Archive for July, 2012

Next steps on FixMyTransport

You might think that now you’ve used FixMyTransport to contact a transport operator, your work is done. Well, perhaps it is – sometimes, all you have to do is ask. But, more than likely, your issue could do with a little help.

Here’s what to do next, if you want to make FixMyTransport really work for you.

Gather support

  • FixMyTransport allows other people to discuss or join your campaign – and you need to attract as many as you can. Campaigns with lots of supporters are taken more seriously by everyone, including the operator.
  • Keep the conversation going. Every time you receive a comment or a supporter, your page goes back to the top of the recent issues list – one of our most-read pages. So don’t just create your page and forget about it. It’s worth replying to others, adding updates, and drumming up support, perhaps over a period of several days.

Work that social media

Facebook plugin for FixMyTransport

  • There are buttons at the top of your campaign that allow you to broadcast your issue via Twitter, Facebook or email. You don’t have to bore the pants off your pals, but it’s worth tweeting a few times, maybe at different times in the day.

Using a hashtag on Twitter

  • Twitter is also great for targeting those who will be interested in your specific problem. Why not tweet your campaign URL to a local blog, newspaper, or even a celebrity, if you think they’d be interested? Or use a hashtag (#) for the location of your problem. Many cities and towns have a Twitter account that automatically retweets mentions.

Take it into the real world

  • Not a big fan of social media? You can just as easily pass on the URL of your campaign page by word of mouth. Use a link-shortener like TinyURL, that lets you include a relevant a word or phrase in the new URL, and then it’ll be more memorable.
  • Put messages where they will be seen – how about a post office window just by the bus stop?
  • Or talk to your fellow passengers – they are the ones who are most affected by your issue, so they will care the most. Hand out that link and make sure they understand how to join a campaign (“Click on the big green button” should do the trick).

FixMyTransport big green button

Don’t take no for an answer

    • Some operators just don’t send a reply. Or you might receive a response, but it doesn’t fix your problem. If you believe your issue is worth pursuing, don’t give up.

FixMyTransport action buttons

    • Now is the time to use FixMyTransport’s ‘ask an expert‘ button (as in the screenshot, above). Your message goes straight to the inboxes of the FixMyTransport volunteers, known as ‘Anoraks’. We have a long list of contacts, and several of us have experience in the transport sector, too.
    • Our Anoraks are on hand to help you, but you can also take action yourself. There are plenty of next steps you can take – each will be suitable for a different type of issue.
      • You might write to an independent watchdog, like Passenger Focus or Bus Users UK.
      • It’s always worth involving your local councillor – they have a duty to ensure that public transport is working for their constituents.
      • If your story has enough human interest, the local press might want to run a story.
      • See if there’s a pressure group with the same interests as you. The best fit might be a local cycling group, or an accessibility charity, or a commuter group… there are organisations for almost every issue.


The nice thing about FixMyTransport is that you can do all this from your campaign page. Your messages, and any answers you receive, are all published on the page, making a permanent record for anyone else with the same problem in the future.

First impressions are everything

Take a good look at your FixMyTransport campaign page, or maybe ask a friend to have a look at it. Remember that  people will arrive on your page with little or no previous knowledge of your issue. Does it make immediate sense? Is it framed as an issue that other people will actually want to support?

  • If not, FixMyTransport does allow you to reword it. Just click the yellow button in the panel at the top of your page (image as above). Note – it does not alter the text of your message to the operator, which, in most cases, is sent as soon as you submit it.

Everything in order? Good! Now let’s see if we can get that bus shelter cleaned, that train to leave on time, or that ticket machine fixed.

Network Rail Stations on FixMyTransport


FixMyTransport is raising all sorts of interesting issues as we progress towards making public transport even easier to understand for those who seek to improve it.

We really enjoy receiving feedback that challenges us, particularly when it concerns usability. One piece of feedback that has created an interesting area to look at have been the seventeen Network Rail Stations. Most of the 2,500 railway stations in the UK are owned by Network Rail and most of those are leased to a train operator who looks after most aspects of the station including customer service staff. The seventeen Network Rail stations are an anomaly, with Network Rail managing the station but most of the customer facing staff provided by the train operators. What this resulted in was Network Rail receiving complaints about staff they did not manage and unnecessary correspondence for users of FixMyTransport.

We were challenged to improve the situation through our feedback page and agreed that this was a gap that needed to be solved, so we set about finding who provided staff at Network Rail Stations.

It pondered a question though. Which staff members should we include? A driver or guard should be associated with a train service, so they were not strictly station based staff. Our discussions found that there were three different groups of staff that were based at stations and should be considered as part of our investigations. We understand there are other groups of people who could be encountered but they are usually subcontractors of the train operators or Network Rail.

Dispatchers – supervise the departure of trains

Booking Office Clerks – Sell tickets and provide information

First Class Waiting Rooms – Staff maintain a comfortable environment for First Class passengers.

We challenged our sources, using web forums and colleagues to find information about every Network Rail station. Some members of staff are not as obvious as others, particularly if they are placed in a corner of a busy railway station. We created a very comprehensive list of operator managed staff and have uploaded this to FixMyTransport. So if you have an issue with a member of staff at a Network Rail managed station, please don’t hesitate to use FixMyTransport; we have their details and your issue can be winging its way to the company responsible with just a few clicks.

If you want to provide feedback to the FixMyTransport Team, please do not hesitate to provide it through our dedicated pages located at the top of every page or through @fixmytransport

Credit: Image by Nicksarebi, used with thanks under the Creative Commons licence.

Closing the loop, or Istanbul (not Constantinople)

FixMyTransport uses a lot of public transport data in the interests of giving people an intuitive interface for reporting their problems with public transport. This kind of data can change pretty quickly though, as bus stops get moved, bus routes are closed or change hands, and mistakes in the original data get fixed.

Since we started work on FixMyTransport, the datasets it uses have become more freely available, and more frequently updated. This is great news as it makes the task of building and running a site like ours (and a myriad of other useful transport apps) a lot easier. So for the last few months I’ve been working on allowing us to update our transport data with the latest versions of public transport data on a regular basis. This can be fairly unglamorous work, and is one of those jobs where you know you’ve succeeded when you rollout months of work and no one notices. I think of it as a bit like learning to do the trick where you pull out the tablecloth from a heavily laden table without disturbing any of the plates and cups. Hopefully. But this morning, there was a glimmer of the light at the end of the tunnel.

One of the things I’ve been working on is being able to produce lists of the changes that we’ve made to the data in order to make the site work, and in response to feedback from members of the public – so, for example, back in August last year, someone wrote to let us know that they couldn’t find Dore & Totley station on the site. Turns out it was there, but using the old name Dore. We corrected that in our data, and last week, that change was in the first set of feedback I added to the NaPTAN dataset of bus stops and stations using ITO World’s nifty data quality service.

This morning, I noticed that some of our feedback (including the tweak to Dore & Totley) has already made it into the latest release of NaPTAN, available under an open license at That’s a great turnaround time,  it means we won’t have to keep a separate copy of those changes in our database any more, and everyone else who uses the data benefits too. Closing that loop feels like a small, but significant, bit of progress.

Credit: Image by Austin Kleon, used with thanks under the Creative Commons licence.