Bus Network Redesign Choices Report June 2021

Prepared by Jarrett Walker & Associates and SYSTRA on behalf of the National Transport Authority.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

  1. Introduction
  2. What is BusConnects Cork?
  3. What is the Network Redesign?
  4. Planning During a Pandemic
  5. Recent Developments in Cork
  6. Public Transport Goals in Tension
  7. Why Buses?
  8. Access to Opportunity

2. How Networks Work

  1. How Networks Work
  2. What Leads to High Patronage?
  3. Frequency
  4. Distance, Speed and the Cost of Frequency
  5. Designing for Connections
  6. Recognising Areas with High Patronage Potential
  7. Density
  8. Walkability
  9. Linearity
  10. Proximity
  11. Mix of Uses

3. The Existing Bus Network

  1. The Existing Bus Network
  2. When and Where is Service Available?
  3. Bus Network Map: Cork Metropolitan Area
  4. Bus Network Map: Cork City
  5. Bus Network Map: Cork City Centre
  6. Bus Route Frequencies and Spans
  7. Proximity to Any Service, and Frequent Service
  8. Frequency and Productivity Are Related
  9. Complexity
  10. One-Way Splits

4. Population and Land Use Maps

  1. Population and Land Use Maps
  2. Patronage Potential and Need
  3. Activity (Residents + Jobs)
  4. Residents
  5. Jobs
  6. No-Car Households
  7. Public Transport Commuters
  8. Unemployed Residents
  9. Retired Residents
  10. Youths
  11. Walk Network Connectivity

5. Key Choices

  1. Key Choices
  2. Tolerance for Change
  3. Shorter Walks or Shorter Waits?
  4. Interchange or Complexity?
  5. What is the Most Important Definition of Success?

6. Next Steps

  1. Next Steps

1 Introduction

What is BusConnects Cork?

BusConnects is the NTA’s programme of bus service improvement in Irish metropolitan areas. It is funded by Project Ireland 2040. It includes nine measures (shown at right) which will transform Cork’s bus system, making public transport more useful to more people.

BusConnects is included in, and will help realise, these Government policy strategies within the Cork Metropolitan Area (CMA):

Bus Network Redesign

This report describes choices that will arise in redesigning the bus network for the CMA, which is the first measure shown above. The network will be redesigned in collaboration with Bus Éireann (the operator), NTA, Cork City Council and Cork County Council.

The input gathered during this first phase of public consultation will inform the design of a Draft New Network. That Draft will be presented to the public for review and comment. The second phase of consultation is currently foreseen for October 2021.

Public input in response to the Draft will inform the Final New Network. It will also inform the second measure shown above, the development of fast and reliable Core Bus Corridors.

The Final New Network and the Core Bus Corridors are currently planned for implementation in 2023, with full operation reached in 2024.

  1. Redesigning the Bus Network
  2. Building a new network of bus corridors and cycle lanes
  3. Implementing a state of the art ticketing system
  4. Implementing a Cashless payment system
  5. Simpler fare structure
  6. New Bus Livery
  7. New bus stops and shelters
  8. New park and ride sites in key locations
  9. Transitioning to a zero emissions bus fleet

What is the Network Redesign?

Cork’s bus network has gradually evolved over many years, as the city and the metropolitan area have grown and changed. While some routes have been running a similar pattern since the founding of Bus Éireann, some routes have been improved and adapted as the area has grown and changed.

With Cork’s expected population growth and the urgent need to develop more sustainably, it is time to reevaluate the design of the Cork area bus network and invest in its success.

This network redesign will be a collaboration between:

This project is an opportunity to design the Cork network around today’s needs rather than continue with the network inherited from the past.

Which roads buses run on, times and days of service, frequencies, stop locations, and how passengers interchange could be revised as part of this redesign, which is starting with a “blank slate.”

In the redesigned network, some or many routes may resemble those in today’s network. If so, it will be because they support present and future conditions–not because of history or tradition.

Every detail of the existing network is something somebody is used to, and they may object to it being changed. One of the key choices presented in this report is whether it is worth causing inconvenience for some people in order to improve public transport service for most people.

This is an opportunity to design a new network around today’s needs rather than continue with the network inherited from the past.

Routes Under Study

All publicly-funded bus routes in the CMA are under study and may be revised. This includes local routes within Cork City, and routes that connect towns and rural areas of County Cork.

The list of routes under study is below. Some of these routes were not operating in 2019, the year for which representative public transport patronage data is available, and as a result they are not included in every part of this report. Some routes that were operating in 2019 no longer operate today, yet do appear in this report.

Planning During a Pandemic

The timing of this study relative to the COVID-19 pandemic is both advantageous and awkward.

It is advantageous in that this study can adjust the bus network to any pandemic-related changes in public transport demand that seem lasting, and can help Cork move forward out of the pandemic with momentum towards implementing the CMA Transport Strategy.

The awkwardness of this study’s timing arises from the pandemic and its effect on public transport patronage. Normally such a study would use recent, detailed patronage data in order to inform service and network design. Yet it is impossible to collect relevant patronage data at present. Schools and universities have been closed, many people have worked from home, and many retail and hospitality businesses have been shut. Patronage data collected during this period would not be representative of the post-pandemic future for which the network is being redesigned.

There is general data available regarding the patronage and service levels on each Cork route, from 2019 and earlier. That is the data referenced in this report, and it will be used until it becomes possible to collect new patronage data that reflects greater levels of travel in the CMA.

Just as the COVID-19 pandemic limits peoples’ use of public transport today, it limits the study team’s ability to reach people in-person or gather people together into large meetings. As a result, the first phase of consultation for the network redesign will be held virtually, through online meetings and an interactive website and survey.

More information on next steps and later phases of this study is provided at the end of this report.

Recent Developments in Cork

Transport patronage has been growing faster in Cork than anywhere else in Ireland. The number of journeys on the Cork bus network increased by 51% from 2013 to 2019,1 surpassing the area’s growth in population, employment or bus service over the same period.

1Bus & Rail Services for Ireland – State Funded Services, 2020.

While some of this passenger growth is likely due to greater economic activity and more residents moving to Cork, there has also been a concerted effort by Bus Éireann and NTA to simplify the network, make routes in the most populated areas more useful, and improve connections among towns in the CMA.

Investments in All-Day, All-Week Service

Many metropolitan areas have recently observed that there is potential to grow patronage by investing in service at times other than weekday rush hours. Travel patterns have changed over the past decades and more people now travel for work or leisure outside of weekday rush-hours. Whether the COVID-19 pandemic will permanently reduce rush-hour commutes, relative to travel during the rest of the week, remains to be seen.

Cork has been keeping up with other places in this regard, as new investments in bus service have been focused on frequent, all-day and all week routes.

NTA and Bus Éireann have been evolving a core network that people can rely on for many different types of trips. As in many other places, the patronage response has been very positive. For example:

Anticipated Growth

Cork is planned to grow by 50-60% in the next two decades. This growth is a major impetus for the CMA Transport Strategy, BusConnects Cork and this network redesign.

High public transport patronage can help Cork City and the towns of County Cork welcome new residents and workers without some of the negative effects of growth such as congestion, longer journey times and larger car parks.

High public transport use can also support more abundant and affordable housing, by allowing many households to go without a car. This reduces the amount of space that must be provided for parked cars within housing developments, and thereby reduces the cost of building new housing. It also allows families to save money on transport and use that money instead for better housing, or other things they value.

