Hopping off one bus and onto another might seem counter-intuitive. How can these stops, known as interchanges, speed up my bus journey and get me to my destination quicker?
They’re a key part of the bus network redesign, the proposed shake-up of bus routes across Dublin that is currently being debated.
But what’s the point of them? How do interchanges work? What does an interchange look like?
BusConnects proposes 16 high-speed radial corridors across the city, and 11 orbital routes, which form circles so you can bypass the city centre.
This means more passengers will have to change buses. But the argument goes that if buses are more frequent, Dubliners and visitors will get where they’re going a lot faster.
Interchanges are efficient and simple, says Jarrett Walker, a US-based transport consultant, whose proposed redesign forms the basis of BusConnects.
Other European cities have them, Walker says. Generally, there are two types: large off-street hubs through which buses pass, and smaller shelters.
BusConnects would set up interchanges across Dublin at spots where radial and orbital routes cross. “We’re laying out a big spiderweb grid so there are lots of those points,” says Walker.
A BusConnects survey found that 81 percent of people surveyed were willing to change buses once in order to reach their destination quicker.
At points where passengers get off one bus and take another, they shouldn’t have to walk too far, says Walker.
It’s also important that there are proper shelters, he said. “In a French city or in a Dutch city that’s pretty much the experience you can expect.”
For a long time, traffic engineers would put bus stops away from main intersections and junctions, says Walker.
About 120 metres west of the crossroads where Phibsborough Road meets North Circular Road, a stroll from Doyle’s Corner, is Stop 797. It’s outside a post office on a busy street. But that is “way, way too far” from the intersection, says Walker.
The new plans would include an O route, which would loop between North Circular Road and South Circular Road.
That would be an “extremely frequent” bus route, and the spots where radial routes drop people can’t be far from the ones where the O route picks them up, Walker says. These and other switching points will also need clear signage.
Some Dubliners are still anxious that switching between buses would be an inconvenience – especially for those who are travelling in from the city’s outskirts.
Taking at least two buses in under the system is a worry, says Carly Bailey, the vice-chair of the Social Democrats and a candidate for Dublin South West. Particularly if infrastructure and capacity isn’t improved, and if shelters aren’t better.
People who use wheelchairs are “very concerned”, says Bailey, who lives in Firhouse .”It’s bad enough to have to wait for a bus to try and make sure there’s a space for you on it.”
Others take an even harder line. Tom O’Connor, shop steward of the National Bus and Railway Union, says that he is against passengers having to “go out of their way” to get on another bus.
Martha Dowling says she is worried about changes to the 70 and 270 buses, which serve the area around Clonee and Dunboyne, in the north-west outskirts of the city.
Under the BusConnects plans, visitors headed into the city from Dunboyne, say, would switch to a higher frequency route at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre which would run at least every 8 minutes – making it a faster trip into the city, it says. But not direct.
Dowling says she doesn’t see how a hub where people could change quickly at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre could work. There’s lots of congestion there already, which will lead to long delays, she says.
Could better infrastructure solve that? She is sceptical – and says it would be hard for those who aren’t travelling alone, too, or who have mobility issues.
Dowling says she is also worried that her son’s route to school will change – and that he will end up switching buses late in the evenings at Blanchardstown Shopping Centre.
“When it comes to the dark evenings then,” she said. “Safety is a huge issue.”
Walker says these issues will be ironed out further along.
Where People Change
Many already jump between different kinds of vehicles as they cross the city.
Twenty-seven percent of people transferred between public transport services as part of their journey, according to some past surveys by David O’Connor, a transport-planning lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology and a columnist for Dublin Inquirer. (Not all of those, of course, were from bus to bus.)
Shane Waring, the head of Dublin City Council’s BETA projects, a council initiative that tests ways to make the city better, is looking at the moment at how best to connect the city’s transport modes at what it is calling “leap points”.
“In the city we already have natural interchanges,” says Waring. It’s time to highlight these, he says.
Outside the old motor tax office in Smithfield is a metal pole, beside a row of Sheffield bike stands. This is Dublin’s first “leap point”, he says. It’s only starting as a trial, with the Leap logo to mark nearby Luas and Dublin Bike stands.
The project could tie-in with future interchanges under BusConnects, says Waring.
Leap points, he says, cost €125 install. The project is set to “go live” in the next fortnight, he says.
Jarrett Walker says he has talked to the National Transport Authority (NTA) about the importance of practical interchange design.
“I count on the fact that all services, bus and rail, are coming very frequently. Because I count on that, I expect interchange to be easy,” says Walker.
Hop On, Hop Off
The NTA does not yet have a clear picture of what Dublin’s interchanges will look like, says O’Connor, of DIT.
He says interchanges should involve walking no further than 100 metres between bus stop. Ideally, it’s less than 50 metres, he says.
“You should hop off. There should be a crossing point and you should be able to sight the other bus stop,” says O’Connor.
Something along the lines of the Luas stops at Marlborough Street and Abbey Street in the city centre. Here, passengers exit green-line trams and walk up Abbey Street to the red line, 100 metres away.
There are good examples of interchanges elsewhere in Europe, says O’Connor. In Barcelona, where a bus network redesign is currently under way.
Also, Bellevueplatz, a town square in Zurich, Switzerland is another example, he says. “Zurich is transfer nirvana. They have five interchanges that are beautiful places, beautifully designed.”
Interchanges need to be more than just a pole and a sign. They need to be designed to be places, says O’Connor.
Something closer to what Stop 2313 on St Luke’s Avenue, just before it turns into Cork Street in The Coombe, which is a closer-to-home example of good design, O’Connor says.
It’s outside the jaunty red-brick Timberyard building, designed by the architecture firm of O’Donnell + Tuomey. The architects built in low seating and a canopy of trees at the edge where the housing meets the street.
It’s “actually a pleasant place”, says O’Connor.
Current bus shelters could not double as interchanges under BusConnects, says DIT’s O’Connor. “An interchange is a place,” he says. “It has to be seen as a place.”
People who want to weigh in what they think of the draft plans for the redesigned network can fill out a survey on the NTA website, or email in before 28 September.