A reliable, efficient public bus network is of strategic importance to any major capital city and Dublin is no different.
Earlier this summer, the National Transport Authority unveiled its plan to radically restructure the Dublin Bus network.
Much of the public were justifiably dubious, asking: “Who exactly are the NTA and who are they answerable to?”
This proposed level of investment is of course to be welcomed but the widespread and wholesale changes that have been proposed to traditionally well-established routes are a source of worry for many Dubliners.
These are the services that they rely on to connect them with work, school, college, hospital appointments, shops, motor tax or social welfare offices, to name just a few.
My Fianna Fail colleagues and I have held a substantial number of public information meetings across the city and county on the proposals.
To my mind, this plan has exercised Dublin residents more than any other issue I have known to be raised on the doors.
The overarching concern is that BusConnects could disconnect their communities; disconnect them from direct and reliable access in and around the city.
After all, it’s one thing to be forced to move to a high-frequency route; it’s another matter entirely for those that will now have to travel on a low-frequency service.
There are ongoing issues with Dublin Bus services that commuters have been eager to see properly addressed and would have preferred for funding to be spent on – a clampdown on anti-social behaviour, increased capacity at peak times, dedicated school buses and more consistent real-time information.
While there are a number of aspects of the BusConnects plan that have merit, including the 90-minute Leap card, the idea of multiple spines and orbital routes – the fact is, BusConnects will disconnect passengers from their destination.
Forcing people to now make multiple connections on a route that once operated directly without a bus change will simply push more people to travel by car on our already busy roads. It’s a regressive move.
For example, under BusConnects, passengers that have travelled on routes such as the 33, 123 and the 15A in one seamless journey will be required to disembark, re-queue and board a feeder bus.
In Blanchardstown, for example, there are 2,000 people employed in IBM, yet they will have a bus axed, leaving them to travel to the city centre first and then on to West Dublin to simply get to work.
Other essential, well-operating bus routes such as the 142, the 46A and the 15B are to be scrapped, leaving whole communities isolated and passengers discommoded.
This makes travelling by bus far more problematic and inconvenient for commuters, particularly during the winter months.
The current project plan punishes and penalises those with any degree of difficulty with their mobility or whose independence could be compromised by forcing them to take a connecting bus.
Not to mention, the maps are a real challenge for even the most able navigator.
Parents too are fearful for what the BusConnects changes will mean for their children who have travelled to school by bus but will now be in a more tricky scenario, moving from one bus to another.
As Thomas O’Connor of the National Bus and Rail Union has said: “All communities around Dublin are being hit in some fashion.”
Fianna Fail has used its Private Members Business in Dail Eireann this week, the first week back following the summer recess, to call for the review of this plan, in light of the complexities raised in the communities we represent.
The future of Dublin’s bus network largely depends on members of the public offering their unique insight into what is working well, but what precisely could be better.
The existing challenge to strike a balance between transforming the city’s bus network and strengthening connectivity, reliability and frequency lies in the ability to consult with those that know Dublin Bus services the best – its passengers.