Public Transport Goals in Tension

Public transport can be designed to achieve different goals.

One of the goals for public transport that gets a lot of attention is high patronage. High patronage is necessary to meet Cork’s climate, development and livability goals.

But patronage is not public transport’s only goal. Nearly all public transport providers are expected to serve areas where few people live or work, even if patronage is low in those areas. This type of service is pursuing a coverage goal, which has its own value.

Within any limited budget, these two goals are in tension. The more a public transport provider concentrates service into frequent, all-day routes, in the places with the most residents and activities, the less service is available to cover many roads and serve areas with fewer people.

The tension between pursuing high patronage and providing wide coverage exists in every public transport system.

In the redesign of the Cork network, some routes will be designed for high patronage, while others will be designed to provide coverage without an expectation of high patronage. The high-patronage services will help meet climate and development goals, while the coverage services help meet goals for social inclusion.

NTA and Bus Éireann expect to add a modest amount to the budget for bus service as part of this redesign, but the budget will still be limited and this trade-off will still exist. Input from the public on how to balance patronage and coverage goals will inform the design of the new Cork bus network.

Reasons people care about high patronage include:

Reasons people care about high coverage include:

Why Buses?

Urban areas are where people go to access the opportunities that arise from being close to other people. Every successful urban place hits physical limits on how many people can get close to one another if they travel in separate vehicles:

The photos below illustrate how much space is required to transport people in cars, as opposed to on a bus, on bicycles or on foot.

There simply isn’t room in dense cities and towns for everyone to come in their own car. Hired cars (like Ubers) and autonomous cars cannot change this basic geometric problem. They take up nearly as much space as privately-owned cars – plus they make driving so much easier and more attractive that they increase congestion.

Carpools are helpful, but no car-based solution can get close to the space efficiency of people walking, cycling or using public transport.

On-demand public transport, in which passengers get picked up and dropped off at the place and times they request, can work in low-demand areas. But moves far fewer people per vehicle than a fixed-route bus.

Rail is even more space-efficient than buses, but it is expensive to build and operate and can therefore be justified only on the highest-patronage lines. In every global city with a high-patronage rail system, there is an even bigger highpatronage bus network.

Wherever big cities need to be really efficient with public space, there is no replacement for high-patronage, big-vehicle public transport.

Access to Opportunity

Throughout this project we will measure the benefits of public transport services in terms of their affect on access.

The word “access” means different things in different contexts. In this report it means the number of opportunities someone can reach through the public transport network, in a given amount of time.

Why does access matter? Expanding access for as many people as possible:

Access has a remarkable sweep of relevance. When we improve access for large numbers of people, we improve all of those things.

The pictures at right and on the next page illustrate public transport access.

A person in a city full of possible destinations.

In 30 minutes a person can get to a certain area. Her access to destinations is the number of destinations in that area. You can count the jobs or schools or shopping in that area to estimate her access.

What factors affect a person’s public transport access?

Public transport providers have control over some of these factors: waiting time, interchange, route directness, where service is provided.

They have less control or no control over other factors: public transport speed, travel distances, where jobs and housing are located. These factors are generally controlled by City and County Councils as they manage land use, development and roadways.

How Networks Work

What Leads to High Patronage?

Access, described on the previous pages, is the way that public transport network design can affect patronage.

Access describes the likelihood that any person’s trip, when looked up in a journey planner, will be possible in a reasonable amount of time.

There are many factors that affect patronage which have nothing to do with access or public transport network design, such as fuel prices, the economy, the price of a hired-car ride and the cost of buying or leasing a car.

In this report, we focus on the factors that the NTA, Bus Éireann, Cork City Council or Cork County Councils can each influence, and that contribute to high patronage:

As mentioned on page 9, high patronage is not public transport’s only goal. The best public transport network for the CMA may includes services that attract few users, and provide little access, but do serve coverage goals.


Almost every time we use the word “patronage” in this report, we mean patronage relative to cost. The word for this is “productivity.” Productivity tells us how much people have been responding to a given level of public transport investment and a certain route or network design. It can be an indicator of greater patronage potential, even if total patronage isn’t high, for example if a route with poor frequency is highly productive nonetheless.

The productivity of individual routes is discussed starting on page 39.

A well-connected network is key to high patronage. Interchange must be easy and reliable so that people can reach many destinations in a reasonable amount of time, at a reasonable cost.


One of the most powerful ways to increase access across a network is to shorten waiting times by improving frequency.

More frequent service:

When frequency is improved in places with large numbers of people, jobs and other opportunities, that improves average access for the population.

Better frequency increases potential for high patronage...but it isn’t enough on its own to cause high patronage.

A high-patronage network is useful for most people. And most people are in a hurry.

How Frequent is Frequent enough?

In small mid-sized cities and towns, such as Cork or Carrigaline, peoples’ trips tend to be quite short. Public transport must be very frequent to compete with alternatives for short trips, since waiting time can easily dwarf public transport journey time.

In order to think about whether any frequency is “frequent enough,” imagine waiting one-half of the frequency, on average (since statistically, you will) and ask yourself whether you could tolerate waiting that long as part of an everyday trip.

NTA and Bus Éireann are investing in the infrastructure to offer real-time arrival information and real-time trip planning on the Cork public transport network. Some people may imagine that with this new technology, nobody needs to wait for a bus anymore, and frequency therefore doesn’t matter. If a bus only comes once an hour, that’s fine, because your phone will tell you when it is a few minutes away and you should walk to the stop.

Despite this new technology, frequency still matters enormously, because:

Real-time arrival information doesn’t make the bus more reliable, but frequency does. Your phone can tell you when your bus is arriving, but it cannot prevent your bus from having a problem and being severely delayed. Only frequency—which means that another bus is always coming soon— can offer this kind of reliability.

Distance, Speed and the Cost of Frequency

Within a limited public transport budget, longer routes trade-off against higher frequencies, as illustrated to the right.

This doesn’t mean that a high-patronage network is all short routes. But it means that the more people a route serves per kilometer, the more likely it is that the public transport authority can justify frequent service there.

Slower speeds have the same effect, increasing the cost of providing frequent service over any distance.

As public transport slows down, the cost of operating it increases. A public transport provider can either reduce frequencies or come up with additional funding, funding which could have been used to improve service rather than run slower service at a higher cost.

This is why bus priority is so essential to public transport success in a growing metropolitan area like Cork.

One bus can provide 30-minute frequency service over a short distance.. but double the distance means half the frequency. Now the bus comes every 60 minutes. As routes get longer, their frequency must get worse, or the transport agency must spend more to add bused and drivers to the route.

When congestion slows down public transport, it becomes more costly to operate. This consumes funding that could have been spent making the service better.

Designing for Connections

A public transport network should be greater than the sum of its parts. One bus route can take people only so many places but if that route makes useful connections with many other bus routes and rail lines, vastly more places become reachable.


A connected network offers people greater access to jobs, housing and other opportunities, but it relies on interchange.

Interchange can present a barrier if:

The second fare charged for interchange between buses today is a barrier to providing a highly connected network in the CMA. The second fare naturally leads to people requesting single bus routes that take them directly to where they need to go. The reliability of Cork buses is also a challenge, though it should improve in the coming years as the locating technology on-board buses is replaced.

As part of the BusConnects Cork measures related to fares, there will be no additional fare to interchange, neither between buses nor between bus and rail. This makes it possible to design the bus network for greater access and greater patronage, if more interchange is tolerable.

