03 March, 2019

That meeting with Dublin Bus

So, when I tweeted “Any questions you'd like me to ask?”, I wasn’t quite prepared for the deluge that filled my Twitter feed! I put a few of your questions to Ciarán Rogan the Head of Commercial and Business Development in Dublin Bus on Friday morning, and at the end of this post I’ve tried to summarise the issues you put to me under various headings. Before I do that, let me give you a quick ‘Dublin Transport 101’ paragraph.

Dublin Bus is a semi-state organisation. This means that it operates a bit like a private company, and in some respects, operates at arm’s length from Government. This means that when things go wrong Minister Ross can say “nothing to do with me”, but when they go right he can claim the credit. A huge amount of what Dublin Bus does is controlled by the National Transport Authority (NTA), which is in turn controlled by Minister Ross. New buses? Ask the NTA for the money. New routes? That’s a matter for the NTA. BusConnects? NTA. You get the picture. So, with that out of the way I'll  address a few of the specifics that you raised.

Bus fleet
Why no electric buses, or even hybrids? Good question, especially since hybrids were piloted, oh, ten years ago. Your tweets mentioned LA, Madrid, and of course transport nerds like myself talk a lot about Shenzhen in China which has a fleet of 16,000 e-buses. Mr. Rogan told me that nine hybrid buses are on order, and three will be in service by the end of the month. That’s no great shakes compared to London, which has 3,240 hybrid buses in service, but I guess neither the Government nor Shane Ross have been losing sleep over this. This means that diesel is here to stay sadly, for at least the next decade, though at least the Euro 6 (emission rating) buses are much cleaner than their predecessors. Around half the fleet is Euro 6 at this stage.  I felt it was bad form though for the NTA/Dublin Bus order a load of them though, just before the diesel ban kicked in from Government. Bus Connects talks about this here 

Roads tend to get the lion’s share of transport funding in Ireland, and even though buses bring in 40% of the shoppers to Dublin’s city centre, public transport (and walking and cycling) have always been the poor relation in transport funding.  In your replies to me you said you want to see more buses (the fleet is no bigger than twenty years ago), better heating, and more space for wheelchairs. No harm to email Shane Ross (shane.ross@oireachtas.ie) and ask him for these. I agree, and would love to see it happen. Shaun (@Retzback_Shaun) said bring back the green buses. I agree! Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be on the cards.

Leap cards and ticketing
Lots of issues were raised around issues with Leap cards. Some of you want the central doors as exit only, others want a card reader at the centre doors. Sylvia Bowe (@sylviabowe) wants a “swipe on, swipe off” system. A pet hate was the card reader on the right-hand side as you enter, which is intended for annual or monthly tickets etc, but which happily takes the maximum fare off your Leap card if you make the mistake of swiping at it. A sensible suggestion from Andrew  McCarthy (@A_Mc_Carthy) was that it should only extract the maximum fare to the terminus. There’s lots of technical issues here which I’ll ask Mr. Rogan to respond to in detail. Looking ahead we’ll probably move to the London system which can swipe your bank card, so you don’t even need an Oyster card (the equivalent of a Leap card) there. I know the NTA are also moving towards a 90 minute far that allows you to transfer for around €2.30. It is still damn expensive, and in the Green Party we are saying that we should move towards free student travel, or even free child travel. I got my Dáil colleague Catherine Martin TD to ask how much this would cost, and she was told it would cost €35m per year for free child travel nationwide (though this doesn’t account for any increased usage). A reasonable step to take would be make public transport free for accompanied under 12s on Dublin Bus services on Saturdays for a trial period and see how it works out. Certainly, for young families the return bus fare for two adults and a few children going in and out of town costs a lot more than city centre car parking, so it is worth considering for lots of reasons.

Bus Lane enforcement
This came up in so many of your tweets. People want to see bus lane enforcement cameras mounted on the Dublin Bus fleet, and they do too. Trouble is the legislation doesn’t exist to do this apparently. Again, this is a matter for Shane Ross, so do drop him a note people. The city Council and the Gardaí should be stepping up enforcement, and I’ve been calling for this. The Council is in the middle of a complicated tendering process for parking enforcement that’s almost completed and I’ve asked for illegal parking on footpaths, bike lanes and bus lanes to be prioritised. Mind you, there’s nothing to stop the Guards doing more of this now ‘cough’ (@GardaTraffic)

The App
We had a good chat about the Dublin Bus App. Apparently there is a rebuild of this underway and it should be back on Android by the end of March, (perhaps on the Apple Store already?) The problem has been GDPR, though it does seem like GDPR is the new Health and Safety. There was a nice suggestion from @oceanclub  that the App show buses in real time on a map. Now that would be an elegant upgrade, but it doesn’t seem to be on the cards. Stephen Murphy (@stejmurphy) felt the real time data at bus stops and the data in @TFIupdates and @dublinbusnews app are pooling from different sources. Ciaran Rogan didn’t feel this was the case, but if you’ve evidence of this maybe you’d send it on to me.  Diarmuid Nanney (@HanneyDP ) asked that the Dublin Bus data files be uploaded as open source files. I assume that they are done like that and accessible on the NTA data store, but perhaps the techies out there can tell me more. Certainly, there’s room for snazzier third-party Apps. CityMapper, come to Dublin, please!

