Improved Bus Service is Essential for the Continued Prosperity of Dublin
Dublin can only grow and prosper if the role of public transport dramatically expands.1 Any other option will strangle the city with traffic congestion, because in a dense city, there is simply not enough room for everyone's car.
The National Transport Authority (NTA) is making numerous improvements to public transport. The bus element of this effort, called BusConnects, includes several parallel strands of activity:
Infrastructure and bus priority measures, such as the Core Bus Corridors project, to expedite the flow of buses and improve pedestrian and cycling conditions through Dublin.
Improvements to fares and ticketing, including making it possible to interchange without paying an additional fare.
Changes to the buses themselves, including moving the fleet toward cleaner technology and establishing an updated single livery under the Transport for Ireland brand.
A redesign of the bus network - the pattern of routes and schedules that buses follow.
This report is about the recommended bus network redesign. It represents the culmination of a three year long effort of study, analysis, consultation, and iterative thinking to develop a new network design for Dublin's buses.
In June 2017, the NTA released the Choices Report, an examination of the existing bus network, the levels of demand and need for public transport services throughout the Dublin area, and possible paths forward to improve service.
The Choices Report release was followed by a public survey which gathered the priorities of over 1000 respondents.
In July 2018, the Public Consultation Report detailed the initial network proposal. The key inputs to this proposal were the priorities established in the survey, and the technical expertise of the NTA, Dublin Bus, and the consultant team
A public consultation followed from July to September 2018. This consultation yielded over 30000 comments and submissions. This report covers the revised network proposal, taking into account the results of the 2018 consultation.
1 Cycling also plays an important complementary role to public transport. While there is a large overlap in the role of the two modes, they are useful ifferent situations. Cycling is more competitive for shorter trips, and public transport for longer ones. That's why the Transport Strategy of the Greater Dublin Region includes a cycling element as well public transport ele ments such as BusConnects, of which this study is a part.
Figure 1: Public transport and cycling require far less space to move the same number of people than cars, as shown in the photo below.
Photo Credit: (c) We Ride Australia
Figure 2: The bus network redesign is part of the BusConnects program, which is itself part of NTA's broader efforts at improving transport under the Transport Strategy of the Greater Dublin Region, as shown in the chart below.
Changing a bus network means changing people's lives and habits. As such, this process is inevitably controversial. The NTA has received many submissions asking for a more useful nwork, and many others expressing dismay at proposed changes. Nonetheless, in fact, the network has obvious problems that only a redesign can repair.
The network is very complex, which makes it hard to remember and use spontaneously. You can remember a bus route you take every day, but to feel free to move about the city, you need to be able to remember the structure of a network, just as most people remember the structure of the street network.
The network is good for many radial trips - taking people into Dublin's core - but not for orbital trips. For example, a trip from Blanchardstown to Lucan, or from DCU to the Malahide Road, usually requires going into the City Centre and back out, which takes far too long and puts more buses into crowded city streets than need to be there.
Many routes overlap for long distances. While lots of buses go down some streets, they are not evenly spaced to create the most frequent possible service.
Rail and tram network improvements require changes to the bus services. Buses, trams, and trains are not competitors. They are meant to work together to create the most useful pble network. Recent rail and tram upgrades (such as the Luas Green Line extension and the 10 minute DART) change the role that buses should play in the affected areas.
The city is growing and changing, in ways that the bus network must adapt to serve. New communities and job centres are appearing on the fringe, while the city centre continues to grow denser, especially in and near the Docklands.
All of these factors tell us that while any change in bus routes will raise objections, it is time to consider a substantial redesign.
Orbitals connect neighbourhoods and suburbs to each other, avoiding the City Centre. Local feeders connect outer suburban areas to suburban centres.
This plan deals only with the public bus services contracted by the NTA that operate primarily within the Dublin Metropolitan Area1
As of September 2019, approximately 90% of these services are operated by Dublin Bus, and 10% (mostly orbital and suburban local routes) are operated by Go Ahead Ireland, following their successful bn tender competition.
Services that operate for profit - including airport express services, the Swords Express (and a range of others) are not covered by the plan. Intercity and longer distance commuter services pro- vided by Bus Éireann and other operators are also not included.
Figure 5 shows how this plan was developed. Many of these steps correspond to chapters in this report.
Chapters 1 to 5 are from the original Choices Report, which was released early in June 2017. The Choices Report shared the con- sultant team's analysis of the existing situation and described several high-level strategies that could guide a network redesign.
The public was asked to comment on these strategies in June 2017, to guide us on whether, and how strongly, to pursue them. The initial public response is described in Chapter 6.
In July 2017, the consultant team facilitated a two-week intensive retreat with NTA, Dublin Bus, and local council officials. The proposed network was designed collaboratively, to about 80% completion in these workshops. The plan then went through fur- ther cycles of iteration with NTA and Dublin Bus, including an additional workshop focused on the peak-only services, leading to the July 2018 initial network proposal.
Following the second public consultation in summer 2018 (also described in Chapter 6), the consultant team facilitated further design workshops with NTA and Dublin Bus to take into account public input and submissions. This has led to the network now described in Chapter 7.
During the design workshops and subsequently we repeatedly checked how the new network would improve where people could get to quickly, and used that feedback to continuously improve the design. Network coverage, travel time and job access impacts are described in Chapter 8.
To Increase Patronage, Make Service Useful and Liberating
The goal of the proposed network is to make public transport useful tre people to reach more destinations all over Dublin.