Radial Networks

The basic shape of the Cork bus network is radial.

In a purely-radial network, as illustrated at right, above, every route connects with every other route at the center; only one RIDE interchange is needed to reach every point in the system.

But as a system grows large, trips from one outlying area to another can require much out-of-direction travel through the center, as illustrated at right, below. This is why purely-radial transport networks are mostly found in small cities and towns.

In Cork, nearly all routes connect at the centre (though, as we discuss later in this report, the centre of the network is made complex by the many one-way splits in routes).

As Cork grows, trips from one outer location to another will become longer if they must all be routed through the centre. At some point in the city’s growth, the addition of routes which circle or traverse the city outside of the center become a natural consideration.

Orbital routes can be added to a radial network to allow for cross-city travel without going through the centre, as illustrated below. When a radial network gains orbital lines, it looks a bit like a spider web.

There are two orbital routes in the Cork network today, which can be seen in the maps starting on page 34. One traverses the southern side of Cork City, from Loughmahon to MTU. The other orbits the northern side, from MTU to Lotabeg.

For most trips along the orbital routes within Cork City, if someone can’t choose when to travel and doesn’t have ample time to wait, then using two radial routes and interchanging in the centre would actually offer a shorter journey. This is because the orbital routes are so infrequent that they require a great deal of waiting for any trips that people can’t time to the bus schedule, like trips to work or school.

Some people may prefer the orbital routes because interchange is a hassle for reasons besides the fare–perhaps they are traveling with children, or don’t want to walk between stops in the centre in the rain. But it’s also possible that the additional fare for interchange has discouraged people from using two radial routes to reach their destination. If they could interchange, reliably, for no extra charge, they might be happy to get where they are going sooner.


Connective networks depend on interchange, and there are two ways that interchange can be made fast and reliable for passengers.

One way is high frequency. When two frequent routes cross, an interchange from one to another will require a short wait, as long as both routes are reliable. But high frequency is costly to provide, and cannot be provided on all routes.

In a radial network, a different type of fast interchange is possible. Bus arrivals at a centre can be timed to “pulse” with one another in a recurring pattern throughout the day.

In a pulse, buses meet and dwell together for a few minutes, as illustrated above. People can interchange among them with a reliably short wait.

Infrequent routes that don’t pulse don’t add up to a connective network. If two routes coming every 60 minutes cross, the untimed interchange between them will require a wait of up to 59 minutes–on average, the wait will be 30 minutes, onehalf the frequency. But if two routes are designed to pulse, the interchange can take just 5-10 minutes, every time.

One of the challenges of pulsing routes is that they must arrive on time. Passengers on a bus that misses the pulse would face a long wait for their interchange.

Some transport providers aspire to offer pulse connections among infrequent routes but are unable to because buses are subjected to so much unpredictable congestion. The BusConnects Cork measures to improve speed, reliability and operating technology suggest that this may be a good time to consider pulses for some routes in the bus network.

Recognising Areas with High Patronage Potential

Public transport authorities can attract more passengers by offering service that more people find useful.

However, many factors outside the control of transport authorities affect patronage, regardless of how objectively useful their service may be. Free parking, low fuel costs and low costs to hire a car (such as an Uber) can all erode public transport patronage by making other options cheaper and easier.

Also beyond the control of the public transport authority are land use patterns and street designs, though they have a huge impact on how many people public transport can reach, and at what cost.

Five geographic factors are especially suggestive of high patronage potential:

The way these factors affect public transport patronage and cost are described on the following pages, and illustrative examples are given from the Cork CMA.

As the illustration on the following pages show, the way that development patterns affect patronage potential is a matter of geometry.

By pointing out these geometric facts, we are not saying anything about the importance of any particular area, nor about the people who live or work there.

We are only describing the ways that the physical layout of development interacts with geometric facts of transport. This determines whether public transport can efficiently provide access to large numbers of people, which in turn determines patronage potential.

As described on page 9, high patronage is one of public transports major goals, but it is not the only goal, and it must be balanced against the goal of spreading service out widely and into numerous routes. To the extent the Cork bus network is designed for high patronage, the five geographic factors on the following pages will help us recognise areas with potential for high patronage.


A place with many residents, employees, shoppers, students, and customers has a high density of activities.

The graphic on the right shows two identical bus routes. The route on the top is travelling in an area that has twice as many homes as the route on the bottom.

All else being equal, the route on top will attract more users because there are simply more people travelling to and from the area.

The maps at right provide an example of high residential density in Cork.

The Blackrock Mews apartments stand out in a map of residential density. They are set about halfway between Blackrock Road to the north and Skehard Road to the south.

This dense housing development is located rather far from the main road and its frequent service (Skehard Road, where the 202/202A comes by every 10 minutes), and the street network would suggest a circuitous walk to Skehard Road. However, walkability is improved by the provision of footpaths both directly south to Skehard and north to Blackrock.

Maps showing population density of Blackrock Mews and an aerial view photograph of the area.


To use a bus route, people need to be able to get to the stop, and the vast majority of people will start their trip by walking.

The street network, footpaths and crossings around a bus stop affect how many people are willing and able to walk to the stop.

If a street network is disconnected, the bus stop on a main road may be close as-thecrow-flies but quite far away by walking.

Large intersections and roundabouts can mean that bus stops are not at or close to intersections. This adds extra distance to the walk to a stop, for people on an intersecting street.

If a road is unpleasant or dangerous to cross, people won’t be able to use public transport in both directions. Or they might ask the public transport provider to drive a bus into their car park or down their street, so that people don’t have to walk across the main road. This makes the route longer and less useful to everyone else.

Is it easy to walk between the stop and the activities nearby?

2 circular cross section maps. The first map shows streets laid out in a grid within a 400m radius and illustarstes how walking to a transport stop in the middle of the map. The image illustrates how people can walk easily to a transport stop in a grid style town/city. The second map illustrates the same point but in a city/ town where the streets meander and are not in grid format. making walking to a transport stop alot more time consuming and longer distance.

It must also be safe to cross the street at a stop. You usually need the stops on both sides for two-way travel!

The maps on this page and the next contrast a walkable, well-connected street network in Shandon (south of Cathedral Road) with a disconnected street network south of Shanakiel Road.

In Shandon, the streets are well-connected. Aside from a few cul de sacs, nearly all streets connect with multiple other streets, and as a result people have many ways to walk out to multiple main roads—Cathedral Road to the north, Blarney Street to the south, Shandon Street to the east.

This high street connectivity means that nearly all of the homes and businesses that are within 400 m of frequent service on Cathedral Road as-the-crow-flies are also within a 400 m walk, or about five minutes. It is a simple matter to provide frequent, linear service to many people by operating on Cathedral Road, because buses can simply drive along it and get close to nearly everyone.

Aerial View of Cathedral road Cork and surrounding densely populated streets.

Map view of cathedral road and surrounding streets.

The housing south of Blarney Street, shown on the right, is on a disconnected street network. Roads are curvy and some of them dead end. This makes the walking routes to Blarney Street circuitous from many homes.

Very few roads connect between Blarney Street and Harbor View Road, so a walk to Harbor View Road from a home south of Blarney Street would be even more circuitous.

There is frequent service to the north on Harbor View Road, with Route 202 or 202A coming every 10 minutes. Most of the homes in the development south of Blarney Street are within 400m of Harbor View Road as-the-crow-flies, but few homes are actually within a 400m walk.

