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Here's why the new plan to radically change the Dublin Bus network could happen overnight

The radical new plan to overhaul the entire Dublin Bus network was unveiled yesterday.

A RADICAL REDESIGN for the Dublin Bus network which was unveiled yesterday and which would transform how people travel around the city could come into effect “overnight”.

The heads of Dublin Bus and the National Transport Authority, and the Minister for Transport Shane Ross were joined yesterday by Jarrett Walker, the man whose firm is behind the new plans for the network.

Some of the headline plans include the scrapping of existing bus numbers and replacing them with seven “super-frequent spines” (A to G) which would run along the most popular routes into the city centre. These would be supplemented through orbital routes that stay out of the city centre but link up with the spines in a number of areas.

These routes would mean people may have to change buses on their way into the city centre, for example, but Walker said that a reduction in overall waiting and journey times would be driven by a more “efficient system”.

Currently, he said that there are a number of routes that stretch on for long distances and overlap, and the number of routes that go into the city centre add to congestion and create a number of inefficiencies.

There will also be a greater attempt to integrate the bus route network with other transport systems such as the Luas and the Dart under the new system. To do this, there’s a proposal to have a fixed ‘90-minute fare‘ where you can take as many bus, Luas or Dart trips as you wish.

A public consultancy will follow now, with the new network planned to take effect some time in 2020.

Driving change

new dublin bus plans New spine routes cut the city with orbital routes around it Source: NTA

In the place of buses like the 46a, 16 and the 40, the new bus network would replace it with a spine of seven routes, designated A through G.

“What we’re doing is building up frequency,” he said. “You see a thin red line, that’s a service every 15 minutes or less. You see a dark red line, that’s a service every eight minutes or better. All day, and most of the weekend. Anywhere that red lines cross, it’s easier to interchange. That’s how we get to more places through the ease of interchange.”

A key part to the plan is taking bus routes out of the city, through the increase of orbital routes. With these routes, and the interconnections, people can reach greater distances in the same amount of time than they would have previously, according to the plans.

Take how far someone travelling from DCU in north Dublin at midday could travel:

45 minutes dcu Source: NTA

The purple area is how far someone can currently travel in 45 minutes. The blue is the new areas they’d be able to travel to under the new system in the same amount of time, while the pale coloured areas are those you could no longer reach in the same time.

And here’s the prediction for Ballyfermot:

45 minutes ballyfermot Source: NTA

And Ashtown:

45 minutes ashtown Source: NTA

And Sandyford:

45 minutes sandyford Source: NTA

On the possibility of opposition to the plans, on the changing of the names of routes for example, the consultant said that what the public are essentially being asked is if they want improvement to their bus service.

“It’s a change,” Walker said. “If you don’t want any improvement, don’t make any change.

The starting point of this project was that the bus network as it has historically been is not working well for the public of Dublin as it is today, and certainly not working well for Dublin as it is growing.

‘Overnight’ overhaul

As far as a timeline goes for the introduction of this new network goes, the next step is a public consultation that all are urged to take part in to give their opinion on the new plans.

That begins on 16 July and runs until 14 September, and will be found here. Speaking yesterday, NTA CEO Anne Graham said that the submissions from the public would guide the final decisions made about the plan, with a view to implementation in late 2019 into 2020.

However, as is pointed out in the summary document, “this plan is not inevitable”. The likes of Graham, Walker and Minister Ross were confident though, that the public would be largely positive towards the plans.

As far as implementation goes, Walker said this experience from doing the same thing in previous jurisdictions pointed towards making all the changes in one fell swoop, or a “big bang”.

He told TheJournal.ie: “The way a big bang implementation works is that you change the whole network at once. Generally, the network changes on a Saturday night and begins on a Sunday night in the new pattern.

The reason big bangs are commonly done is that a network is by definition so interdependent, everything is related to everything else so intimately, that if you try to break it apart into phases, the work of designing something that is partly this and partly that is overwhelming. It’s actually easier to do it all at once.

He said that this doesn’t always work, depending on the city, but that Dublin’s “grid-like” geography meant that it was probably the best way to do so.

“What we generally say is the key to getting a big bang implementation right is to have enough of a lead time into it, so there’s enough time where nothing else is changing,” Walker said.

When everyone at the NTA, at Dublin Bus and everywhere else can be completely focused on preparing for this change. If there’s been that time and the proper resources, you can do a big bang.

Graham, however, said that no decision had yet been made on how the plan would be implemented if it proceeds as is.

Before that happens, issues around the increase required in the bus fleet and driver hours will need to be sorted out, as will communicating to the public exactly what changes will be introduced.

Walker added that the problems Dublin is facing now are not uncommon in other major cities around the world.

He said: “We often find that a public transport network that’s been built around low expectations, and expectations of existing customers to do things in a certain way. That isn’t the network that’s going to deliver exactly what you need.”

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Sean Murray

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