Dubliners have already shown that they use public transport when it is useful. But there are many purposes for which the service is not useful, and this is what the plan aims to change.
Later in this summary, we quantify this expansion of usefulness. For example, under the proposed network, the average Dubliner would be able to access 27% more jobs and edu- cational opportunities within 30 minutes2 , compared to the existing system.
Consisting of Dublin City, the adjacent built-up areas of South Dublin, Dun Laoghaire- Rathdown and Fingal, and nearby towns in Meath (Dunboyne), Kildare (Celbridge, Maynooth, Leixlip) and Wicklow (Bray, Greystones), and all other areas currently served by Dublin Bus or Go-Ahead Ireland.
Technically, the measure here is the change in the number of jobs, and the number of enrolled students at post-secondary colleges and universities, within 30 minutes door-to-door, by walk- ing and public transport. The 30 minutes includes all walking, waiting, riding and interchange time.
The plan is based on a geometric principle that may sound wrong when you first hear it: a network that assumes you are willing to change buses can get you to your destination sooner.
This is because reducing the number of bus routes allows each remaining route to operate more frequently. In a network with relatively few but very frequent routes, getting from any point A to B often requires changing vehicles at least once, but waits are very short. So it's usually much faster than waiting for a direct route that may only come every 20, 30 or 60 minutes. We describe this principle in more detail in Chapter 5.
Following this principle, if the network redesign is implemented, many trips in Dublin that are now direct may require changing buses. However, most of those trips will still be much faster, as evidenced by the increase in access to jobs and educational opportunities shown in Chapter 8.
While a tolerance of interchange is thus an essential feature, there is still an inconvenience to getting off one bus, walking to a differ- ent bus stop, and getting on a different bus.
Thus, the revised network redesign seeks to minimize the number of cases where multiple interchanges are required to complete a trip. Under the plan:
Within the M50, almost all areas retain all-day direct service to the City Centre. And nearly all areas with peak-hour direct service to or from City Centre retain a similar service, includ- ing in outer suburbs.
All of Dublin is no more than one interchange away from the city centre.
With few exceptions, trips between any two points in Dublin can be completed with no more than two interchanges, and often with zero or one.
In very limited instances, three interchanges may be required between two points, but in practice that situation affects a very small number of trips going from one extremity of the network to another (e.g. Blessington to Skerries).
Taking into account public feedback after the initial proposal, the revised network redesign also now includes many more peak-only and lifeline routes whose purpose is to maintain occasional direct trips to the City Centre for commuter needs and to meet the needs of people with less ability to walk long distances to reach service.
Figure 6: Table explaining how the four main strategies behind the bus network redesign help solve known issues with the existing bus network in Dublin.
Table explaining how the four main strategies behind the bus network redesign help solve known issues with the existing bus network in Dublin, with top level headings of 'Problem Addressed', and row headings called 'Tools'
Poor orbital service
Buses in City Centre
1. Standardize service categories
Yes. Categories make planning efficient services easier.
Yes. Frequency and span are apparent from the category, without looking at timetables.
Yes. Standard categories make frequencies predictable and consistent.
Yes. Categories make planning efficient services easier, reducing excess bus trips.
2. Simplify radial service
Yes. Releases resources for orbital use.
Yes. Reduction of complexity, especially in city centre
Yes. Higher frequency for travel to, from and through the city centre
Yes. Consolidating service to the centre on fewer routes means frequency can be optimized, reducing surplus trips.
3. Build frequent orbitals
Yes. The intersection of frequent orbitals and radials produce a pattern that is easy to grasp.
Yes. Increased orbital frequency.
Yes. Fewer passenger trips are forced through city centre, reducing loads.
4. Grow suburban feeder networks
Yes. Improves market for both orbital and radial services to regional centres.
Yes. Fewer overlapping routes in suburban markets
Yes. Improved local frequency for travel within suburban areas.
Yes. Feeder networks support consolidating service to city centre on fewer routes.
Strategy 1 is to develop a clearer set of service categories to which all services would be assigned.
Service categories mark clear distinctions in usefulness. For example, they clearly distinguish frequent services from infre- quent ones, and peak-only services from all-day services. These categories improve the clarity of the network, and can form the basis for clearer mapping and public information.
A key idea is that the network of higher frequency services (every 15 minutes or better) should be easy to identify, because these services are so useful for a diversity of purposes.
Strategy 2: Simplify Radial Services
Figures 8 and 9 show a schematic of the existing and proposed radial networks.
In the existing system, most radial corridors are served by a pile of overlapping routes, each of which goes to a different corri- dor on the opposite side of the city. This provides direct service
between many places, but each of the individual routes is not very frequent, so wait times are long.
The proposed strategy would put a single line (the "spine") on each radial corridor, but would run this service very frequently. Service would come every 3 to 8 minutes all day, so that the next bus is coming whenever you need it. This also means you could change from any spine to any other with little delay, so that trips across the city would still be easy. Again, total travel times are faster because the waiting time saved by the high frequency is greater than the time spent on the interchange.
Note that each spine (e.g. A) would be composed of several branches (e.g. A1, A2, A3, A4), each of which would provide direct access to City Centre and points beyond. No inter- change would be required at the point where the branches peel off.
For example, heading from City Centre to a point on the A spine (e.g. DCU St. Patrick's College), one would board any A bus (A1, A2, A3 or A4). Travelling from City Centre to a point beyond the "spine" segment such as Beaumont Hospital, one would board the appropriate bus (A1) for a direct trip.