Over the last few months we’ve received lots of useful feedback on some of the buses-specific features on our website, and we’ve noticed some recurrent themes. We’ve worked hard to act upon your feedback in as short a time as possible, and in this post I’ll address some of your key questions and concerns, as well as what we’ve done about them.

Bus personalisation

Having listened to your feedback on this blog, we’ve made improvements to the tools available to bus users and hope this will improve your experience

Adding ‘my favourite buses’ to get live arrivals

We recently introduced a new feature on our website that allows you to save your favourites, as described in this blog post from April. The favourites feature allows you to save your bus stops in order to to get live arrivals information on the go.

Your feedback told us that some of you were having difficulty finding your bus stops, and initially it was only possible to save your buses from the bus stop page. We realised that people wouldn’t always remember the bus stop name, but would know their route number, so we introduced an option to save buses from the bus routes pages as well.

How can I find buses near me?

It also became clear from your feedback that there was some frustration around the inability to find buses nearby, as well as around major hub stops such as Victoria or Kings Cross, and as such we’ve now introduced ‘Buses Nearby’.

If you search for buses near you, or any of the hubs from the buses search, you’ll now land on the Buses Nearby page. On this page you’ll see your location on the map and the list of bus stops near you. Click on the bus stop of your choice and you’ll get live arrivals info for that stop, as well as an option to save that bus stop for future reference.

Live arrivals for closed bus stops

We know there was some concern around bus stop showing live arrivals when the stop is closed, though the information flow for bus diversions, closures and disruptions is very complex.

We’ve identified the issues behind this information flow and have fixed a key element. Now in most cases where a bus stop is closed you’ll get a ‘Bus stop closed’ message rather than any arrivals information. We’re now working to ensure this covers every single stop closure as quickly as possible after the closure has taken effect.

Buses pages: Performance issues

We realised that where pages have a map, the page loading speed was causing frustration for some customers, and we’ve resolved this issue by making the maps hidden from the page by default with the option to display if you want to.

Based on your feedback, we’ve also reordered the bus stop pages to show live arrivals as the first thing on the page.

How can I bookmark My Buses?

There was also quite a few comments on how customers are able to bookmark buses, so we’ve introduced a ‘My Buses’ panel on the buses landing page.

When you save buses, your choices are reflected on both the home page and buses landing page.  While you cannot bookmark the favourites panel itself, you can bookmark the home page or buses landing page for quick access to live arrivals when you’re on the move.

What next?

We hope you’ll find these improvements make for a better experience, and we are continuing to improve our buses tools, analysing your feedback and responding with updates and improvements as quickly as we can.

In order to help us continually improve, please keep your feedback coming in the comments section below. We know there are more things you would like us to do and we’re working hard to make things better still.

We’ll also be available on Twitter @TfLBusAlerts for a Q&A session on 20th October between 13:00 – 14:00. Join us and we will be happy to answer any of your website-related buses questions. Use the hashtag #AskBusesWeb to join the conversation.  

Posted by Charul Gupta

Charul is Digital Product Manager for Plan & Travel at TfL Online.

35 Comments

  1. I don’t see what you’ve changed to improve bookmarking. My Buses has been available for a long time but isn’t satisfactory for bookmarking. I can only see the first of my two stops, I need to click on a second link to see all of my stops. Both pages take an age to load.

    Once that’s done, I can click on the stop I want. But it takes ages and ages to get to that point, especially versus the old text site.

    Why can’t you make bookmarking easier? I would have thought a lot of users take buses from the same stops frequently, so a large audience for easy bookmarking, yet you fail to actually offer this.

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    1. Hi Michael, did you try bookmarking buses landing page. Your saved buses appear on this page, so that you can view live arrivals quickly. Let me know if you’ve tried using this page, but still face issues.

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  2. Walter Guy-Briscoe October 18, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    I would find it useful to have the Journey Planner recognise Home as a synonym for my postcode, which micht be SW1A 1AA.
    Typing that on an Android phone, without simultaneous access to letters and digits is tedious. Fortunately, It will remember previous uses and select with “SW”.