A disconnected street system makes public transport less useful and efficient. The route on the main road isn’t close to potential users on either side. More parallel routes must be run to get closer to more residents—but dividing service into more routes means offering poorer frequencies.

High density is not enough to generate high patronage. Good footpaths and crossings are also not enough, if development is far from main roads and made even farther by circuitous and disconnected streets.

Aerial view of less densely populated harbour view road and surrounds.

Aerial view of less densely populated harbour view road and surrounds.

Linearity - Can public transport run in reasonably straight lines?

Exactly where development is allowed determines how linear and direct public transport routes can be.

The graphic on the right shows destinations aligned in two different ways. In the town on the top, the destinations are on the main road. Public transport can serve all destinations with a straight line. If you are travelling through this area, you’re always travelling towards your destination, and never feel that you’re being taken out of your way.

The town on the bottom has the same four destinations, but has permitted them to build far from the main road. To serve these places, a bus needs to drive away from the main road, get to the front door, and then drive back to the main road. If this is your destination, this is nice for you...but if you are travelling between any other places, you are taken out of your way and your trip is longer.

A direct path between any two destinations makes transport appealing. Destinations located off the straight path force deviations, which discourage people who want to ride through, and increase cost.

In the two maps on this page and the next, development patterns that affect public transport linearity are compared.

To the right, the Rochestown area has some moderately dense housing, but the way it is arranged causes circuitous bus routing. Some of the densest developments are located away from the major roads, so a bus route must meander in order to get close to a large number of people. As a result, Route 216 follows a deviating path which is much slower than a direct route through the area could be.

For people living east of Rochestown – such as in Passage West – a meandering route means longer journeys. The meandering also causes more operating expense, which reduces the budget available for other useful service improvements like frequency, long hours of service, or routes covering more places.

Once a neighborhood is built there may be little choice but to meander. In future developments, however, Cork City and Cork County can support efficient, highpatronage transport by organising dense housing into linear patterns.

Satellite Imagery of Rochestown Area showing housing desnity via colour coding. Population more dense along main road.

Poor street connectivity can also result in circuitous bus routes, which are time consuming for passengers and costly to operate.

In contrast, the businesses lining Main Street in Carrigaline are very well oriented to efficient transport. The map at right shows Carrigaline centre, with Route 220 running along Main Street.

The buildings in Carrigaline centre are mostly located close to Main Street, without large car parks separating them from transport.

Main Street is straight and is on the way to other major destinations. Buses can run through Carrigaline on the most direct path whilst getting close to many businesses and services, without meandering.

Satellite Imagery of Main Street Carrigaline showing population desnity along the main street and less density away from the Main street.


With transport, distance is a major contributor to the cost of service.

The greater the distance Bus Éireann has to drive to serve 100 people, the fewer people it can serve within any particular operating budget. For this reason, places that have continuous density and activities along a road, will generate higher patronage relative to costs.

Another way to describe this factor is proximity. Connecting places that are far away is more expensive than connecting places that are close by, and – as described on page 16 – longer routes require more spending or poorer frequencies.

Does transport have to cross long gaps?

Short distances between many destinations are faster and cheaper to serve, while long distances between destinations mean a higher cost per person.

Mix of Uses

The mix of uses along a road affects how many people public transport can attract, relative to cost. A mix of uses tends to generate patronage in both directions, at many times of day and week.

Transport in purely residential areas tends to be used mostly in one direction – away from the residences, towards jobs – and mostly at rush hours.

There are three ways that mixed-use development patterns can support productive transport:

Do people travel in both directions, all day?

A mix of land use results in buses been ridden in both directions at all times of the day and week but transport serving mainly residential areas tends to fill up on one direction and not the other.

Transport-Oriented Development

The relationship between development and transport success is two-way.

Transport can be provided efficiently when development is walkable, linear, proximate and dense with a mix of uses.

Where transport can be provided efficiently, it’s more likely to offer frequent service all day and all week. That high level of service allows people to live full lives without a car, which supports growth and development with less added car parking and car traffic.

Places that are very dense, with jobs or residents, can be in completely different transport situations depending on how proximate they are to other dense places.

Mahon Point Shopping Centre is close to other dense places. Any bus route serving Mahon Point will pass by moderately dense homes, apartments, services and businesses on its way. This means that a bus serving Mahon will pick up passengers continuously between there and the centre.

As a result, a large number of passengers can be moved relative to the cost of the service.

High patronage and productivity on any service helps a transport authority justify higher investments in frequency or span of service, and helps a city or town justify investments in public transport priority measures and pedestrian improvements.

In this way Mahon Point’s proximity to other development, and the mix of uses nearby, justify and reinforce good public transport to and from Mahon Point.

Little Island is dense with jobs like Mahon Point, and has grown quite a bit larger since the data shown on this map was collected (in 2016). Yet it is isolated, with a lot of distance between it and other dense places. It is across both the rail line and the dual carriageway from other developed areas, and a bus route could not serve one side of those barriers without deviating away from the other. There is little housing on Little Island at present, so transport would be used mostly in one direction each morning and evening, with emptier buses running the other direction.

In transport, covering distance is costly. The greater distance a transport network needs to cover, and the more routes it is divided into, the less can be spent on high frequencies or other improvements.

This doesn’t mean that Little Island should not have service. It means that the service level on Little Island will be justified entirely by the activity on Little Island. It is not on the way for a bus heading elsewhere, and so it cannot be the beneficiary of service that is also justified by neighbouring, proximate developments.

Map of Mahon Point and surrounds showing amount of residents per square kilometre. Map shows decrease in residents the further away from Cork you go.

The Existing Bus Network

When and Where is Service Available?

Bus Network Maps

The maps on the following pages introduce a style used throughout this report, in which route colours represent weekday midday frequencies.

Red represents frequent service, with a bus coming every 15 minutes or better, in the midday on weekdays, and dark red indicates service every 10 minutes or better.

Purple is for routes coming every 20 minutes. Dark blue routes come every 30 minutes and light blue are the least frequent, with 40-60 minutes between buses.

Frequencies and Spans of Service

The colourful table on page 37 shows when each route in the publicly-subsidised network offers service on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays.

Each hour is colour-coded based on the frequency of service during that hour.

Some routes have segments in common and their schedules combine nicely to offer higher frequency on shared segments, such as the 202 and 202A. These are shown with a single row for their combined segment, and then rows for each individual route in the pair.

Daily Spans

The network consists of 32 routes, but the quantity of service offered by each route varies enormously. Some routes offer only a handful of trips per day, and only on weekdays. Other routes offer frequent service all-day, every day.

Five routes only operate on weekdays, and not on weekends. Another ten offer Saturday service but not Sunday service.

Among the routes that offer consistent all-day frequencies, most start service around 6 am. A few end service around 7 pm, and most others run until midnight. Two routes (the 220 and the 226) run past midnight, in fact the 220 runs for 24 hours.

Ten routes offer only occasional trips. These are shown in the table as brown blocks. If a route only serves one direction of travel at a certain time the colour is hatched.

The Frequent Network

Six routes form a high-frequency network. When buses are consistently arriving every 10 or 15 minutes, users don’t need to memorise the schedule. Whenever they want to travel, a bus will be coming soon. This consistent short wait makes interchange among frequent routes fairly fast.1

1 Today interchange requires an additional fare payment for many passengers. NTA is revising fares as part of BusConnects and in the future interchange will not cost extra.

