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Are we there yet? The problems and possibilities of Ireland's public transport

The next cycle of The Good Information Project from The Journal will look at public transport in Ireland.

THE CLATTER OF the train. The ding of the Luas. The bump of the car over a pothole.

Hundreds of thousands of people move around Ireland every day, whether it’s a short spin to the local shop, the commute to work, or a trip across the country.

When we’re leaving our homes (which, for most of us, has been less often than usual over the last year), we’re faced with a question: how do we get from point A to point B?

It seems straightforward, but there’s a range of complexities wrapped up within it.

If I wait for the bus, will it be on time? Will it drop me close to where I’m going? If I’m disabled or pregnant or elderly, will there be a seat for me? Will I be safe if I’m travelling in the dark?

Is there a train that can bring me where I want to be? Do I need to walk or cycle or drive to get to the station in the first place? What about when I get off the train? How much will it cost?

Are there cycle lanes? Are there footpaths? Are there good quality roads?

Earlier this year, The Journal launched The Good Information Project, where we take a deep dive along with our readers into key issues impacting Ireland.

So far, we’ve covered the prospect of a shared island, the future of work, Ireland and China’s relationship, and housing. For the next month, we’ll be looking into public transport: how it works, how it could work in the future, and what are the problems we need to solve.

For 93% of people in Ireland, their nearest public transport option is a bus stop, according to the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Meanwhile, only 1.2% have a city bike sharing station (in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway) as their closest choice.

In between the two are train stations at 5.3%, while just 0.6% of people are closer to a Luas station than to any other mode of transport.

shutterstock_1617672064 A Dart train running between Bray and Greystones Source: Shutterstock/Dawid K Photography

Like many things, 2021 is a strange time for public transport in Ireland.

The number of people allowed (and needing) to use it has been slashed during the pandemic, and with remote working likely to stick around in some shape or form for a long time, the way we use public transport may look different too.

We’ve also seen recent moves towards encouraging active travel (like walking and cycling). In some parts of the country, bike lanes have been given space previously taken up by cars and some streets have been pedestrianised – although many would say that far more still needs to be done to enable people to leave their cars behind to help combat the climate crisis.

Projects like BusConnects, the proposed MetroLink between Swords and Charlemont via Dublin Airport and the city centre, and the Dart+ Programme have been promised as ways of enhancing Dublin’s transport links, and we’ll dive into the latest developments on those.

But we’ll also look at transport outside of the cities and the effect on rural areas when transport options aren’t up to scratch, which is a common situation in many parts of the country. 

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Donegal’s lack of a train option – despite it once having a thriving rail service – is one such case study. 69,000 people in Ireland live 20km or more from the national road network – and nearly a third of those people live in Donegal, according to CSO data.

We’ll be talking to experts to ask them for their big ideas about public transport and what we need to do to make it the best it can be. We’ll look at what is and isn’t working, the impact of bad public transport on people’s lives, and what we can learn from other countries.

Importantly, we want to hear from you. What would you change if you were in charge of public transport for your county? Do you have an interesting or especially difficult commute? Should public transport be free? We’ll publish polls and open threads as well as inviting you to tune into live discussions.

We want to hear from you

The Journal launched The Good Information Project with the goal of enlisting readers to take a deep dive with us into key issues impacting Ireland right now.

You can keep up to date by signing up to The Good Information Project newsletter in the box below. If you want to join the discussion, ask questions or share your ideas on this or other topics, you can find our Facebook group here or contact us directly via WhatsApp.

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

About the author:

Lauren Boland

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