Londoners Get Bus Checking Website

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London commuters waiting for their bus can now go online to see how long it will take to arrive

Transport For London (TFL) is trailing a beta site that provides London commuters with the arrival time of their particular bus.

London has approximately 19,000 bus stops, but only 2,000 are currently equipped with the electronic countdown ticker, commonly found in bus stops in central London and other high traffic areas.

But those commuters stuck at one of those non-ticker countdown bus stops, can now use their smartphones to log on to TFL’s mobile optimised website, where they can enter enter a five digit code for their bus stop location to get an idea on when their bus will arrive.

Alternatively they can enter the street name, postcode, or route number.

Autumn launch

Not all routes are currently listed on the site and TFL warns this is still a test version, and therefore is subject to errors. However it is thought that the service will be fully launched sometime in the Autumn.

Another useful feature of the website is that commuters can save their regular bus stops and bus routes, for speedy access in the future.

“TfL has commenced user testing of the new ‘countdown’ system which will provide real bus arrival information for all 19,000 bus stops across London via the web and SMS,” a TfL spokesman was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“The existing roadside sign service is currently limited to 2,000 bus stops and this new service covering all buses and all stops will launch fully in the autumn of this year,” the spokesman added.

Cloud hosted

TFL already offers travel data on the trains and underground to outside developers via Trackernet, which is now hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

Tackernet provides free travel information for mobile application (apps) developers, and allows them to create applications for mobile and other devices for use by the public.

Data feeds include the locations of tube trains, their destinations, signal aspects and the status of individual trains at any given time. Also provided is information on the location of cycle hire docking stations, timetable data and real time traffic and roadworks information along the entire TfL transport network in and around London.

Presumably bus data will shortly be added to this.

Problematic past

This service is proving to be very useful to London’s long suffering commuters, but it has not been without its problems.

TFL suspended access to its London Underground live data feed on 2 July 2010 after it was swamped by “overwhelming demand by apps.” It had opened the data feed to developers in mid June 2010, but the sheer volume of traffic apparently overwhelmed it.

At that time, a TfL spokesperson told eWEEK Europe UK that the service would only be down on a temporary basis, and they hoped to restore service in two days.

However in actual fact it took TFL a staggering six months to finally restore the service in December 2010.

“In short, the demand in July was overwhelming,” a TfL spokesperson told eWEEK Europe UK at that time. “We then spent months exploring other avenues in order to find the right solution. We realised we needed a cloud service to host Trackernet.”

“The reason for this is a cloud server is scaleable and is able to cope with varying demand,” said the spokesperson at that time. He cited the December snow conditions which resulted in a massive rise in visits to the TFL website from people looking for travel information. The Azure Cloud option allows TFL to adjust to this demand.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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