Three Minutes Past The Hour

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Schnellzug

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Something I have always wondered is why do bus companies give such precise timings in Timetables? You'll see things like "Depart 03 minutes past the hour, and scheduled at this stop at 09 past and that stop at 12 minutes past" and so on. Surely we all realise that it's virtually impossible to schedule things that precisely on anything using ordinary roads. It might be possible on railways when you can time things much more accurately since you (should) know precisely how long it should take to get from A to B. But if you're planning to drive somewhere, you wouldn't say "we will arrive at 10:57", would you, you'd say "we should get there about 11, near enough, hopefully". Why do Bus companies (and the Traffic commissioners) insist on such unrealistically precise timings? Surely 5 minute windows would be about the best that could realistically be hoped for. Of course, in practice, most drivers usually seem to take the attitude that if it says 3 minutes past, 5 past is near enough, in any case, mind.
 
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gswindale

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Probably so that passengers know when to arrive?

If you say about 11, then do you turn up at 5 to and wait 8 minutes or get there at 2 minutes past and discover you've missed it by a minute?
 

aformeruser

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You should see the bus stops in Knutsford. On some routes there are only 3 timing points and the bus stop can get the time the bus is scheduled to be 1 mile away from where you are.
 

142094

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There is an exact definition of the length of time a bus can either arrive early or late at a stop, but still be judged to be on time according to the Traffic Commissioner.
 

cainebj

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There is an exact definition of the length of time a bus can either arrive early or late at a stop, but still be judged to be on time according to the Traffic Commissioner.
1 minute early and 5 minutes late, were the timings last I'd checked on it.

Times are precise on timetables because that is at what time the bus should be departing that point under normal road conditions. If they rounded it up to the next 5 minutes then it could leave a bus sat for longer than necessary at stops, which is a drain on resources as well as causing unnecessary congestion if the stop is in the road (and it annoys passengers).
 

Schnellzug

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I believe TfL are the only operator not required to publish and adhere to exact timings
yes, they do seem to have some rather... flexible timings. Things like "every 3-7 minutes" and things like that. I suppose they go by putting a certain number of buses onto a route and sort of averaging out headways, which seems a much more realistic (and honest) way of doing it than giving timings to the exact minute that they could never realistically expect to hope to stick to.
 

Deerfold

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yes, they do seem to have some rather... flexible timings. Things like "every 3-7 minutes" and things like that. I suppose they go by putting a certain number of buses onto a route and sort of averaging out headways, which seems a much more realistic (and honest) way of doing it than giving timings to the exact minute that they could never realistically expect to hope to stick to.
There are timetables - they're just not widely published as they're altered often and at short notice. the aim isusually to get back to the timetable at some point if possible.

Of course for infrequent routes they are a little more widely available.

http://www.londonbusroutes.net/routes.htm is a good source if you're interested.
 

SS4

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yes, they do seem to have some rather... flexible timings. Things like "every 3-7 minutes" and things like that. I suppose they go by putting a certain number of buses onto a route and sort of averaging out headways, which seems a much more realistic (and honest) way of doing it than giving timings to the exact minute that they could never realistically expect to hope to stick to.
There are some in Birmingham like that. It'll say every 7-10 minutes alongside say 10am-6pm


I suspect they're at that time so passengers know what time to arrive at the bus stop to be in good time to catch a bus.

I suspect timing is done by someone travelling on the bus ticking off the time it arrives at each stop.
 

bb21

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I think every 10 minutes is just about acceptable on a turn-up-and-go basis. After all only a very tiny proportion of routes in provincial areas operate more frequently than that. Even then when they bunch, you have an issue.

I wouldn't fancy turning up at random for a bus that runs "every 15 minutes" without a timetable, which is why it is quite an annoyance for me the practice at TfL where some routes are listed as "every 11-14 minutes" but then again these routes are in a minority in London and I believe that once the headway reaches 15 minutes, the times are listed.
 

Deerfold

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I think every 10 minutes is just about acceptable on a turn-up-and-go basis. After all only a very tiny proportion of routes in provincial areas operate more frequently than that. Even then when they bunch, you have an issue.

I wouldn't fancy turning up at random for a bus that runs "every 15 minutes" without a timetable, which is why it is quite an annoyance for me the practice at TfL where some routes are listed as "every 11-14 minutes" but then again these routes are in a minority in London and I believe that once the headway reaches 15 minutes, the times are listed.
TfL regards every 12 minutes as turn up and go, whereas I wouldn't until 7-8 minutes. Anything that is regularly above that will have times. Where it says 11-14 minutes that will usually be every 12 minutes with just a couple of longer gaps - usually very early or late journeys.
 

bb21

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TfL regards every 12 minutes as turn up and go, ...
I stand corrected.