Driver issues
I feel bus drivers have become more respectful of cyclists, but of course there are loads of incidents that you know of where this is not the case. If you haven’t seen the Dublin Bus driver training video from a year or two back, have a look at it here. Lots of you want to get bus drivers out on bikes as part of their training. I think that’s a great idea, and is used in other cities, and maybe should be integrated in to driver training here.  Of course, a lot of drivers are cyclists, and do have experience of the view over the handlebars. The issue of drivers leaving the engine running came up from Melissa O’Callaghan (@melissaocallag1). If this an issue they can put signs at the bus stop advising drivers to switch off. We have them on Infirmary Road at the 46A terminus, so I’m sure it can be arranged for other places. Some of you were concerned at drivers being aggressive or using their horn inappropriately.

Smaller Route changes
Lots of local issues came up here. The new #155 will serve Ballymun, but brings yet another bus service through O’Connell Street rather than the Quays. It strikes me that there’s a ‘homing instinct’ at play here. Aoife McEoin (@AoifeMacE) wants the #7 and #7A to serve Mountjoy Square in the evenings; Graham Finlay (@graham_finlay) wants a better UCD service in the evening; Paula Nolan (@IrishPTnolan) want some buses (from Fairview I assume,) to go straight to the Docklands / Merrion Square rather than go through town.  @Leo31084416 wondered whether we could make tweaks to routes in advance of Bus Connects. Yep, this is happening. John Cuffe (@cuffejohn)no relation I think, says the #270 from Blanchardstown to Dunboyne is a rather, eh, poor service. Robbie Moran (@robbimoran) wants better express services from beyond the M50 and I strongly agree. Interestingly I asked about the overlap of Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann services. Dublin Bus is mandated to serve the “County of Dublin and contiguous areas.” I suspect that more could be done to serve those communities that lie in the no-man’s land beyond the four Dublin counties that isn’t adequately served privately or by Bus Éireann.

Bus Connects
The big route changes will come out of the BusConnects project which is being managed by the
NTA, with help from the US based consultant Jarett Walker. Liz Kerrins (@LKerrins) wanted the proposals to be more legible as does @Geschenk_Korb. I couldn’t agree more. @Sinabhfuil is concerned about the diversion of cars on to Clareville Road in Kimmage, and wants to see Park and Ride now. Grainne Hassett (@GrainneHassett) is worried about the destruction of Grattan Crescent in Inchicore. An interesting suggestion was made by @transportdublin that Dublin Bus should ask passengers to contact local representatives to support the infrastructure part of @BusConnects. That isn’t a bad idea. Certainly, Dublin Bus spend a lot of time talking to elected representatives, particularly at national level, but it might be no harm if they urged their passengers to make their views known on the project.  Keith Guinan (@keithguinan) doesn’t wish to change at Swords on way into town from Skerries. Hopefully that can be tweaked. Again, the NTA is managing Bus Connects, so Dublin Bus doesn’t call the shots on this one. Consultation is open till the end of March on some routes, and longer on others. Do make a submission via www.BusConnects.ie

General Issues
Roger Hobkinson (@RoghobC) said “Sell of their high value bus garages for residential and relocate to fewer large bus stations in a ring around M50 and one city garage in glass bottle area. Invest proceeds in better international standard services.” Well I couldn’t agree more, and have been banging this drum for years, but that requires action from Minister Shane Ross and his Fine Gael colleagues. Another issue @DublinCommuters @AGingerxyz) was drivers asking people with disabilities to state their disability. That is all wrong, and I’ll take that issue up with the company in writing. Lots of people hate the webform, and want a more specific reply to their query or complaints, over to you @DublinBusNews on that one. @OhDunnoWho wanted to see the use of Irish dropped from announcements. Can’t agree with you on this! Better maps were sought by several people. I agree. TfL in London do an amazing job with clear maps at bus stops, and we should follow their lead. 24 hour services? Funnily enough, the NTA announced this last year but it never happened. Ciaran said it will happen, and perhaps this year. Nightlink is great, but that's only a Friday/Saturday service, We badly need hourly services through the night on key routes. Hopefully this will happen with the 747 from Heuston to Dublin Airport this year, and on a few other key routes to the south and west.

We only had 45 minutes to chat, but I got the feeling that Ciaran Rogan wants to do more, but is constrained by finance and the day-to-day demands of his job in going further. There’s so many issues to address. He rides a bike to work several days a week, as do many of his colleagues. I think Dublin Bus are improving, but with a bit more support from government, and Minister Ross they could do so much more. I’ll update this post if I get more information from Dublin Bus, and I’ve summarised most of the issues that you mentioned to me below. Thanks again for all your replies.

