I Wanna Ride The Bus!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Daysaver Confusion (Courtesy of First)

I rode a 100 home the other day, nothing new or fancy there, it was just the first bus that turned up that goes to where I live.

The trip was uneventful, and certainly nothing happened which would normally prompt me to make a blog post about the bus ride.

It's what didn't happen which is what made this incident postworthy.

Regular readers will know that I posted about the daysavers being discontinued by first. What I didn't post was that I rang up GMPTE a long time before, claiming that as First were saying on their website that they would not issue Daysavers for buses only any more, their website, in claiming that any System 1 bus operator would issue a bus only daysaver meant that they were misrepresenting the availability of daysavers. I also pointed out that their very close buddies at System 1 were advertising the same thing.

After pointing out that they were misleading people, I got put through to a manager who claimed that there had been an emergency meeting with first and the PTE and the threat was over.

So why, two months after the event are First still running buses saying that they are not issuing the things?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

GPS Blues (Or is my PDA broken?)

Just before the tax breaks on the home computing initiatives ended, I was fortunate enough to work for a firm which ran the scheme, and I was quick enough to get an order in before the cut-off date.

I ordered a new desktop PC (which I'm writing this on,) and a PDA with built-in GPS for sat nav functionality.

The sat nav worked very well, the GPS reception was fair, it took a bit of time to get a first fix, but it held a signal, and just for the heck of it, in a fit of experimentation, I even managed to get and hold a GPS signal in the middle of a train one day.

That was until I crushed the unit and wrecked the screen.

Never mind, that's what insurance is for, and I rang up the insurance firm, told them the sorry tale, and as I have an accidental damage policy which covers anything (except laptops and mobiles,) outside the home up to a certain amount, they agreed my claim and I sent the PDA off to the value check people to see if it could be fixed, and if not to establish the replacement value.

Now I had to replace the unit under the conditional hire agreement on the home computing initiative thing, the make of PDA was actually a clone of another model - a Mitac Mio A168 - and when I surfed the PDA sites, I found out that the 168 was to be discontinued and replaced with another model, along with it's bigger brother. Both units would have a more sensitive GPS antenna, and so I decided to buy one of these new units.

With the cheque from the insurance, I added a little bit more, so I got the one with bluetooth and wireless internet. It arrived Tuesday morning, I charged up the battery, went outside and fired up the satnav program.

And it is here that the problems started.

I was unable to get an initial fix from a point where I was able to get a very good fix with a less sensitive receiver. It is summer, and the trees were in full leaf, so I moved to the top of a grassy knoll with about 100 yards of clearance all round.

Still no fix. The device was operating, it was capturing one or two satellites, but the third needed to get a fix was very elusive. Considering that a minimum of 7 of 27 satellites in orbit should be visible in the sky at any one time, and the receiver was supposed to be one that could handle lower power reception and 20 channels, this was a bad thing.

20 minutes later, I had switched to another application - actually a game - because I was bored with waiting for a fix to appear, (it was still searching for a fix in the background,) I switched back to the sat nav program, and found that it had six signals on the screen, but had not yet found a fix.

Suddenly three went off the air, and the remaining three's power levels went crashing down. I was getting a stronger signal when touching the screen with my stylus.

I confirmed this by holding the stylus down on the screen, the signals went right up, three new signals appeared, and the first three went through into fix territory. Finally, my PDA knew where I was.

Not so fast. Becasue while I was seated on the grassy knoll, I was actually moving through the world at about 3mph according to the unit, my position, shown as latitude and longitude was constanly shifting about, and I was apparently walking round in ever decreasing circles.

My old unit never did this.

I took the stylus off the screen, the signal strength went through the floor, and about a minute later, the GPS fix on the same grassy knoll was lost.

I am not a happy chappy.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Price Rises, Again

I posted that bus only daysavers had gone up after First had a strop about them being cheaper than their own offering. Now the others have followed suit. Bus, train and tram is now £7, bus and train is £4.50 and bus only ones are £4 or £3.50

The other modes hadn't gone up much recently and they are still good value for money, but the season tickets have also gone up after having been changed back in February, the most notable rise then being a "stealth" £47 rise for the monthly bus savers getting chopped back to 28 days (13 passes needed for the year over the 12 needed before.) The 28-day pass has gone up £2 to £49, so in effect that's a massive 12% increase compared with the same time last year. That's unsustainable.

Bus ridership is dropping everywhere except London; how many more people will be choosing other modes as a result of the latest round of price rises?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Omen

Well it's now gone past midnight, so it's the 7th June here in England, so I think it's safe to go to bed!

Seriously, I've just got back from the cinema, and I would have to say to all of you bus-riding readers to get on the bus and go and see the film. If you saw the original, you'll like the comparisons with the original film - faithful to the original with a bit more back story which helped to flesh out the story in a way, but the obvious plot holes haven't been filled in, so it runs nicely with the original, and if you haven't seen the original film, just enjoy it.

To blatantly get this post back onto a bus theme, why not take a bus to your local cinema, many bus routes go to or very near cinemas, and watch this great film.

PS I'll be spending a lot of summer at local cinemas by the look of things, XMen 3 is still on the list to watch, and there's Superman Returns to see as well. Not forgetting the Cornerhouse in Manchester where there may well be something a little more challenging to see.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Daysavers: Here today, gone tomorrow?

I really should have posted this one in April when I was still taking the bus more often, but I think the subject should be aired anyway.

I posted back on April 10th (it should still be on this page, as I haven't really posted since then, of course if you're looking at this in the archive, then look for April...) about First putting up the prices of their tickets again.

I wrote:
Daily FirstDay tickets are going up to £3.30, which will be more expensive than an off-peak DaySaver priced £3.20 and makes the bus and train off-peak Daysaver look like fantastic value at £4.

Clearly somebody at First's accounts office noticed as well, because First publicised discontinuing bus only Daysavers from the date the fares went up. The poster said that they would accept bus only Daysavers from other operators, but would not issue one themselves.

Since then, the price of the Daysaver has gone up to £3.50 off-peak, but it seems clear to me that First would rather have people using their own tickets, rather than a multi-operator travelcard. Enjoy the Daysaver while it lasts, because maybe next time, First and Stagecoach will be after it getting chopped. Stagecoach, of course would be loathe to share revenue with UK North / GM Buses on the 192 battleground route.

Integrated public transport with true, easy inter-availability of tickets across all modes is the only way that public transport will be better used outside of the peaks, and perhaps would help encourage others to travel by other means than their car in the peak times as well; though there's not much spare capacity then.

More later, but I'm off to the cinema on Deansgate to watch "The Omen" remake, though I think it'll take a lot to beat the Gregory Peck original.

Not neglecting the blog, honest

I have a confession to make. I haven't been riding the bus much recently.

This has nothing to do with the fact that tickets are hard to get, and that it's a battle to cross Manchester, it's because I've bought a bike.

There's a couple of bus-related posts to make, but as I've only just remembered by blogger password and it's 1 in the morning, I'm off to bed.