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    1. Hi Walter, keep watching this space, mentioned feature is coming very soon 🙂

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    2. I agree with Michael, I don’t see what you’ve done to improve bookmarking (and yes I’m using the landing page).

      I still have to click twice to see all my stops and then also still have to scroll down to get to the stop I want (because each stop listing shows all the buses at those stops, so takes up too much space).

      I see in another comment that you’re somehow trying to replicate the Countdown style on this TFL site. If this is so, please do so – by giving us a page (not a swipe from right) that lists our favourite stops (without the bus detail).

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      1. Hi Michael, you can go to edit ‘My Buses’ in your favourites panel and remove the buses that you do not use. This would reduce number of favourites in the list. In case you want to retain all, then panel is the best place to get full list. We are also looking at options to improve bookmarking.

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  3. Good stuff, and keep up the good work. Thanks for listening. Next up, noise pollution. You’ve told me to ‘mind the gap between the train and the station’ nearly half a million times. This repetitive noise pollution is a form of torture and is making me ill. When will you investigate the harm your repetitive noise pollution is causing to passengers?
    My blood pressure thanks you in advance.

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  4. Firstly thank you for providing an update – I was beginning to think the changes had been stopped as part of budget cuts.

    The above is all jolly good but have you actually fixed the most fundamental issue – that of timely updates to routes and stops? The old Countdown site almost always switched over seamlessly to show a revised route or stop pattern on the day the change happened. In recent months there have been several large route changes that took weeks to be reflected on the TfL website – routes were not recognised, incorrect stop lists were shown, stop lists were at variance to the Google maps for the routes in question. I see the E8/110, 83/483, 135/277/D3, 42 and 108/D8 changes have now caught up on the website but it is surely unacceptable for the public to be given wrong information or for new routes to not even be recognised for weeks at a time?

    Have you done something inside TfL to overhaul this entire process? If you have not then can I suggest it requires urgent attention from people in Surface Transport and TfL Digital to get the workflow and data flows working properly to allow contemperaneous website updates on the day routes change.

    I should also add that despite the changes you’ve made the site is still a bit “clunky” and slow. Your promised “lighter” site has not materialised. I fail to see why you cannot recreate the old style Countdown page’s speedy navigation. Making everything smartphone compatible really is a curse because navigation requires so many more decision points.

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    1. Hi PC, Thanks for the feedback. Website is now updated every week and we’re working to improve this further. We are working on the lighter version and as part of improvements, we have already improved bus routes and stops pages by hiding maps by default, thus making these pages lighter. We would be updating as we make progress.

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  5. Sorry to leave a second comment but I’ve tried to set up favourite stops on my smartphone and it simply doesn’t work. I can access the main TfL site with no issues but the “slide in” favourites tab does not render properly. I get three small coloured blocks on a dark background tab but no text or data being displayed. The tab also will not slide out of the way so it effectively freezes the page. I have to return to the home screen or back tab out. My phone is a HTC Incredible S on Android so fairly old but I’d expect your site to work with it.

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    1. Hi PC, we have recently made some improvements, would you check again and get back in case you still face issues?

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  6. Very good job, great ideas and improvements! With regards to “buses nearby” feature I have few more suggestions (nothing major, but I think it would make this feature more usable and efficient).
    I am referring specifically to the first map you get just after you clicked on “buses nearby” button. When I tested from home, there were no bus stops displayed on the map (I had to zoom out twice in order to see the first/closest bus stop). I think there should be an “auto-zoom” function that allows the user to see his current location AND (at least) one bus stop (maybe the closest) to his position on the initial map, without forcing the user to zoom out until he can see some bus stops (red dots).
    Also, from the list on the left showing all bus results near your current location, if the user clicks on one of the result, again, the map should be zoomed in a way that the selected “bus stop”(red dot) AND “current location”(blue dot) are BOTH displayed on the map. Currently the map is zoomed at the bus stop level only, leaving to the user the task to figure out (manually) his position relatively to the position of the bus stop.

