Community group supporting better public transport across Dublin
According to the website of the National Transport Authority: "BusConnects is the National Transport Authority’s programme to greatly improve bus services across the Dublin region. Dublin is growing and needs a bus network that works for a developing city. BusConnects aim is to deliver an enhanced bus system that is better for the city, its people and the environment. With more buses, more often and to more places, BusConnects is designed to provide a better more reliable and more efficient bus service for everyone." Bus Connects will also provide a simpler and cheaper fare structure, faster onboarding times as well as over 200km of protected cycle lanes across Dublin city.
Bus Connects is the most significant proposed solution to Dublin's transport problem in the history of the state. Having been tweaked and improved since its inception in May 2017, the project promises to deliver an integrated, connected and reliable public transport system that will cut journey times, carbon emissions and gridlock whilst delivering a first rate safe segregated cycling infrastructure for the people of Dublin. By providing an improved public transport system for Dublin we will make it more attractive place to live and work for everyone. Improving public transport is one of the most efficient and effective ways we can reduce our greenhouse gas emissions which are the primary contributor to climate change. It will also help improve air quality, reduce noise pollution and improve the general health and mobility of the population. As a low-density city with growing urban sprawl, there are severe insfrastructural issues coming down the line if we don't adapt to a more efficient public transport system and encourage more people to ditch their cars where alternatives are available.
As well as the 16 priority bus corridors which will be provided, the whole Dublin Bus Network has been re-designed. The entire naming system for Buses will be overhauled and many routes will change. More orbital routes will come on-stream meaning moving between suburbs which were previously not connected or poorly serviced will now be available. Traffic management changes will mean that certain trips that were previously taken by car, will become more attractive by bus. Cycling to nearby suburbs should become a lot safer and moving between buses will become cheaper and easier than before.
The short answer is it depends. While some suburbs closer to the city may only see a journey saving time of a few minutes for a single journey, other outer suburbs such as Tallaght and Swords should see journey times to the city reduced by over 50%. The extent of time saved is dependent on how ambitious the project is. If enough people opt to take a bus rather than get in their car in the morning, then the potential time saving benefits increase exponentially. This is because of the significantly less road space required by well functioning public transport. To see a quick demonstration of this, check out this video on YouTube.
As mentioned previously, there have been legitimate concerns raised about the extent of private land aquisition, cycling rat-runs and mature tree felling proposed in this project.
While we have seen some improvement here from the initial drawings, there are still areas where private land acquisition and diverted cycling infrastructure
is being proposed in order to maintain general traffic flow. We think road widening whilst not entirely avoidable, should be a last resort,
and encourage the NTA to come up with solutions that put pedestrians, cyclists, bus and rail at the fore, not private vehicles.
Where a segregated bus lane cannot be achieved, priority traffic signalling and the impact of traffic calming measures such as Bus Gates, cycling infrastrucure
in other parts of the network should be considered.
Continuity of a dedicated cycle track or maintenance of a historic streetscape should not be overriden by an unnecessary and
unrealistic desire to achieve a completely segregated bus lane at all times.
We would like to make it clear that our support for Bus Connects is conditional on these points being reflected in the plans and that the current iteration of the plan whilst improved does not satisfy this objective.
Widening of the M50 did little to solve it's problems of today.
No, the only thing that isn't working to date is a lack of ambition.
While Dublin indeed has a complex sprawl of low-rise suburbs, it and other parts of the country are not beyond the capabilities of efficient
and well designed public tranpsort systems. Such infrastructural challenges have already been overcome in other cities. We do need to build smarter
though, and that means planning construction around mobility and density and not implementing it as an after-thought. Feedback from the public is vitally important though,
and already some of the specific routes which have served Dublin well over the years have been re-added to the plans in addition to the new routes. The many orbital routes
will help connect people to many suburbs and centres that they previously had no access to by public transport.
For more information on how this would actually work, check out the Bus Connects Route Mapper.
It is also important to note that urbanization itself reduces driving. And more densely developed housing means fewer vehicles miles traveled per household,
so as the city with the largest urban sprawl in Europe, rethinking land use and resisting sprawl in the future has to be part of any decarbonization regime.
Even with upcoming advancements in technology taken into consideration, it takes
several years to pay off the upfront carbon emissions from the production of electric vehicles. This is because the process of creating the battery for any electric car,
which is the most carbon intensive part of production, involves lithium mining. This process consumes millions of litres of water and the release of a large number
of greenhouse gases and the degradation of mountain ranges in South America and elsewhere.
The green credentials of an electric car also depend on where the electricity used to power the car is coming from. If a property has solar panels for example,
then driving an electric car could potentially be free of emissions. However, if the electricity comes indirectly from a local plant that’s powered by fossil fuels,
then in essence the greenhouse gas emissions are just shifting from the car's exhaust to the plant's chimneys.
However, it is worth noting that even in areas with the dirtiest coal-fired plants, electric cars still have lower co2 emissions overall.
Once on the public road, the harmful gas emissions from electric vehicles are virtually zero.