Here's a summary of the queries received from Twitter

-where’s the accountability @sorleymccaughey
-too many empty buses parked in town @dubshn1028
-disaster at Hawkins st and Pearse Street @dubshn1028
-is there an alternative to Webform if blocked @garretbaldwin
-stop asking people with disabilities to state disability @DublinCommuters @AGingerxyz
-sell bus garages for residential relocate to M50 Invest proceeds in services @RoghobC
-better maps at bus stops ect. @chewborg
-turn down volume of 'next stop' announcements and drop Irish @OhDunnoWho
-respond to questions/complaints about customer service ever @graham_finlay

-#DB7 #DB7A to serve Mountjoy Square after 6pm @AoifeMacE
-can some routes avoid city centre to serve Merrion Square /Leeson Street @IrishPTnolan
-new #DB155 from Ballymun. Via Quays, or O’Connell Street @highnellybike
-any chance of a 24h service to airport, maybe #DB747 from Heuston @An_Puifin
-Why on the #DB46a route at 745am there’s a dearth of buses city bound @Ellebelles1
-any plans for demand responsive bus service trials https://t.co/wL5YetchXI @HanneyDP
-Constant “Operational Issues” (bus doesn’t show up) with #DB120 @rathborneD15
-Could Dublin Bus start tweaking routes now in advance of bus connects  @Leo31084416
-24h routes @ROnanJDonnelly
-please serve UCD in the evenings @graham_finlay
-how come #DB270 Dunboyne to Blanch bus is such a *** service? @cuffejohn
-non stop services for people outside M50 @robbimoran

-some buses date from 2006, replace them 2006 Lorraine_F_22
-electrify the fleet @BrianLeddin
-overcrowding, any plans to expand fleet @OdranReid
-fleet same size as 1998, can it be expanded @garrettmullan
-who so slow to electrify fleet @ruairimckiernan
-when will you move away from fosil fuels, wy is electric non-viable @lordgoat
-Madrid has electric buses @niscratz
-progress to zero carbon and Electric/non-fossil-fueled vehicles @AJffGemini13
-do something about buggy-pushers who refuse to vacate wheelchair space @Amran_Alix
-bring back green buses @Retzback_Shaun
-poor/non-existant heating on buses @Gion_Gion
-go electric, look at LA @johncoleman1979
-bigger buses please @MulfreeS
-go carbon neutral @connollc

Leapcards / ticketing
-tag on at central doors @MarcKC_Green
-how much extra money taken by tagging on RHS reader for full fare @johnlync
-can RHS reader only charge to reminus, not maximum fare @A_Mc_Carthy
-why is Leap card reader sloped, card slides off @IrishPTNolan
-can ticketing be integrated with Luas @eoinyk
-why not “swipe on, swipe off” @sylviabowe
-commuters getting #DB145 to Heuston with annual ticket can't jump on any bus down quays @noelbodie
-multi door entry with tap on/off leap card points  @ROnanJDonnelly

Bus Lane enforcement
-can they get Gardaí to keep cars out of bus lanes @tomasbradley
-can bus lane hours be increased  @snerad
-can they calculate delays caused by illegal parking  in bus lanes @ShaneHoganD16
-bus lane enforcement cameras, yellow box cameras etc ASAP @transportdublin
-onboard cameras as a means to record and fine illegal parkers?  @dnoting
-on-board #CCTV to help enforce against illegal vehicle-use @ChrisMurphy201

-Can App show buses in real time on map @oceanclub
-no support for App @InkingCap
-what happened App @oceanclub
-is App now on Transport for Ireland Real Time app @LoKapila
-can Dublin Bus data files be uploaded as open source files @HanneyDP
-why is the real time data at  bus stops data in @TFIupdates and @dublinbusnews app pooling from different sources   @stejmurphy

Driver issues
-get drivers on to bikes @DublinVelo2019 @davidhealyv
-can insights from bus drivers who cycle be used to improve driver behaviour @rothairisbeoir
-can bus drivers keep to speed limits, esp. 30 km/h  @thebaz_dublin @ccferrie @conorkearney
-running amber and red lights; exceeding the speed limit; carrying out dangerous manouevres; aggressive driving behaviour towards vulnerable road users @clicky_here
-monitor/audit  on board cameras to detect (bus driver) red light running @ConwayDavid
-drivers using horns at cyclists @IsMiseNessy
-keep buses out of narrow stretch of North Brunsick Street at Walsh’s pub @jnrbaker
-can front doors be entrance only, centre doors for exit @edbrophy @Sam_Fitzgerald7
-not always possible at bus stops blocked by illegally parked vehicles  @myDublinbus Mar 1
-respect bikes @jtwoods_bikes
-driver agression @IpaziaCheyenne
-ensure drivers are more accountable and protect cyclists @stevedocherty
-Why are buses parked up (thinking near clontarf Castle) with their engines idling? @melissaocallag1

Bus Connects
-make the proposals more legible @LKerrins
-wrong way round, should be macro to micro @SNicoullaud
-diversion of cars  on to Clareville Road in Kimmage  @Sinabhfuil
-destructiojn of Grattan Crescent, Inchicore @GrainneHassett
-why not Park and Ride now, rather than after key corridors are in operation @Sinabhfuil
-Can Dublin Bus ask passengers to contact local representatives to support the infrastructure part of @BusConnects.@transportdublin
-don’t wish to change at Swords on way into town from Skerries @keithguinan
-Make the bus plans easier to understand @Geschenk_Korb