Edinburgh has a really good bus system, I think. One of the many conveniences that it offers is real-time bus schedules. They are available on the Web, via an app, and on electronic display boards at the most important stops, mostly in the city centre. At many of the less crowded stops, however, there is no electronic display, and if you're not equipped with a smart phone you have to fall back to the printed schedule (which is available at most stops, mind you).

This little program fills used to fill that gap by providing live bus schedules over SMS. You send an SMS with the bus stop code to a special number, and you should immediately get an SMS back with the current live bus information for that stop.

The number:

(removed 2020-10-07 - the service has gone offline, so long and thanks for all the SMSes!)

The stop code is found at every stop. It is 8 digits long, and often starts with "36". For instance if you text "36236456" to that number, you'll get back something like this:

DUE 23-Trnt
DUE 35-OcnTrmnl
DUE 42-HnvrStrt
DUE 47-PnckLwd
5 27-Slvrknws
11 47-PnckLwd
14 35-OcnTrmnl
16 2-GlCntr
21 47-PnckLwd
23 23-Trnt
24 2-GlCntr

The format should be roughly familiar, as it mimics the official bus tracker's: each line contains a forecast in minutes (or "DUE"), the line number, and the destination name. The vowels have been stripped out of the destination name to compress the output and make room for more data.

Built using the excellent neat but frustratingly unreliable Twilio API.

Fine print: whatever fees your phone company usually charges you to send and receive texts still apply, of course, but this service will not otherwise charge you. The catch is that it costs me about 3p per schedule lookup. If this ever gets too expensive I'll just shut it down The service is now offline, but its costs never rose to more than a pound a month or so.