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    1. Hi Fabio, good to know you appreciate the improvements. On the Nearby, this is one of the next things in our list of improvements already. May be you’ll hear about this being fixed soon 🙂

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  7. Shame the closed bus stop isn’t working properly. Currently 3 bus routes in Hornchurch diverted due to road resurfacing so all their stops show as closed for all routes with no live info for the routes that are running

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    1. Hi Steve, if you could point to exact bus stop name, I can have a look. I find four bus stops starting with Hornchurch.

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  8. brianbutterworth October 19, 2016 at 9:47 am

    Thanks for all the changes, they seem to fix most of the problems and seem to be quite usable.

    One addition question: would it be possible to generate a “accuracy” value for each bus stop (or stop+route)?

    Given a stop X on route Y, it would be useful, from a user point of view to know how much of the (say, last hours) predictions turned out to be accurate.

    If the stop has seen thee predicted arrival times being totally accurate, the stop would get a 100% score.

    However, if the stop was showing predictions that didn’t turn out to be correct (in the last hour) a lower score would be generated.

    This would be useful to show the user how accurate the “time to next bus” information is. It would allow the bus controllers to see how well the predictions are serving and perhaps find those places where the information is at the unwanted end of the accuracy scale.

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    1. Hi Brian, glad you found the improvements useful. Also, thanks for sharing this interesting idea, I’ll share it with my colleagues in buses. However, surface transport is very complex. Though our systems are competent enough to give accurate information most of the times, we are still constantly making efforts to keep our systems as accurate as we understand it is key to customers.

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  9. For “Busses nearby”, how about giving the option to filter the nearby buses by destination? E.g. if you look at nearby Victoria https://tfl.gov.uk/maps/bus?Input=Victoria&InputGeolocation=51.495812%2C-0.143826&searchBoxType=bus , if I don’t know the route number, I want to know which stops are going to a specific destination. Maybe we could add an option to filter the list of stops returned by bus destination.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this idea, we would explore this further.

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  10. Hi thx for listening. One thing you promised was a lighter text only version which will work – like the countdown site – on non smartphones. The new website still fails on these and it’s such a shame you have taken away a simple site from those of us with simple phones. I still have no way of accessing countdown now which I’m sure was not your intention

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    1. Hi Simon, We are working on lighter version by improving the current website and making its pages lighter to load. If I may ask, which phone are you using?

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  11. The underlying problem is that nothing has replaced the speed, simplicity and usability of the old Countdown for phones. The screenshot at the top of this page looks wonderful, but in practice if you want to have more than a couple of favourites and the stops have several routes serving them then it doesn’t fit on the screen without scrolling, and it doesn’t have anything like the same easy access to nearby stops or the route/stop search function. It has an annoying tendency to crash my Huawei M1 W8.0 phone (okay, not the most up-to-date, but I shouldn’t need the latest phone to check when my bus is coming) and puzzlingly it often opens (very slowly, telling me first about the Hopper fare) as a different page on a white background with the word BUSES in huge capital letters.

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    1. Hi Andrew, if you go to buses search either on home page, buses landing page or favourites panel, you can find bus stops near you using your current location.

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  12. Hi Charul,

    Thanks for the update. I thought I would, straight away, check to see if some issues I’ve reported several times over recent months have been sorted. Sadly not!

    Can you step through this example with me?
    If you go to this page: https://tfl.gov.uk/bus/route/272/?direction=outbound

    You will see there is a “status alert”. If you click on it, a new page opens, but you still don’t see the status info until you click on that another status update alert message. That’s really not intuitive and it shouldn’t even require a second page load let alone a 2nd click after that.

    So, now we have this info – which stops are not being served? You would need to know the route and area or follow a map to interpret it. Saying services run “via Turnham Green Terrace” doesn’t seem to be reflected on the route map.

