For 18 months, our firm has been working with National Transport Authority of Ireland (NTA) to develop a redesign of Dublin’s bus network. We studied every bus route, drew hundreds of maps of data and ideas, and spent a week locked in a conference room with experts from NTA, the bus operating company Dublin Bus, and staff from the local governments. Once we had a rough plan we spent more months refining and analysing. It’s been a long journey.
Last week, the plan was released for public comment. The plan revises the entire network, creating a much simpler pattern that people can learn, remember, and explain. As usual, fewer routes mean more service: the number of routes falls from 130 to 102, as a huge high-frequency network, in a spiderweb grid pattern, extends across most of the city.
Our key goal was improving access. We wanted to speed up people’s trips, but we prefer to say that we wanted to expand the range of places that could be reached in a fixed amount of time. We wanted people to get to more places, sooner, so that they would have more opportunities in their lives. In short, we want public transport to give people more freedom.
Under the plan, the average Dubliner can get to 20% more useful places in 45 minutes. “Useful places” means jobs and student enrolments, which are easy to count with Irish data, but of course you can expect similar results for shopping and for all kinds of other destinations that give value to our lives.
You can explore the network here, But if you want to understand why the plan looks as it does, here’s a link to the summary reportand (our favourite) our full report, which you can download, chapter by chapter, at the bottom of the front page. (Chapter 7 has the detailed explanation of the network, but the others all help explain the big picture ofwhy we propose this.) Don’t be afraid of the full report! It is written in plain non-technical English with lots of interesting pictures, and it lays out every aspect of the plan, including the thought process by which it was designed.
To understand the plan, you must understand the maps. The front page has links to maps of the entire network before and after. After you look at the map, you can look here or a table that will tell you exactly how often every route will run at every hour of every day.
But to understand the maps, you must look at the legend. Our firm’s usual mapping style is dense with information, but therefore contains a couple of things that you need to learn. Most of the early expressions of panic and confusion have been based on misreadings of the map.
In our maps:
- Colour means frequency.Red means high frequency, and cooler colours mean lower. (The colours mean midday frequency; see the frequency tablefor frequency at rush hour and other times, and see here for peak-only routes that may be relevant to your area.)
- Change in colour may not indicate that a route ends.It often means that the frequency changes but the route continues. Watch the route numbers to be clear.
- The map describes the weekday midday condition.There are also peak-only routes here, and most routes have higher frequency during the peak and lower frequency in the evening. To understand what the frequency of a route will be at any hour of the day or night, see here.
A network redesign is both a big idea and 10,000 details. Over the past week, in presentations to the media and to local government councils, I focused on the big idea:
- more service …
- to more places …
- so that you get there sooner …
- with a little more interchanging (transferring in US parlance)
But of course the questions and objections were more about the details:
- How dare I take away my direct route to the city? Because it’s really infrequent and inefficient, and we can get you there sooner another way. If we give you more frequent service to a nearby hub, we can connect you to much faster service to the city, so in the end, counting waiting time, you get there sooner. We can also connect you to countless places you can’t get to now at all.
- How can people change buses, or walk to a different stop in an intersection, when it’s windy and raining? The plan includes good shelter at every interchange point. But the deeper answer is this: People change buses in Houston (hot and humid with fierce thunderstorms) and in brutally cold places like Moscow, Anchorage, and Edmonton. Everyone always cites their climate as a reason people won’t interchange, but in every climate, if interchanging is the way to get places fast, people do. Most people have adapted to their climate. They know how to do things outdoors in it, and therefore can work with it when changing buses.
- How will this affect older people and people with disabilities? There is an unavoidable tension between senior and disabled needs – which are much more inconvenienced by interchange – and everyone else, and a network designed solely around senior/disabled preferences for minimum walk and interchange is simply too slow to be useful for the rest of the population. Again, attention is being given to making interchanges as convenient as possible, including for people with limited mobility, but a balance must be struck.
- Isn’t this connected to a lot of other things? How can you work on it in isolation? I’ll address that one in the next post.
Whether you live in Dublin or not, I hope you enjoy this work. The full report is the most advanced piece of work our firm done yet. I can’t speak highly enough of the team at NTA, who have shown clarity and courage throughout this predictably difficult process.
If you do live in Dublin, you MUST complete an online survey. If a link to it is not here, it will be there very soon. Yes, that’s a command. Too often, people take the attitude that public comment is just for show, and that the government is going to do what they want anyway. When that happens, people who like the plan take it for granted, and people who hate it feel like they have to scream to get their point through. So we get nothing but screaming, which makes the plan look like a failure.
So Dubliners: even if you like the plan, you must fill out an online survey. If you don’t it may not happen.