Using Alexa skills for public transport

White bubble with green background containing rail, tram, and bus images

by Joe Lonergan

Recently we have been testing some next bus and train time skills on Alexa with mixed results.

The perfect scenario for these skills is you are sitting in your house and you can simply ask your smart speaker “what is the next bus or train” and then you have a good idea what kind of time you have to play with before you have to leave the house.

The first skill we tested was Bus Stops Dublin.

To enable the skill, open the Alexa app and go to More. Then go to Skills and Games. Type in Bus Stops Dublin in the search box and the skill will appear in the list. After you launch the skill from the app it will be enabled on your smart speaker.

You can try enabling the app by saying “Alexa enable Bus Stops Dublin” but we found this can be unpredictable and can come up with all types of results such as next bus London and so on, so it is more accurate if you enable the skill from the Alexa app on your smart phone. Note the skill will only have to be enabled once.

Before you start using the skill it is a good idea to know your local bus stop number and the number of the bus you regularly use.

To open the skill, say “Alexa, open Bus Stops Dublin”. Then for an example say, “Alexa add bus stop 315 to my favourites”. Then you can say something like “when is the next 39 bus from stop 315”. For example Alexa might respond with something like “the next 39 bus going towards Burlington Road is 24 minutes away”. But in general we found the Bus Stop Dublin skill to be a bit clunky and found ourselves having to repeat the command a lot. Note, this skill is created by a 3rd party and is in no way an official skill of Dublin Bus.

Another skill we evaluated was LUAS Time.

Again, we searched for it on the Alexa app and launched it from there as it was too difficult to find directly with a voice command. To use LUAS Time just say, “Alexa, open LUAS Time”. You can say for example “Alexa ask LUAS Time for Sandyford tram schedule” or “Alexa, ask LUAS Time to remember St. Stephen’s green outbound direction”.

Again, the skill is a bit clunky, and we had to stop it and open it all over again a few times before it correctly gave us the real time information. It is also created by a 3rd party and is not an official skill of the Luas.

Two other skills we tried were 4nextTrain and 4nextLuas. Note the number 4 in the title if you are searching for them in the skills section of the Alexa app. We could not get either of them to work at this time. We enabled the skills successfully but most of our commands were met with a blank or non sensical response.

For now our efforts in finding a successful bus or train real time timetable was mixed. Personally I think this is a space that could become useful for people with a vision impairment in the future but not until national bus or rail companies decide to take it on and create their own skill.

If you have negative or positive experience with these skills we would like to hear from you, or if there is a skill out there that works better please let us know.