    However as I know the area I see that “The Orchard” bus stop on that route would not be served. If we click back and look down the list of stops and you see “The Orchard” is there, and clicking it tells you the “live” info for the next bus arrival – which it clearly shouldn’t. 2 weeks into a month long diversion that stop is not marked as closed in the system. Predictions should obviously not be shown for stops that are not being served and if you bookmark the live arrivals page there is absolutely nothing there to indicate the stop is closed (no status alert for the line).

    Finally if you click back and look at the Larden Road Factory Quarter entry – that will *always* say there are no buses due in the next 30 minutes. I have lost count of the times I have been waiting at that stop and seen people walk away after they have checked the “live info”. Some even (kindly) tell others at the stop – at which point I can tell them that the system is incorrect and adjacent stops in the list will show correct info about when a bus will arrive.

    That stop entry is basically “broken”, but when I reported it I was first told it was “hail & ride” (which would not explain or justify incorrect site info) and then that it is “not in use”. Well the stop is very much in use! The information should be correct or eliminated from view. Telling users a bus isn’t coming is deeply unhelpful, of course.

    These examples are not unique as diversions often lead to the syndrome of “disappearing buses” where a countdown suddenly loses an entry a few minutes away as a bus enters an re-routed section and while I understand that is beyond the scope of the site system, flagging closed stops and making diversion info list affected stops is really part of what “live info” should be about.

    We are still at a stage where months after the removal of the simple, efficient and accurate Countdown site we don’t have a replacement system that works as well – but I’m confident you have a desire to go beyond what Countdown offered.. good luck!

    Best Regards,

    Drew White

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    1. Hi Drew, the route you mentioned in your comments is updated now, which resolved few of your queries. For, Larden Road Factory Quarter bus stop, I’ll have a look at what can be the issue. Hope that helps.

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  13. Hi route
    Bus route 150 goes to Chigwell row, but live arrival shows it as going only as far as Gants Hill stn, this is when viewed through a mobile phone.
    Thanks
    Mark

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    1. Hi Mark, thanks for bringing this to our notice. We are looking into the issue and would fix soon.

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  14. Please can we have a Refresh button on the My Buses page?

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    1. Hi Andrew, we are already looking into it, keep watching this space for updates 🙂

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  15. Just avoid the website. I gave up after months of frustration. It could not find my local bus site. If I searched it took me to a map but I could not then click on the bus stop. No, it would zoom on the map. Very helpful when I was already at the bus stop and wanted to know when the next bus was. The bus times app is much more user friendly – and more accurate than the bus countdowns at bus stops. Those that have them – I am still not sure why they were removed from bus stops in my area. Surbiton station is a heavily used stop.

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    1. Sorry to know you faced issues finding your bus stop, but you should be able to click on the bus stops on maps. If you could specify what exactly is the issue and on which page, I may be able to help.

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  16. Hi,

    Thanks for listening. I’m using a Google Nexus 5 phone, which is by no means brand new, but it’s not old either. However, it’s really struggling with your site. It seems to be so heavy, with so many scripts and functionalities that I don’t need and it’s killing my phone, even when I’m on high-speed wifi (i.e. it’s not a slow network issue – it’s a really heavy page issue). I understand you’re trying to simplify it, but please consider giving a plain text page for countdown, like it used to be. When out and about, on a slow network, that’s even more crucial.

    Finally, maybe also try to address countdown issues where ‘phantom’ buses appear and disappear all the time. It dramatically increases uncertainty especially for non-frequent routes and night buses. It’s been improved, but is still not resolved and really shouldn’t exist at all (we are not talking about traffic unpredictability, but about buses that don’t exist!). Thank you.

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    1. Hi Anthony, Thanks for the feedback. As an update we are working on improving speed and performance of our website. We have already made few improvements on bus stop/routes pages. BTW did you try buses landing page to check your arrivals? Do you face similar issue there as well?

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  17. Even if you were to make the ‘my buses’ panel an actual page, that would be a huge step forwards. It’s free of maps, adverts and other unneeded bulk, it just lists my favourite stops. I guess you’d have to add a ‘find a stop’ search box or similar, but please let’s move away from the slow to load landing page.

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    1. Hi Michael, thats a good feedback, we would be definitely look into it 🙂

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