes) of all the fast buses really helps with planning my commute!

    On the other hand, the app has really just replaced “WHERE THE F*&$ IS MY BUS?!” rage with “WHY IS MY BUS NOT F*&$ING MOVING?! REFRESH REFRESH REFRESH GAAAAAAAH” rage…

    • Stephen says:

      Try to relax Cath. Take a few deep breaths. πŸ˜‰

      For me the real advantage is in being able to delay my departure from the house till as late as possible. And the illusion of control…

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