The shorter their trip, the less people tend to tolerate a long wait.

Two routes run every 10 minutes on weekdays (the 202/202A and 208) and four more routes run every 15 minutes on weekdays (the 205, 206, 213 and 220). All of these routes except the 205 maintain their high daytime frequency on Saturdays but for a shorter span. On Sundays, only three routes offer frequent service (the 202/202A, 208 and 220, coming every 15 minutes).

As described on page 15, high frequency service is most important when public transport is competing for peoples’ short journeys. The shorter someone’s trip, the less they will tolerate a long wait for the bus before finding an alternative.

Bus Network Map: Cork Metropolitan Area

Detailed Map of existing Cork Metrpolitan Area Weekday Midday Bus Network. Routes colour coded to show frequency. Map shows very few high frequency routes, mainly confined to a few arteries in the city. Map shows quite a few low frequency routes travelling outside the city.

Bus Network Map: Cork City

Detailed Map showing the entire existing bus network around central Cork. Buses are colour coded by frequency. For example the 208 route is deep red and runs upto every 10mins. the 205 is light red and runs every 10-15 mins. The 202 is purple and runs every 15-20mins, the 207 is teal and runs every 20-35 mins, the 200 is light blue and runs every 35-60 mins. The 201 is brown and runs at limited times.

Bus Network Map: Cork City Centre

The map to the right shows the bus network in the centre of Cork, where it becomes very complex. It is surely challenging for newcomers to Cork to decipher the network and quickly learn where they can go by transport.

The complexity is caused in part by some one-way streets, which force transport to offer different patterns and go to different stops for the two directions of travel.

Many routes end in large one-way loops in the centre. One-way loops require people to spend extra time travelling around the loop, or they can get off and walk farther.

The effects of one-way loops and one-way splits on people’s journeys are described further starting on page 42.

Legend for map showing the colour coded frequencies as outlined on the previous image. Deep red=Upto 10 mins, light red 10-15 mins, purple 15-20 mins etc.

Detailed Map of complex Cork City Centre Bus system and all it's terminals. The map shows the main terminal of Cork Bus station where the 202, 202A, 212,225,226,209,240,241,260,208, 205, 213, 214 and 207 terminate.The map also shows the other main stops in the city centre like St.Patrick street, MacCurtain Street, Kent Station and South Mall giving an overview of how complex the current network can be in the city centre.

Bus Route Frequencies and Spans

Legend showing the frequency of existing Cork bus routes on weekdays, Saturdays and Sundays. There are a very small number of buses that run every 10 mins or better and a high number of routes that run every 15-25 or longer.

Proximity to Any Service, and Frequent Service

The graph to the right shows an estimate of many people and jobs are with about five minutes’ walk of a bus route.1 Proximity to bus service of varying frequencies is shown using different colors on the graph.

1 Note that this analysis uses Census data for “Small Areas,” some of which are in fact quite large. It is therefore only an estimate, as people living in rural Small Areas may be closer to transport than we can know from this data source. More precise data about the locations of residences and jobs may allow for a finer measurement at a later stage of this project.

This graph can be used to describe progress towards both patronage and coverage goals.

Increasing the percentage of residents and jobs near any service speaks to coverage goals such as social inclusion.

Increasing the percentage of people near frequent service speaks to patronage goals such as reducing vehicle emissions.

Once a Draft New Network has been developed, a similar measurement will be provided for that Draft, so that the public can compare how it would change people’s proximity to service.

Proximity to Transport at Midday. How many people in the Cork Metropolitan Area are near transport?

For Residents: 5% are within 10 minutes or better, 16% are within 15 minutes or better, 19% are withing 30 minutes or better, and 5% are within 60 minutes or better. Approximately 50% of residents are more than 400m from transport.

For Jobs: around 50% are more than 400m from transport

For Households without cars: around 25% are more than 400m from transport

For retired residents: around 50% are more than 400m from transport

For unemployed residents: around 40% are more than 400m from transport

Note: Proximity is measured as being located within a 400 m walk of a transport stop.

Frequency and Productivity Are Related

Productivity means patronage relative to the cost of providing service. A highly productive route is attracting many users relative to its operating cost.1

1 A common way to represent operating cost for transport is “vehicle hours” or “revenue hours,” which are the hours a vehicle and its driver are on the road, available to passengers.

More frequent routes are likely to be more productive. Not only do they attract more passengers, they attract disproportionately more passengers relative to the higher cost of providing the better frequency.

The scatterplot at right shows route-byroute data from the Cork bus network in late 2019 (pre-pandemic). More frequent routes are towards the left, and more productive routes are higher.

As the upward-leftward curve shows, more frequent routes are, on average, more productive.

This same pattern appears for nearly every bus network of at least moderate size. This is because, in pursuit of higher patronage, public transport planners tend to increase frequency on routes that are already very productive, or routes serving areas with high patronage potential. When they increase route frequency in such public-transport-oriented places, the average result is that the growth in patronage exceeds the increased cost of the frequency.

Public transport in places where the geometry of the development pattern is not conducive to high public transport access tends to have low productivity. But it can serve important coverage goals regardless, if the availability of the service is what matters most. In such areas, transport providers typically offer infrequent service because the cost of better frequency is difficult to justify for a small number of passengers.

We cannot increase the frequency of just any route and expect productivity to increase as well. The geographic and geometric conditions must be in place as well: density, walkability, linearity, proximity and a mix of land uses.

A graph of Cork Bus Route Productivity and Frequency November 2019. Shows weekly productivity (passengers per vehicle driving hour). Bus routes 205, 206, and 208 were the most productive with between 60 and 70 passengers per hour. Bus routes 201 and 209 were the least productive with around 15-20 passengers per hour.

The table to the right shows the quantity of service provided on each route, the total patronage, and the resulting productivity, in 2019. Numbers are coloured based on their relative value, from orange for the highest values to brown for the lowest.

The far right column shows the midday frequency on each route in 2019, coloured according to frequency as on the maps in this report.

If increasing patronage is important, then we must look at routes’ productivities as well as total patronage. No authority can spend infinite amounts of money to pursue each additional passenger, so it is important to understand how efficiently existing routes attract each passenger they serve.

For example, if a route currently offers little service, yet is fairly productive, that sometimes indicates high potential for growth in patronage. This may be the case for parts of routes 215A and 219, which are infrequent and represent relatively low service investment, but attract a fair number of passengers nonetheless.

Conversely, if a route offers a high level of service but attracts few passengers, that is sometimes suggestive of low patronage potential. This may be the case for Route 216, which offers 30-minute frequency, and operates seven days per week, but attracts fewer passengers relative to its costs than routes offering much less service.

