Saturday, December 10, 2005

Another Dublin Bus Story

Well, it happened again. There I was, sitting on the bus yesterday morning, when it diverged from its route. Sigh.

Actually, I was standing on the ground floor because it was nearly my stop. Danny Wallace had just gotten on the bus. I was mentally singing “Happy Friday to Me” and calculating which task on my “To Do” list was sufficient to keep my occupied for the day without making me think too hard. Everything was right and good in Fridayland.

Then the bus took a left on Simmonscourt Road. I looked around and, as usual, I was the only person who seemed alarmed or even to have noticed. I realised that the guy standing across from me, who was edging his way up to the door, was wearing a Dublin Bus uniform. Great. He’s late for work so we get to do a detour to drop him at the depot.

In the end, we didn’t go as far as the depot in Donnybrook. We just went back behind the RDS and then got on the Anglesea Road, which brought us back to the bridge and the road the bus is meant to travel. This added maybe four or five minutes onto my travel time and, unlike the last time we had an unscheduled detour, the roads we traveled on were all part of other bus routes. No crashing over speed bumps, no squeezing between parked cars and oncoming traffic.

Did I ask about this new route? No. I understood the driver’s motivation and I was a little too annoyed to trust myself to talk about it rationally. I guess I also figured that on a National Day of Protest, I was lucky to have the bus at all since I knew I was going to walk home in the afternoon. (And walk I did – it took me a little over 2 hours.)

It’s just the principle of the matter. A bus is not your personal car – it’s a public amenity. Just because you’re the guy wearing the blue cap and sitting behind the wheel doesn’t mean you should reroute the bus to suit your friends. What about the couple of people who get on the stop in front of the RDS? Real nice that they had to wait an extra 10 or 15 minutes for the next bus.

The traffic situation in Dublin is ugly. In some ways, it’s probably worse than Chicago. I’d wager that the travel times for the commutes are about the same but the distances traveled are much smaller. The Celtic Tiger has put a chicken in every pot and a German luxury car in every driveway, or so it seems. There are too many cars on the road and not even $6/gallon gasoline is enough of a stick to get people out of their cars and onto public transport.

Why? Because public transport in Dublin is a disgrace. It’s unreliable and often not very accessible. I’m lucky that I live right on a bus route. There are loads of new housing developments that are built miles away from bus routes or new bus routes with very dubious frequencies (like 1 bus a day into town and then a bus every couple of days out of town).

The Dart runs along the coasts so if you live inland, you’re out of luck. If you live further out, like in Gorey or Drogheda, you can take a commuter train, but if you can work flexible hours, you’re better off driving into work before rush hour starts. The LUAS, the new tram system, has been a smashing success. In its first year of service, 16 and a half million people rode the LUAS. The government was expecting between 7 and 13.

Imagine this – a service that has large parking lots at its terminus stations, clean trains, and decent reliability. People actually use a service like that. People are less interested in getting on slow, dirty busses that make random adjustments to their routes based on the whims of drivers.

Last month, the government announced their transportation plan, a 34 billion euro plan. I am highly skeptical about the government’s ability to implement even 10% of the plan, but if they could build the new LUAS lines, extend the existing lines and link them all up nicely, then it’s money well-spent.

Because after all, the LUAS driver can’t decide that it’s a special drive-his-friend-to-work day, now can he?


At 21 December 2005 at 18:09, Blogger Lyss said...

LIke in America you'r screwed if you don't live near public transport. I work in one of the few areas of Boston that has no T (MBTA) stop near it, not to mention that it doesn't run at 4am when I go to work.


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