Improving a bus network requires changing things. Maybe you change a bus route number so that the system is easier to figure out. Maybe this segment of a bus route would be more useful if it connected to other segments differently than it does today.
Maybe your city centre just has too many half-empty buses, more than can fit down the streets, so they are constantly blocking each other. In that case, you might want to question the idea that every streetcorner in your entire metro area needs a direct bus to the city centre. Instead, you may want to create frequent local routes that connect to frequent routes into the city. If both routes are more frequent, a trip to the city could end up being faster than it is now.
Figuring out plans to do this is my job. I’ve done it for 25 years, all over the world. And if you think it should be done in your city, you need to reckon with how hard it is.
To improve anything you will have to change things. And when you do, people will say this:
And someone will say “save the ___!” about every single bus route in the existing system.
To satisfy these comments, the only solution is to leave the existing system exactly as it is. That means keeping a network that does what it does mostly because it’s been doing that for decades and some people are used to it.
Changing bus networks is fiendishly hard to do politically, and this is why. When I prepare government clients for a network redesign, part of my job is shock-therapy: they need to know who will be yelling at them, and what they’ll be saying, and how unpleasant that will be. Because if they are not ready to sit through some of that, there is no point in beginning.
The other reason that is hard is that advocates of these plans do not speak up. In Dublin, for example, we put out a network plan that makes public transport useful to vastly more people for vastly more trips. The average Dubliner can get to 20% more useful places in 30 minutes. But the people who benefit won’t learn about the plan, or complete the survey.
[For example, the community that this petition is defending, Tyrrelstown, now has an infrequent 40D bus to the city, but its bus to its local shopping centre is only hourly, and it’s virtually impossible to get to the major hospital in the same area. “Saving the 40D” means continuing to make those trips impossible. But that may end up being what happens.]
The problem is that people falsely assume that the plan will happen anyway. Therefore, people who like the plan don’t speak up because they take it for granted, while people who don’t like it think they need to scream bloody murder. So the story in the press is mostly of people screaming.
The other problem with the screaming is that makes a lot of noise but doesn’t tell us what to do.
The authors of this petition think we don’t hear this comment, so they need to scream loud, with a petition.
But the problem isn’t that we don’t hear it. It’s that the comment means either (a) the bus network should never change or (b) there are some things wrong with the plan, affecting some people on the 40D, and we need to look at those in the next round.
Usually it’s actually the latter. “Save the 40D” may really mean something specific. It may even mean something that the plan already addresses. People may be reacting to the news that we’re “axing the 40D” without even looking into what the plan does instead, and why that might even be better for them.
This is especially true in the current Dublin public consultation, where certain parties have spread hysterical distortions, often telling people their routes are being cut without explaining what’s proposed to replace them.
But if you just tell me “save the 40D” we don’t know exactly what these people want. So apart from changing nothing at all, we can’t fix their problem in the next revision.
Which could mean, in the end, that after huge amounts of stress and anguish, nothing changes (or improves) at all.