diamond geezer

 Thursday, November 19, 2020

It's now four years since TfL were due to print some new bus maps but decided not to. The last quadrant maps were published in March 2016, ditto the last Central London bus map, and haven't been updated since. I've blogged about this in some detail before.
You can download archived pdf copies of the final bus maps here: NW/NE/SE/SW/Central

Never fear, said TfL. Most passengers know where they're going, and those who don't can use our excellent digital products like Journey Planner or fire up an app, skipping the tedious mapreading stage altogether. Plus of course there are hundreds of spider maps, which we link to on our website, and these provide local information in key locations.



Last year TfL started switching to new-style spider maps which focus on shorter journeys and no longer show the full length of each route. The new-style maps were only used when local routes changed, as many have recently, so a mix of old and new coexists across London. Bow Church still has an old-style spider map, for example, whereas Oxford Circus has a new style map because its routes changed last year. I've blogged about this in some detail before.

But now spider maps are under threat, indeed they've already started disappearing. Here's some evidence, and further down I'll bring you some proof.

The bus spider map page on the TfL website started haemorraghing pdfs some time last year. They only vanished in certain parts of the capital, generally in outer London, but in some boroughs the vast majority of spider maps have been deleted. In Hillingdon, for example, the number of spider maps has dropped from 37 to 17 and in Harrow from 27 to 5.

This map shows how many spider map pdfs remain in each borough.



Some of these totals are as high as ever, for example in the West End where all of last year's many route changes were reflected in updated maps. But whereas Newham still has 30 spider maps neighbouring Barking & Dagenham has been throttled down to three. Ealing's total of 19 somehow exceeds all of Harrow, Brent and Barnet combined. Wandsworth's six looks pitiful compared to all of its neighbours. And although Bromley still manages 26 maps poor old Bexley has been cut back to just two, both of which are on the borough boundary.

There are some really striking local absences. Uxbridge, no maps whatsoever. Finchley, nothing. Streatham, bugger all. Wood Green, nah. Clapham Junction, nul points. Meanwhile Romford still has as many as seven different maps focusing on different parts of the town, Sutton has five and even Greenford has three. Something odd is going on.

A clue was provided in this response to a Mayoral question in December last year.
"Following the large number of recent changes to the bus network, Transport for London has almost completed updating all of the information at stops and shelters. This includes posting an estimated 6000 updated bus spider maps at stops across London. TfL will make sure that all out of date maps are updated or removed by the end of the financial year and is looking at ways in which this can be completed more quickly in future."
That sounds good... except hang on, the promise is to "update or remove" out-of-date spider maps. What if more maps are being removed than updated? It'd certainly be one way to speed up the process! The response continued...
"Some spider maps have been discontinued as recent research with customers shows that they are used by less than 1 per cent of bus users. In future, TfL will focus on providing maps at those shelters that serve multiple routes or serve destinations that are more likely to be unfamiliar to customers, for example hospitals."
It seems spider maps are being thinned out on the somewhat spurious basis that they're used by less than 1% of bus users. Given that the vast majority of passengers ride the same journey regularly that's hardly surprising. Indeed by the same logic we could shut down the entire Heathrow loop of the Piccadilly line because it's used by only ½% of tube passengers. As for focusing on shelters served by multiple routes or serving unfamiliar destinations, that doesn't sound too unreasonable... does it?

Alas here's further clarification provided recently by TfL to a stakeholder meeting in west London. It's bad news I'm afraid.
We only re-issue maps that show five or more routes with locations most likely to generate unfamiliar journeys.
Apparently spider maps will now only get produced if they show a minimum of five bus routes. If your locality has four, bad luck. That's Pinner blacklisted, along with Woodford, Cheam and Sanderstead. Previously TfL would do you a spider map even if you only had two routes (hello Kenley, hello West Ham), and in Hillingdon station's case just one. A substantial number of the suburbs' spider maps have suddenly been deemed fundamentally unsustainable.

It gets worse...
The hub map also needs to show two of the following:
• a nearby significant place of interest (e.g. hospital or visitor attraction)
• transport facility (e.g Tube or Rail station)
• major shopping centre/high street

So a major shopping centre without a station or significant location - nothing. A big station with nowhere important nearby - nothing. This sounds very much like an excuse to reduce the number of spider maps to an absolute minimum.
Spider maps that don’t meet these criteria have now been discontinued and will no longer be reissued.
In good news, this is only for spider maps being re-issued. If your local bus routes don't change, your spider map stays. It's only if a route gets added, diverted, extended, curtailed or withdrawn that these new conditions apply. Meet the criteria and somebody makes a new map. Fail and somebody takes it down.

Take the London borough of Havering. The only bus route that's changed recently is the 497, a new three mile route running from Harold Hill to Harold Wood. As far as I can tell all of Havering's spider maps remain on the TfL website except for those served by the 497. Harold Hill is a major postwar housing estate whose residents are very heavily reliant on bus services. Its shopping centre is served by six bus routes, which passes the threshold, but it has no place of interest nor transport facility so now there's no map. Meanwhile Harold Wood is going to be a Crossrail station and is served by five routes, but being a significant transport interchange is no longer sufficient so it too no longer merits a map. How shortsighted is that?

As a further example, consider route 278 which was introduced last December between Heathrow and Ruislip. Normally this would have meant all the spider maps along the 11 mile route got updated. But somebody scrutinised the list and decided that only three should be retained - at Hayes, Heathrow North and Heathrow Terminals 2 and 3. All the rest were junked for being newly-inaccurate and will not reappear. This is why Ruislip no longer has a spider map - its bus services were improved so its maps were removed. Better zero information than incomplete information, it seems.

Of course just because a spider map's up in bus shelters doesn't mean it's on the website. And just because a spider map's on the website doesn't mean it's up in bus shelters. For example Bus Stop M's spider map mysteriously disappeared at the start of lockdown, despite being (to the best of my knowledge) up-to-date and accurate. I had thought this was temporary and it'd be coming back, but now I'm not so sure. Eight daytime routes and two nightbuses serve the location, so that's not reason enough to scrap it. Maybe there's too little of significance close by, or maybe the bus-map-putter-uppers are simply being as inept as usual.
We’ve recently reviewed the number of maps we issue to ensure resources are being prioritised to the right places.
In conclusion, it's all about money. TfL are increasingly skint and the production of spider maps is an unnecessary drain on resources, at least in a chief accountant's eyes. These days all the investment is in powering digital solutions (open app, enter start point, enter destination, view choice of routes) rather than a quick glance at a sheet of paper. And yes, the vast majority of bus users won't care because they already know where they're going. But next time you're in an unfamiliar part of town and hoping to travel by bus, it's increasingly likely there'll be nothing to help you plan ahead.

London - the city with 600 bus routes but fewer and fewer maps to tell you where they go.


<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>


click to return to the main page


...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

my flickr photostream