Route Name Service Provision (Weekly vehicle-driving hours, Nov 2019) Total Patronage (Weekly, Nov. 2019) Productivity (Users per vehicle-driving hour) Frequency (Weekdays, midday, Nov. 2019)
206 Grange-South Mall 267 17,275 65 15
208 Lotabeg-Marymount Hosp. 790 50,734 64 10
205 MTU-Kent Sta. 360 22,976 64 15
213 Black Ash P&R-St. Patrick St. 147 8,850 60 12
215A Jacobs Isl.-South Mall 89 5,057 57 30
215 Jacobs Isl.-Cloghroe 456 23,005 50 30
202 Hollyhill-Mahon Pt. 942 47,174 50 10
221 Knockraha-Merchants Quay 182 8,675 48 30
219 MTU-City Gate 103 4,842 47 60
214 Knockraha-CUH 345 15,433 45 20
203 Manor Farm-Fairhill 440 18,745 43 20
207 Donnybrook-Glenheights 410 15,544 38 30
220 Carrigaline-Ovens 1426 52,582 37 15
226 Kinsale-Airport-Kent Sta. 261 9,448 36 60
209A Friar's Walk-Merchants Quay 7 246 36 90
226+226A Airport-Kent Sta. 384 12,837 33 30
223 Ringaskiddy-South Mall 238 7,624 32 60
207A Glenthorne-Merchants Quay 84 2,590 31 60
220X Ovens-Crosshaven 220 6,190 28 60
226A Airport-Kent Sta. 123 3,389 27.47 60
216 Monkstown-CUH 462 12,619 27 30
209 Lotamore-St. Patrick's St. 12 203 17 90
201 MTU-Lotabeg 50 796 16 90


The Cork network is complex considering its relatively small size. The complexity arises from a few factors:

  1. Service is divided into many routes in order to run on many nearby streets.
  2. One-way streets cause routes to differ for the two directions of travel.
  3. Many routes are specialised around specific kinds of journeys, offering just a handful of trips per day, or connecting only a few bus stops. (The three least-productive routes in the table on the last page are like this.)
  4. Many routes have, within their daily schedule, special trips only made at certain times of day.
  5. Interchange is discouraged by the charging of a second fare whenever someone boards a second bus during their journey. This leads to a network designed to minimise the need for interchange, which results in more routes at poorer frequencies.

What does this mean for public transport users, and especially for people who have just moved to Cork, whether for university, work or other reasons?

  1. There are numerous routes to learn and remember, relative to the size of the metropolitan area and the amount of transport provided.
  2. If someone is travelling to the centre, the stop where they alight is often blocks away from the stop where they should re-board for their return journey.
  3. If someone wants to travel outside of the times when a highly-specialised route operates, they may wait a long time in order to use the bus or they may decide transport just doesn’t work for them.
  4. If a route has variations in its pattern throughout the day, people who don’t know the system will occasionally get on the wrong bus, and end up someplace they didn’t expect.
  5. A network designed for little interchange is more complex, and actually makes most peoples’ journeys longer.

The fifth point, regarding interchange, is discussed starting on page 69.

The overall complexity of the bus network is not good for passenger growth. Some of the most successful changes to the network over the past decade have made it simpler, by investing in routes that run all day and all week, and by providing frequent service on clear, linear corridors. The BusConnects Cork network redesign is an opportunity to make the network simpler and easier-to-use for existing and future passengers alike.

Cork is expecting major economic and population growth in the future. This means many new residents will come to Cork and, upon arrival, make decisions about where to live, where to apply for jobs, and whether to purchase a car (and a home that necessitates a car commute). If new arrivals cannot understand the transport network, and don’t quickly see its value, then that will affect the choices they make as individuals. These individual choices add up, and affect the success of the CMA Transport Strategy in reducing auto emissions and not increasing congestion while welcoming new residents.

One-Way Splits

One source of complexity in the existing Cork bus network is when the two directions of service are on different streets. These one-way splits cause the area served by a route to be smaller even as it appears on a map to be larger. This is illustrated to the right, at top.

Transport needs to be useful in both directions. When the two directions of a route are split, people take different walking routes for their two journeys (which adds to the complexity of their journey planning), and they also must walk different distances.

The wider the split between two directions of a route, the more people will find that their walk, for one direction of travel, is uncomfortably long. This is true for any assumed walking distance, whether 5, 10 or 20 minutes, and its true even though individuals have diverse preferences about walk distance.

A route that is split in two directions appears to cover more area but in realiity its actually covers less. Splitting a route into two one-way directions reduces the number of people and places that are within walking distance of both directions of travel.

The map to the right provides an example of a one-way split in a route, and how it affects someone’s maximum walking distance to a bus stop. Routes 202/202A— which together offer high frequency service between Mahon Point and Hollyhill in Cork—split by direction in Gurranabraher. Westbound buses follow Cathedral and Bakers Roads, and eastbound buses follow Churchfield Ave and Gurranabraher Road, as shown above.

While on a map it appears as though a greater number of people have access to frequent service because of the split, that is only true for people who can tolerate a walk to the more distant side of the split.

In this example, a resident on Bantry Park Road has a walk of just 6 minutes to reach the eastbound bus stop at Churchfield Hill. But when returning home, westbound buses turn away from this person’s home. They must get off on Cathedral Road, and their walk home takes 12 minutes.

This reduces the number of people who consider themselves close enough to the 202/202A to use it.

Map showing larger walking distances on the 202/202A bus route on Bantry Par Road that has a split route in two directions.

Nearly every route divides into one-way splits or loops in Cork City centre, due in part to one-way streets that have been designed for the flow of car traffic. The map above, to the right, uses Route 214 as an example to illustrate how a person’s walking time varies when they are going to work and returning home.

Moving the stops for each direction of public transport farther away from one another makes walking distances for the two directions of travel more different. While the average walk may be acceptable, some people are sensitive to the longest walk they are asked to make.

The difference in walking time in this Cork City centre example may seem small, but nearly every route operates this way in the centre. Not only does it make walking times more extreme, it also makes the network more complex and confusing for new residents. The effect on each individual’s experience is small, but it is compounded over tens of thousands of people. A small nudge or disincentive, if it affects a whole population, will have an effect on overall outcomes.

Map of the 214 route which splits direction in Cork city centre between Cork Bus station and McCurtain Street stop. It illustrates that when two directions of a route are far apart, some people will find that the walk, either going or returning, is too long for them.

4 Population and Land Use Maps

Patronage Potential and Need

In this chapter, we present data that inform two different types of considerations in transport planning:

The maps draw on 2016 Census data and other sources.

The maps on the following pages show:

These maps show the density of each population group across the metropolitan area.

Density on its own is not enough to support high access and high patronage. We must examine these maps for all of the geographic qualities that indicate potential for high access and patronage:

These factors and their geometric effect on public transport access and efficiency are illustrated starting on page 20.

Activity (Residents + Jobs)

Map shows a 2016 Residents and Jobs activity density study of the Cork Metropolitan Area. Naturally the closer to the city centre you get on the map the more Jobs/Education attractors are present per square kilometre and the more residents live there per square kilometre.

The map of activity density on the previous page shows job and residential density together. This allows us to identify areas that are dense with either use, as well as areas with a high mix of residents and jobs.

Areas with many jobs and residents are likely to have many potential transport users and destinations. Areas with mixed use are likely to generate trips in all directions, at many times of the day and week. This makes it possible to attract high patronage efficiently, as service and vehicles are useful in both directions of each route.

The activity map identifies (in yellow) areas that are primarily job centres and (in blue) areas that are primarily residential centres. Large portions of central Cork City are dense with a mix of uses (shown in orange, red and dark pink). To a lesser degree, the centres of towns in the County also stand out as having a mix of uses.


Map shows a 2016 residential Density Study of Cork City. Most of the city centre and surrounds are densely populate with either more than 10,000 people per square kilometre or 5000-10000 people per square kilometre. The further outside the city centre you go on the map the less dense it becomes with suburban areas having 1000-2500 residents per square kilometre.

