You wait all year for an online bus-countdown service in the UK's capital and then, well, only one arrives at once, thereby screwing up our little joke. But, thankfully, TFL's new service, which you can find at countdown.tfl.gov.uk, looks set to revolutionise one of the most annoying aspects of public transport: not knowing when a bus is due to show up at the stop you're waiting at.
The service was discovered by Marc Baylis, who announced on Twitter: "Never have an unknown wait for a London bus again!" and picked up by blogger 'diamond geezer', who enthused about the scheme: "You type in a street, postcode or route number, and the website invites you to narrow down your search using a map interface. Click on the bus stop of your choice and the site displays a list of the next few buses due to arrive. You get a full list of buses for up to 30 minutes into the future, which is excellent, even if to be taken with a temporal pinch of salt. And then you can decide whether to wait, walk or replan your journey." And he added that this works for any bus stop in London, "even the ridiculously obscure ones on the outskirts".
Usefully, each stop has its own five-digit code, which can be used as a shortcut on the mobile-optimised site, and you can also store favourite stops as bookmarks. The blogger calls the site a "game-changer" for public transport access, since the new service augments existing sign services that are only available in a limited number of stops, and enables city-wide on-the-hoof planning.
According to a BBC News report, a TfL spokesperson has confirmed that the service will "provide real bus arrival information for all 19,000 bus stops across London via the web and SMS", and will launch fully this autumn. We also speculate that the organisation will make the data available through its APIs, providing scope for mobile and app development.