Saturday 20 October 2018

Only 'minor changes' can be made to radical plan for Dublin Bus

Public consultation on the Bus Connects plan opens today

Dublin Bus is due to undergo a substantial revamp
Dublin Bus is due to undergo a substantial revamp
Paul Melia

Paul Melia

ONLY minor changes can be made to a radical restructuring of the Dublin Bus network unveiled last week or it will “fall apart”.

Transport planner Jarrett Walker, who designed the new network on behalf of the National Transport Authority (NTA), said the plan would not go ahead if there was widespread opposition, but he urged people to read the proposal and examine the mooted changes before objecting.

The network review, the biggest undertaken in the history of Dublin Bus, will see a renumbering of all routes and creation of seven high-frequency ‘spines’ labelled from ‘A’ to ‘G’ across the city, upon which buses will run every four to eight minutes.

These will branch out in the suburbs.

There will also be additional orbital services around the capital, connections with Dart, Luas and commuter rail, but some passengers will lose direct services to the heart of the city, and be forced to interchange.

Mr Walker said the Bus Connects plan would result in people being able to travel to more areas, and that the frequency on the spines would be higher than existing services which would result in shorter waiting times, and faster trips overall.

“The network gets more people to more places sooner,” he told Independent.ie.

“There will be a 27pc expansion of services, which will be made up of increased driver hours and an increase of around 10pc in the fleet.

“I would encourage people to look at the maps carefully, and to look at the legend (indicating frequency). Rumours you hear about his plan are probably wrong. People should inform themselves.

“This plan will not happen if the feedback is overwhelmingly negative. That means people who like the plan also have to comment.”

Asked if it could be changed to accommodate local concerns, he said no more than 10pc to 15pc of routes could be altered or it wouldn’t work. However, the NTA was open to suggested improvements and some changes could be made.

“The network is extremely interdependent. If you start taking it apart, it begins to fall apart,” he said. “I expect the comments (from the public) to turn up a couple of good ideas we didn’t have. Every comment will be read.”

The plan was developed because the existing bus network is seen as being too complex, with too many overlapping routes, making it difficult for new users and tourists to understand how it works.

A new numbering system was being introduced to make it “easy to explain”, he said.

There were also concerns that some buses were overloaded, while those travelling to similar areas but a short distance behind had few passengers.

“Several times I have taken a 5pm walk into the city and I see plenty of crowded buses, and half empty buses. They’re half empty because people are waiting for buses to get them to specific areas,” he said, adding the new plan would allow people travel out from the city on any of the spines, before transferring to local services in the suburbs.

This would spread the load, allowing greater capacity to move people during the peaks.

In relation to removing some direct services, he said it made more sense to switch to the high-frequency spines, or provide links to Luas or rail which offered regular frequency.

But people would still be able to get the bus to their destination if they preferred, he added, although it would involve interchanging.

The system has been implemented in Auckland, New Zealand, in Heuston, Texas and in part of Moscow. He said similar concerns had been raised in these cities by the travelling public.

“We should expect to see people complaining about changes and not having a direct route into the city. We should factor in that you’re creating new travel opportunities,” he said.

“I’m interested in people who may have to drive their cars, who don’t have a service.”

What else is in the plan?

In addition to the seven ‘spines’, there are also 11 orbital services in the west (W services) which connect places including Blanchardstown to Tallaght, and Maynooth/Celbridge to Grange Castle and Tallaght, in the north (N routes) and south of the city (S).

Many of these services don’t exist today, or are complex.

An orbital route ‘O’ will also run along the canals every ten minutes in both directions, linking Heuston and Connolly stations, the Samuel Beckett Bridge and St James’s Hospital. This is designed to allow people move around the core of the city and improve journey times.

In addition, there would be more local services to access retail centres which didn’t currently exist, and major interchanges at Tallaght, Blanchardstown and Liffey Valley. Stops would be placed a short walking distance apart, and there would be ample shelters.

Additional peak time only services are also proposed.

How can I have my say on the plan?

The public consultation process begins today, and continues until September 28 next.

Dublin Bus and the National Transport Authority will hold a series of information sessions at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre (July 27), The Square in Tallaght (August 10), Donaghmede Shopping Centre (August 24) and at other locations including Bray, Dundrum, Dunboyne, Swords, Ballymun, Liffey Valley and Celbridge, with dates to be announced on busconnects.ie, on social media and in the local press.

Comments can also be made via an online survey at busconnects.ie, or by emailing consultations@busconnects.ie.

A freephone number 1800 303 653 is also available, but the NTA has asked that people make submissions, including outlining any concerns they have, through the online survey or by email.

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