Many journeys start and end at home, so places where many people live have potential for high patronage. They also serve as destinations for other people’s trips such as for visiting, caring for family, or receiving services someone provides from home. Understanding where many people live close together can help us see where there is a greater market for transport.

The largest area of concentrated residential density in the CMA centres around Cork City. Much of the central Cork City area has more than 5,600 residents per square kilometre. There is slightly more residential density south of the river than north.

Outside the central Cork area, there are several other medium-sized pockets of residential density such as Ballingcollig, Carrigaline, Carrigtwohill, Coolbawn and Cobh. There are small pockets of residential density in smaller towns such as Ballygarvan, Ballyvoreen, Blarney, Cloyne, Killeens Cross, Noonans Field, Ringaskiddy, Passage West, Tower and Whitegate.

A pattern of development that is problematic for transport is visible on this map, and that is the placement of dense housing developments away from main roads. Some of the darker-blue areas around the periphery of Cork and in the suburbs are at the edges of the urbanised areas, not along a main road, and separated from other dense places by less-dense development or dual carriageways.

When dense residential developments are permitted far from main roads, and especially when local street networks do not make it easy for those residents to walk to the main roads, this leads to less useful transport and lower transport patronage.

An example is the subdivisions south of the N40 in Cork, circled on the map above. Moderately-dense housing is scattered onto many roads, rather than being organised into a centre or along a corridor that could be served efficiently.

Jobs & Educational Opportunities

Map shows Jobs and Education Desnity per square kilometre in the Cork Metrpolitan Area. Parts of central Cork have areas of over 10,000 jobs and educational attractors per square kilometre. Other parts of central Cork and many of the suburbs have 5,000-10,000 jobs and education attractors per square kilometre. The further from the city you go the more areas have less than 1000 jobs and education attractors per square kilometre.

Job and education density can show us where the important destinations are that people travel to daily, for work or school.

Some areas that are dense with jobs attract more than just commuters. Commercial and retail job locations represent places people go to regularly throughout the day for shopping, medical care, socialising, fitness, and all of the other activities that make a full life.

In Cork City, a high density of jobs and educational opportunities are located in and around central Cork City, as well as at universities, hospitals and schools. There are also job centres in Ballincollig to the west, Loughmahon Technology Park to the east, and Kilnap Business & Technology Park to the north.

There are dense jobs in the centres of towns in County Cork such as Carrigaline, Cobh, and Midleton, and in the Eastgate Retail Park on Little Island.

At lower densities, there are also jobs spread around the Cork Airport, in Ringaskiddy, in Carrigtwohill and in the industrial park south of Carrigaline. While Ringaskiddy is particularly well-known as offering a great many jobs, the jobs are dispersed over such large areas that they barely appear on this map.

That wide dispersal is typical of modern industrial development patterns. It makes those jobs harder to reach with public transport, especially when buildings are placed at the ends of cul-de-sacs or behind walls. The low-density of jobs in such areas sometimes means that workers have to walk a long distance from the bus stop to their actual job site.

No-Car Households

2016 Map of no-car households. In Cork City centre and parts of the more populated suburbs there are many areas with more than 2000 no-car households per square km. However some parts of the city centre and many areas near the city centre have 250-500 households without a car and less than 250 households without a car.

The map on the previous page shows where no-car households are concentrated in the CMA. There are high densities of no-car households in central Cork City, especially north of the river, as well as in Cobh.

No-car households indicate both potential for high patronage and a need for transport service. In places that are far from Cork City Centre and local town centres, households without cars may have few options besides transport for reaching jobs and services beyond their neighbourhood or their town.

Public Transport Commuters

2016 Transport Commuters Map showing higher usage of public transport in the city centre than anywhere else. Many areas near city centre have less than 250 transport users per square kilometre.

The map of transport commuters on the previous page shows where people who were relying on transport for a work or school commute in 2016 were then residing.

Unlike the previous map of no-car households, this map shows where people rely on transport but also where transport existed in 2016. There may be potential for more transport commutes beyond where the network allowed in 2016 or even today.

Unemployed Residents

2016 Map showing number of unemployed residents per square kilometre. Highest concentration is in the city centre with parts having 1000-2000 unemployed residents per square kilometre.

The map of unemployed residents on the previous page shows where people who were in not in employment in 2016 were residing. Unemployment is but one measure of deprivation, but it can help us identify areas where transport would be valuable for social reasons, even if it does not attract high patronage.

There are high concentrations of unemployed residents around central Cork City and a few outlying parts of the City, as well as notably in Cobh. There is a greater density of unemployed residents north of the river in Cork than south of the river.

Retired Residents

2016 Map showing the number of retired residents per square kilometre in the Cork Metrpolitan area. Highest density is in the city centre and some of the surrounding suburbs with much of central cork containing 1000-2000 retired residents per square kilometre.

The density of retired residents generally follows the patterns of overall residential density.

Retirees live at high densities in Laharn and near the Cork University Hospital. There are some very dense retiree residences and nursing homes in Cork north of the river.

Among all of the fares paid on board Cork publicly-subsidised buses in 2019, 29% of them were DSP Free Travel Passes, which are available to people over the age of 65 and people with certain disabilities.

Retirees and seniors are known to have a high propensity for using public transport. As a group, they tend to have different preferences for transport service design than younger people and working people:

For these reasons, retirees and seniors are sometimes more concerned that transport routes get close to their homes and destinations, and less concerned about whether the service is frequent or fast.


2016 Map showing the number of people 18 years of age and younger per square kilometre in the Cork Metropolitan area. The map shows a generous dispersion of youths throughout the CMA with many of the suburbs containing a higher density of youths per square kilometre than parts of the city centre. A lot of the city centre contains 500-1000 and 250-500 youths per square kilometre while parts of the suburbs have 1000-2000 youths per square kilometre.

Concentrations of young residents (those 18 years and younger) generally follow patterns of high residential concentration. However, in central Cork City, there are fewer concentrations of young residents, even in densely populated areas. This is likely because the smaller housing units that are common in the centre city are less likely to be occupied by families with children.

Of the fares paid on Cork buses in 2019, 9% were for a child 18 years or younger.

Walk Network Connectivity

Map showing the percentage of 1.5km geographic area that is reachable by walking. The entire city centre is fully walkable but the further out of the city we go on the map the less walkable areas become due to lack of footpaths, pedestrian crossings etc.

The map on the previous page shows one measure of walkability: the portion of the nearby area that can be reached by walking up to 1.5 km on streets or paths.

Places with few street or path connections will require people to walk longer distances to reach destinations that are nearby as-the-crow-flies, as illustrated on page 23. Such places appear on this map in light green or white. Places where many connected streets or paths allow people to reach most nearby places quickly appear in dark green.

Central Cork City is generally has higher walk network connectivity than other places in the CMA.1 Other towns have high walkability in their centres, but their centres tend to be quite small.

1 Areas near water show lower walkability by this measure because reaching destinations on the other side of the river might require a diversion to a bridge.

5 Key Choices

The purpose of this report is to invite members of the public to provide their opinion on certain choices about the future Cork bus network.

There are certain transport choices about which reasonable people will disagree. Understanding how people in the Cork Metropolitan Area would make these choices will us design the Draft New Network for public consideration.

The first phase of public consultation is therefore focused on these choices:

Tolerance for Change

The biggest choice facing the Cork Metropolitan Area in this study is whether changing the network is worthwhile.

Every detail of the existing network is something somebody is accustomed to, and they will object to it being changed.

