Margaret Thatcher is often said to have remarked: “Any man in his thirties who finds himself on a bus should consider himself a failure.” This is one thing the iron lady didn't actually say, but while those who travel on them - us included – might not be failures, we are all rendered miserable by the experience.
So, how do we go about making the process much nicer? By installing Live London Bus Tracker, that’s how. This dainty little free app allows you access to the Countdown bus information service run by Transport for London. It’s useful, because it’s real-time arrival data about every bus that operates in London.
Obviously, if you don’t live in, or visit London regularly, this review will be pointless, but if you do visit, or may one day come to see the capital of this green and pleasant land, then it’s probably worth chucking it on your phone anyway.
Live London Bus Tracker
- Google Play
The app itself is dizzyingly simple, and astonishingly simple to use. The first screen is for your favourites. The first time you open the app this will be predictably empty. But get on with some searching, and you’ll be able to “star” stops that you use on a regular basis. This saves a lot of searching time, and means you’ll be able to get live data within a few seconds of opening the app.
It uses TfL's own data, which the firm opened up for general use, via an API last year. This does mean, from time to time, the app will stop working because TfL is doing something. And if the company decides to shut the feed down, the app will stop working. But what you get here is the same information that is used to keep the bus stop screen updated with arrival information.
Favourites are listed in the order you add them, so have a think about this if you have a lot, and add the most frequently used stops first.
The next tab along is for search. This is where you’ll spend a lot of time, at least until you’ve set up your favourites. What’s good about this, is that you can search based several parameters. First, there’s the name of an area, so, say “Waterloo”. This is okay for finding what you want, but most main London streets have a dizzying number of bus services. It can get confusing.
You can also search based on the bus stop number. And this is really useful, especially if you’re standing waiting for a bus. You simply tap in the five-digit number – it’s usually printed on the bus stop, above the bus timetables – and the app will give you the buses that call at that stop, and when they are next expected.
As you’d expect, there’s also a postcode search. But if you don’t know where you are, then the good news is that via GPS the application can suggest stops nearby, and provide information about them.
So, there you have it. Not a complicated app by any means, but it’s one we use constantly, and have found exceptionally useful.