On 14 February 1977, Canberra’s Bus Service was renamed to the Australian Capital Territory Internal Omnibus Network – better known as ACTION.
To coincide with its ‘birthday’, ACTION today unveiled a brand new look for its website, the first major overhaul to the site in a number of years.
The site boasts improved accessibility, a mobile-friendly design and a fresh new look. Access to services appears to be a focus of the homepage, with options to find routes by number and by suburb, as well as a Google Transit journey planner all provided on the right hand side of the page.
Completing the front page are two new sections -a large graphic slider, highlighting news items and services, and a news section. These visual elements certainly get key messages across straight away something that was lacking in the previous site design.
Timetables display only one direction of travel by default, with an option to switch directions provided at the top of the timetable page, along with a link to the traditional print versions of the timetable and route map.
Hovering the mouse over the timetable highlights the row, column and cell in order to assist readers by removing the potential to misread their timetable. This is particularly useful on services such as the Blue Rapid with many timing points and services.
Static highlighting was in place in the old timetables, but the cell highlighting in particular leaves absolutely no margin for error on the new site.
The route maps are somewhat notable by their absence on the new timetable pages. An ideal scenario would be having Google Maps on the same page, with the route marked out on it – this is perhaps a feature that could be implemented in the future. Would it be wishful thinking to hope that the NXTBUS real-time information system could show us where buses were along those maps too?
Access to timetables on mobile devices is vastly improved. Again, only one direction of travel is displayed by default, with the option to change the direction of travel provided at the top of the screen.
By default, routes are displayed with five columns – Route Number, Accessibility, Start Point, End Point and Expand Route.
Tapping on ‘Expand Route’ displays the each timing point along the route and the time the bus is timetabled to arrive at each of them.
Again, the possibilities for NXTBUS integration into this page are exciting – real-time updates on web timetables would be fantastic and would certainly cut down waiting times at bus stops.
The route number seems unnecessary on timetables for routes that use just one number – that is, most routes apart from the combined blue rapid timetable and those routes with peak extensions (65/265). Accessibility icons are a great touch, although a bike rack icon would also be of use as not all accessible buses are equipped with a bike rack.
Another piece of wishful thinking would be having each timing point as a link to that bus stop or landmark on Google Map. Route 17 for example has a timing point simply named ‘Hawker’ – being able to pinpoint where in Hawker this is would assist those who are unfamiliar with this route or suburb.
Users are also able to sign up to the new ACTION email alerts system, with the option of choosing any number of email categories, covering topics including employment opportunities, special events and timetables.
One of the coolest new features, from an enthusiasts perspective, is the revamped Fleet page, specifically the ‘Meet the Fleet’ section. Gone are the tired PDF specification documents, replaced with images of each model of bus in the fleet, together with a colour coded seating plan, indicating raised sections, wheelchair spaces, priority seating and bag racks. Basic model information is also provided – fleet numbers, accessibility, service dates and bicycle racks.
The enterprising (or overly-obsessive) enthusiast could make good use of these diagrams – marking out where the most comfortable seats are located. Trust me, it’s not that crazy if you’re more than about 170cm tall!
Another new page – We Get on Board – despite borrowing most of our slogan – is a great addition that highlights ACTIONs involvement in the community past its bus services. Currently highlighted are fundraising efforts for Movember and Bandana Day, sponsorship of the Canberra Capitals and involvement with the National Folk Festival.
The website also notes that filmmakers, photographers and broadcasters are to seek permission from ACTION before filming or photographing its buses, but further states ‘our permission is required to film or photograph on these premises’, which seems to indicate that permission is only required within bus stations. We sought comment from ACTION on this point, who clarified that it refers only to commercial photographers and filmmakers.
Overall, room for improvement does remain, and likely always will – no website is perfect. However, the improvements made across the website have resulted in a great leap forward, and it will be interesting to see what other improvements and features will arrive with NXTBUS later in the year.
Finally – what better time than now to reflect on how the website looked back in 1998.