The value of a familiar network is that it continues serving existing passengers in a familiar way. People have built habits and lives around the existing network.

Network redesigns are controversial in proportion to how much the network changes. How much change is desirable and tolerable given that even a change that benefits the larger population will be disruptive to some people?

Shorter Walks or Shorter Waits?

There are some parts of the Cork network in which transport operates on nearby parallel roads, with the result that many people are close to two routes that are heading in the same direction.

BusConnects Cork is an opportunity to ask people whether short walks to a stop are more important than short waits for the bus. The illustrations to the right show two different ways that a network can be designed: to provide short walks (at left) or to provide short waits (at right). In areas with good street connectivity and footpaths, focusing service investment on key corridors in order to make those routes more frequent can actually make people’s trips faster. This increases access to opportunity within a reasonable travel time, getting people where they are going sooner. It typically leads to higher patronage.

Local conditions affect peoples’ willingness to walk: if the walk is noisy, unsafe or hilly, then people may prefer longer waits at a stop closer to them. People in different life situations will have different abilities and preferences: someone who is transporting multiple children, or who is elderly, may prefer a short walk even if it means more time waiting and a longer journey.

Focusing service on key corridors can shorten waits more than it lengthens walks. This gives people access to more places within a reasonable amount of time.

Infographic 1 shows an option where in a new network walking is minimized. Services are divided into parallel, infrequent routes on all roads. Walks to a bus stop are short, usually around 2 mins, but people spend a lot of time waiting. The average wait would be 15 mins and the full wait could be 30 mins.

Infographic 2 shows the second option where waiting is minimized in a new network by concentrating service into frequent routes on some roads. This option would require longer walks, 6 mins on average but reduces waiting time significantly with the average wait down to 7.5 minutes. On average it would be 3.5 minutes faster.

This page presents one theoretical example from Cork. Routes 215 and 215A operate on nearby, parallel Boreenmanna and Ballinlough Roads, as shown below at left. Many people have a short walk to one (or both) of these routes. But for journeys that can’t be timed to the bus schedule (such as journeys to work), people will spend up to 35 minutes waiting.

If more service were concentrated on one or the other of the roads, then shorter waits would be available in this area. So much shorter, in fact, that walking further to the frequent route would shorten overall journeys for most people.

In the example below, instead of a 19.5 minutes spent walking and waiting (below left), this resident would spend 13.5 minutes (below right). Journey times for people living nearer to the frequent route would improve by even more.

This would be true whether the service were concentrated on Boreenmanna or on Ballinlough, and either is a possibility– this arrangement was picked purely as an illustration.

Some people are sensitive to walking distance and might not walk further in order to get where they are going sooner. On average, enough people are in a hurry that focusing service into frequent routes tends to increase patronage. Should the new Cork bus network be designed to prioritise short walks, or short waits?

Interchange or Complexity?

There is a trade-off between interchange and complexity that arises in many transport networks, because it arises from the simple math and geometry of transport. The more a transport network is designed to avoid interchange, the more complex it will be, and the poorer the frequency of many routes.

Obviously we would all prefer a one-seatjourney, rather than a second wait for a second bus. But making that wish come true for all would spread service thin, and thereby make it less useful.

The illustration to the right shows why designing for some interchange allows for shorter waits and a simpler network.

The network at top is made of direct routes, one from each of three neighbourhoods to each of three major destinations. There are a total of nine routes, but each is only operated by two buses, so the frequencies are poor. A person travelling from home to the city centre gets a direct journey, but they can’t depart when they want to–they have to time their departure to the bus schedule.

The network at bottom connects the same six places but with fewer routes. Each route offers much better frequency. In order to make this high frequency service possible, there must be interchange for some trips—but the high frequencies make those interchanges fast.

In the network at bottom, a person travelling from home to the city centre can depart at the right time for their work shift, because a bus is always coming soon. They needn’t get to the work excessively early just because that’s when the bus schedule dictates. They spend less time waiting for the bus and in other places they don’t to be—despite the interchange.

The illustrations on the next two pages show how it is possible that, for the same number of buses and operating cost, a network that involves some interchange could actually make peoples’ journeys shorter.

An important thing to note about the two networks contrasted on the following pages is that they cost the same to operate:

The next two pages illustrate how people’s journeys can be made faster on a more connected, frequent network, even for trips that require a new interchange. But many trips can still be made without interchange, and these trips become even faster thanks to the higher frequencies.

Infographic showing various origin and destination points. 30 min frequency direct routes would result in a 15 min wait time. Therefore, a 15 min wait time and 20 min ride time would result in a 35 minute journey.

Infographic now shows routes with 10 min frequency with an interchange half way through the journey. The result is a 5 min wait time at the start of your journey, 10 min ride to interchange, 5 min wait at the interchange and 10 min ride to destination. The result is a 30min overall journey time and a more efficent network.

Introducing more (free) interchange isn’t the only way to improve the connectivity of the Cork network, but it is a choice about which we wish to consult the public.

Other changes can improve access and shorten peoples’ journeys, by allowing more routes to work together in a connected network. They have been described earlier in this report, and include:

Interchange, Access and Patronage

A network designed for higher access and patronage would necessarily include some interchange. It is not possible to design for high access and patronage without interchange, because interchange makes it possible to give people faster journeys efficiently.

The redesign of the Cork bus network is not strictly limited to the existing budget for bus service. Some modest additional investment can be made in order to support the CMA’s Transport Strategy and provide an optimal network.

But even with an increase in service, there is a low limit to how many routes can run at high frequency if avoiding interchange remains important. This will tend to limit the amount of access that the network provide in the future, and reduce its potential to attract high patronage.

As part of the BusConnects improvements to public transport fares, the additional charge to interchange will be eliminated in Cork. This, plus planned improvements to bus stops and reliability, make it possible to present the choice:

Once interchange is free, should the network still be designed to help people avoid it?

If some additional interchange would result in greater access and faster journeys for most people, would that be worthwhile?

What is the Most Important Definition of Success?

In this study, we are asking the public to tell us what it would mean for a new Cork bus network to be “successful.”

Transport can serve many different goals, and some of these goals are in tension with one another, as described on page 9. Within any limited budget for transport— even if that budget is growing—we cannot maximise the pursuit of every goal at once.

Given that mathematical reality, which of these goals are most important for the transport network serving the Cork Metropolitan Area?

6 Next Steps

This report and the public consultation phase that accompanies it are the first step in the BusConnects Cork network redesign.

After consideration of public input from this first phase of consultation, a Draft New Network will developed by NTA, Bus Éireann, Cork City Council, Cork County Council and consultants.

The Draft New Network will be presented to the public for review and comment, currently foreseen for October 2021.

Public input in response to the Draft will inform the Final New Network. It will also inform a parallel BusConnects programme, the development of Core Bus Corridors.

The Final New Network and the Core Bus Corridors are currently planned for implementation in 2023 with full operation reached in 2024.

If you wish to be kept informed of the progress of this study and opportunities for public comment, send an email to corknetwork@busconnects.ie and you will be added to the announcement list.

The expected timeline for the coming months is as follows: Q3 2021 choices report and consultation, Q4 2021 draft network consultation. Q1 2022 Final network published. Q1 2022 Emerging preferred routes Core Bus Corridors consultation.

To join the announcement list for this study, send an email to corknetwork@busconnects.ie.

Visit the BusConnects Cork website for more information and updates.