Where it says 11-14 minutes that will usually be every 12 minutes with just a couple of longer gaps - usually very early or late journeys.
In that case, they really ought to list the passing times, especially that during those times, the buses are more likely to run on time.
 

aformeruser

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First Group have timetables which specify things like:

08:00, 08:07, 08:14, 08:21, 08:30, 08:40, 08:50, 09:00 then at frequent intervals until 16:30.

Then buses actually turn up at times like 09:10, 09:30, 09:40, 09:50, 10:00, 10:20, 10:30 so basically it is a 10 minute frequency with a lot of buses going missing but you can't complain about the missing buses because they aren't on the timetable but you presumed there would be a bus at that time.
 

jon0844

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But if you're planning to drive somewhere, you wouldn't say "we will arrive at 10:57", would you, you'd say "we should get there about 11, near enough, hopefully".
Since I got a TomTom with LIVE services, HD Traffic and IQ Route data, I can say that in 95% of cases I arrive the exact minute it says I will.

And so, given that fact, I am quite cocky by telling people I'll be arriving at that exact minute!

Of course, the bus times are there to allow a passenger to know when to get to the stop. The problem is that buses can easily make good time, and run early.

In London, it's not so much of a problem. Traffic and a regular service means many timetables just say 'every 5-6 minutes' and with real time data now available on most (all?) routes, you can check on your phone or the display at the bus stop. That's a luxury that people in rural areas don't enjoy - and you can't just turn up at a bus stop if the next one is two hours away!

There are many apps that will even show on a Google map where the buses are, which is ideal - but, again, not all buses are so equipped or report data to the developers of the apps.

1 minute early and 5 minutes late, were the timings last I'd checked on it.
Really? When I complained to Uno (a bus operator in Herts) that it had buses leaving 3-5 minutes early, I was told by them in an email (which I must still have archived) that they're allowed to leave up to 3 minutes early. I thought this was quite unlikely.

It's only now that the buses are fitted with GPS and can be remotely monitored that they've miraculously begun to run pretty much to time - waiting at a stop if they're too early and not starting off early. I bet the drivers hate it, but it's suddenly made using the buses something you can actually have some confidence in using.
 
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neilmc

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Most bus routes have quite a number of intermediate timing points to assist the passenger, these are usually at major intersections or locations with a bus bay where they can stand out time if they run early. If these were all at multiples of five minutes it would mean buses standing time needlessly in many cases.

I think London is a special case as the traffic congestion is so bad that it's anybody's guess as to how long a journey will actually take, and when a bus will turn up, as they seem much more keen than provincial services on late-running buses turning short of the terminus, so I can understand the vagueness.

Running early was always a big no-no when I was working on the buses, and still seems to be in most cases at least with Stagecoach Manchester, although at busy points in the student area buses might be waved through early rather than block up a stop when there is a bus every couple of minutes.
 

trentside

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A well written timetable, with normal traffic conditions should have no problems with the bus arriving at the time shown - for example, my local stop is served at 17 minutes and 47 minutes past the hour. The majority of buses arrive on the dot - but as the day gets towards the rush hours, it does tend to go awry by around 5 minutes (sometimes a little more). It's interesting to note that earlier timetables I have from Lincoln City Transport (now gone) and Nottingham City Transport don't tend to show intermediate timings - just the routings and start and end point times.

My personal opinion is that anything more than a 12 minute frequency is turn up and go. 12 minutes used to be the highest frequency in Lincoln, but Stagecoach have since upped two routes to have 10 minute frequencies (a third does, but split between two routes - so essentially a 20 minute headway on two circulars). I don't bother with timetables when using these routes, but the remainder I do.
 

jon0844

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Running early was always a big no-no when I was working on the buses, and still seems to be in most cases at least with Stagecoach Manchester, although at busy points in the student area buses might be waved through early rather than block up a stop when there is a bus every couple of minutes.
My father-in-law is a bus driver and it's a big no no there. Still, I've never really considered Uno as being a proper bus operator!
 

tbtc

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TfL regards every 12 minutes as turn up and go, whereas I wouldn't until 7-8 minutes. Anything that is regularly above that will have times. Where it says 11-14 minutes that will usually be every 12 minutes with just a couple of longer gaps - usually very early or late journeys.
It's a difficult one - if they show a timetable as being every twelve minutes for a couple of peak hours, then adjusted for lower traffic volumes during the daytime allowing a faster journey, then adjusted again in the afternoon for traffic congestion... but all the time running with the same overall timetable (however with slightly longer/shorter gaps at intermediate stops due to traffic) then would you confuse people by listing every journey or would it be easier to say "every twelve minutes"?
 