Thus it is correct to say that shifting private vehicles to hybrid or fully electric should be part of the solution. But this alone is not nearly enough. We must also factor in for example the overall energy spend and the space capacity of our roads for which private cars of any sort simply cannot compete. Early indications would suggest that electric cars take up just as much room on our urban streets as Petrol and Diesel cars and still carry a significant manufacturing overhead in terms of carbon emissions. In summary, there's no such thing is a carbon free ride when it comes to private vehicles and prioritizing higher numbers on rail, bus, and cycling/walking in combination with a modal shift to electric from a reduced number of vehicles is the best way to reduce our carbon footprint and improve mobility in the long-term.
There is a legitimate concern that some of the proposed traffic flow changes and Bus Gates for example, will divert existing traffic into surrounding
roads and suburbs. While this is an understandable concern, this has not proven to be the case in other cities which have implemented similar measures.
This is because the increase in bus frequency and connectedness of the network results in a net overall reduction in cars on the road. Furthermore, the traffic reducing
measures in neighbouring areas such as Bus Gates and priority signalling, have a knock-on effect in reducing the flow of cars in and out of connected suburbs also.
In order to further mitigate traffic overflow, we need to ensure that the new network and frequency is good enough to maximize uptake and reduce overall car usage.
This would not be achieved by criticizing the project at every turn and calling for its abandonment without a viable alternative solution.
Dublin Bus has already started its transition towards a fully electric fleet with over 600 hybrid buses already purchased, and a trialling of hydrogen buses beginning in 2021. Hydrogen buses are a bridge technology which will allow drivers to turn off the diesel engine up to a maximum of 35%
of the time with today's technology. Unfortunately as things currently stand, the battery capacity for fully electric buses is still evolving
and the charging infrastructure is not yet in place. But hydrogen and hybrid buses are a step in the right direction, and electric buses are due to be on our roads within 2-4 years time in order to meet the commitments of the EU Clean Vehicles Directive which will eventually oblige us to do so.
It is worth noting that both hydrogen and electric buses are significantly quieter than their internal combustion engine-having counterparts. The only noises EVs usually generate is caused by wind resistance or tire noises, and that is only at moderate to higher speeds. Naturally, these speed limits themselves are decreasing as part of the 30 km/h Zone Expansion for Dublin City. It is worth mentioning that it is important not to obsess over a fixed number of buses heading down a particular spine of Bus Connects. Such numbers when spread out over a full hour do not actually add up to
a significant amount of traffic and will surely result in a net reduction of vehicles than before the improvements were implemented. We must keep coming back to the idea of numbers carried per vehicle here. Bus schedules naturally adapt over time to meet the demand so you can be sure that if each of the scheduled buses are full of passengers that that will mean significantly less cars on the road.
Some may have to see it to believe it.
You will still be able to take your car but people with concerns for health or business reasons for example should make their
concerns known via the consultation process. For those simply concerned with being inconvenienced for general driving, it is important
to note that part of the overall aim here is to make the bus a more attractive option for some of those casual journeys that were previously made by car, and not just those in and out of the city. Even if somehow everyone were in agreement on greatly reducing car numbers in Dublin, it would still take well over a decade before such a just transition could be made, therefore the fear that driving in Dublin is somehow going to disappear overnight is somewhat irrational.
This plan is not about vilifying drivers but rather providing them with more attractive and cheaper alternatives to get more people to more places on limited shared roadspace. Less driving doesn't just mean less emissions, it means getting more people to more places and in less time. Transport currently accounts for over 20% of Ireland's net carbon emissions annually, of which private cars make up just over two thirds. Whilst we acknowledge that some people are having a hard time imaginig a city that primarily moves by bus, continuity of our existing road habits and a sweeping rejection of the entire plan on these grounds (not withstanding that there are still many legitimate concerns such as road widening etc..) is not an option.
We are strongly in favour of the construction of a Metro as well as the RethinkMetroLink campaign. A Metro has its part to play and can deliver a level of higher capacity and reliablility that a bus network alone can't. However, while a Metro definitely has a key role to play in Dublins future transport strategy, it is just one key piece of a multi-strand approach required to resolve Dublins transport problem. Why? Even in cities with well functioning Metro systems, bus services and cycling still play a critical role. Underground Metro lines whilst worth it in the long run are also significantly more expensive and require significantly more time, money and property disruption to implement. It is important to note that Metro's are generally the preferred public transport option for high density population areas, something which many of Dublins developed suburbs are simply not. Accessibility issues mean that a Metro line would not be suitable or serve the transport needs of everyone either and people need to be provided with real choices in order to reduce overall car dependency.
The initial plans for the Bus Corridor Project required the removal of hundreds of mature trees and this caused understandable public backlash. Thankfully, future iterations of the plans have seen the level of mature tree removal on some of the routes reduced significantly. In order to reduce this further, there will need to be further changes to the plan revolving around the re-prioritization of the roadspace rather than the expansion of it. There will be an opportunity to discuss such improvements in the upcoming consultations.
We would encourage you to engage with the upcoming Bus Connects public consultation and message your local TD's to find out where they stand on the issue. While our community does not have any political affiliations, we do acknowledge that one of the best ways you can support this initiative is to look at the manifestos of the different political parties and vote for those who have committed to and have a record of supporting more sustainable transport policies. On a more general note, you can also get involved with your local authority and their current projects to improve your area. If you live in South Dublin County Council catchment area see SDCC consultations. If you live in North Dublin County Council catchment area see Fingal consultations. If you live in the Dublin City Council catchment area see DCC consultations. If you live in the Dun Laoghaire County Council catchment area see Dun Laoghaire consultations.