If Michelle Brennan gets the bus into Cherry Orchard from Clondalkin, where she lives, she has to change during the journey.
So on Tuesday she skipped the buses and took a 15-minute taxi to the Cherry Orchard Family Resource Centre, to her “angels” class, which centres on meditation and personal growth.
Others at the centre, known affectionately as “the Bungalow”, had come from all over this southern corner of the city for classes in art, cooking and more.
Some took a few buses. Some drove. Others opted for taxis.
At a council meeting earlier this month, City Planner John O’Hara gave councillors a run-down on what the public had said they want for the Park West and Cherry Orchard area, during recent consultations for a new local area plan.
Many of the 99 submissions related to housing, local amenities and schools. There was also, though, one recurring submission about the “poor public transport infrastructure, and low frequency of public buses in and out of the area”.
For older residents in particular, the lack of public transport can be isolating.
The 78 bus used to serve the area when Brennan was growing up and it was, she says, “very, very regular”. The 79/a is not.
You can be waiting up to 35 minutes for a bus that is scheduled to come through every 15 minutes, Brennan says. “So it is hard on the older parts of the community because they depend on it for a bit of shopping, and their bus pass, that’s their only form of transport.”
The train doesn’t bring you anywhere worthwhile, she says. It doesn’t service Cherry Orchard on the weekends, either.
Residents, councillors and transport agencies all wrote in to the council as part of the call for feedback for the draft local area plan.
Some suggested the Luas line be extended to the area, more bus services added, or an extension of DART and train lines to the area.
At a meeting of the council’s South Central Area Committee, O’Hara said the next step was to take all this input on board and go to the next stage of drafting the local area plan.
Tina Madden worries about her daughter, who has a 20-minute walk each morning to catch the earliest bus from Cherry Orchard into town for work.
“All down the main road at twenty to six in the morning, which is absolutely petrifying,” Madden says.
The first 79/a is scheduled to pick up in Cherry Orchard at 6.50am, but Madden says it hasn’t done that for at least two years – the first one comes in at around 7.20am, she says. (A spokesperson for Dublin Bus was unable to provide a comment on this before deadline.)
Every morning, a lot of people from the estate where Madden lives trek to the same bus stop as her daughter, to wait for the 40 bus in Ballyfermot.
“She has spray deodorant in her hand in case somebody comes near her,” says Madden. “The first bus is badly needed to be put on that route again.”
Frequently, the 79/a is rerouted because of “anti-social behaviour” in the area, or it is pulled at 6pm – as happens time and again with the 40 bus, too.
This affects a lot of older people living in the estate, who have to walk from a stop further way to get home after bingo, says Madden.
A spokesperson for Dublin Bus said that levels of “anti-social behaviour” on buses are falling due in part to its “commitment to embrace and foster community relations”, and other measures such as CCTV cameras.
Dublin Bus also runs a programme in schools, teaching pupils about how important buses are in their lives and local communities, they said.
A local bus going around the area might help, says Loretta Verdon, who works at the Bungalow, and drives in from Crumlin in the mornings. Something like a community-transport service, perhaps.
Verdon and others say building more homes in the area, while important, will put an even greater strain on bus routes. “You get very frustrated when you have to wait around so much,” she says.
Says Anne Byrne, another Cherry Orchard resident: “The powers that be should think about what it’s like to live in this area, and not just give us whatever they think will suit.”
The area is growing, says Fianna Fáil Councillor Daithí de Róiste. Yet there’s a lack of joined-up thinking from the council and the National Transport Authority (NTA), he says.
De Róiste wants the NTA to come up with a transport-infrastructure plan for the area. The trains are unreliable, so people don’t use them much, he says.
If the Luas is extended to reach the area, it’ll be long after much of the planned new housing has been built, he says.
One bus in the area is not enough, says Sinn Féin Councillor Greg Kelly.
An NTA spokesperson said that they are currently reviewing the Dublin Bus network, under the BusConnects programme, which aims to deliver “significant improvements to services across the city”, including the Cherry Orchard area.
A draft network is due to be published this summer, said the spokesperson, by email.