Schnellzug

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Really? When I complained to Uno (a bus operator in Herts) that it had buses leaving 3-5 minutes early, I was told by them in an email (which I must still have archived) that they're allowed to leave up to 3 minutes early. I thought this was quite unlikely.

.
I should have contacted one of those organisations that deals with rare phenomena like UFOs and Bigfoot if I'd seen one of their buses leaving early. When I used to use them, they seemed to regard anywhere with 20 minutes of the stated time as being not worth making a fuss about. I once contacted them as well; they said that the Traffic Commissioner is only concerned with tendered services and has no authority over commercial services. Of course, they may have meant something quite different and it got garbled in communication, since they'd surely never tell an outright lie.


:|
 

Deerfold

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I should have contacted one of those organisations that deals with rare phenomena like UFOs and Bigfoot if I'd seen one of their buses leaving early. When I used to use them, they seemed to regard anywhere with 20 minutes of the stated time as being not worth making a fuss about. I once contacted them as well; they said that the Traffic Commissioner is only concerned with tendered services and has no authority over commercial services. Of course, they may have meant something quite different and it got garbled in communication, since they'd surely never tell an outright lie.


:|
Sounds like they're describing the council. The TC is *the* authority over all services for money, tendered or commercial.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
I think London is a special case as the traffic congestion is so bad that it's anybody's guess as to how long a journey will actually take, and when a bus will turn up, as they seem much more keen than provincial services on late-running buses turning short of the terminus, so I can understand the vagueness.
Oddly, outside of London turning buses early in all but the most extreme of circumstances is frowned upon by the Traffic Commissioner and could end up with you losing your license to operate buses.

In London, however, if there's buses bunching in one direction and a gap in the other it's regarded as good practice to turn them (though few handle the transfer as per good practice...the driver is supposed to remain until all the people off his bus have got on another).
 
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jon0844

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I've been chucked off the 55 many times, and often had the bus behind overtake and go - leaving everyone stranded. Poor communication considering control should know where every bus is and be able to tell the driver of the bus to pick up passengers at the same time as the driver being told to curtail the journey and return to 'regulate the flow'.

Maybe it has improved in recent months, but I always used to hate the risk of this happening in the evening peak. It was hard enough to get on a 55 at Old Street after 5.30pm as it was - let alone trying to change by Farringdon when it was even more crowded.
 

Statto

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Most bus routes have quite a number of intermediate timing points to assist the passenger, these are usually at major intersections or locations with a bus bay where they can stand out time if they run early. If these were all at multiples of five minutes it would mean buses standing time needlessly in many cases.

I think London is a special case as the traffic congestion is so bad that it's anybody's guess as to how long a journey will actually take, and when a bus will turn up, as they seem much more keen than provincial services on late-running buses turning short of the terminus, so I can understand the vagueness.

Running early was always a big no-no when I was working on the buses, and still seems to be in most cases at least with Stagecoach Manchester, although at busy points in the student area buses might be waved through early rather than block up a stop when there is a bus every couple of minutes.
I remember the days before D-Reg when buses running early, would often wait one stop before the terminus until they were on time then go into the terminus, which nowadays doesnt happen when drivers do arrive early at the terminus.

Some drivers take unofficial extended layover breaks, & still end up on time or early at the other end of the route.
 

jon0844

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Yup, the Uno bus drivers used to park up about 100 yards away from the depot when they were early! I am sure they could be seen and it must have been pretty obvious.
 

Deerfold

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I've been chucked off the 55 many times, and often had the bus behind overtake and go - leaving everyone stranded. Poor communication considering control should know where every bus is and be able to tell the driver of the bus to pick up passengers at the same time as the driver being told to curtail the journey and return to 'regulate the flow'.

Maybe it has improved in recent months, but I always used to hate the risk of this happening in the evening peak. It was hard enough to get on a 55 at Old Street after 5.30pm as it was - let alone trying to change by Farringdon when it was even more crowded.
Do feel free to complain about that - TfL only knows it's not been done properly if you tell them. And the buses shouldn't really be being turned if they're packed.

The controllers do know exactly where every bus on that route is (but not other operators' buses).
 
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