Bellevueplatz in Zurich. Photo by Roland Zh. Used under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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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?

Meeting Points

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.

A bus stop on North Circular Road. Photo by Cónal Thomas.

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.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

Join the Conversation


    1. Hi Ciaran, there’s a 90-minute fare that allows passengers to travel across buses, Dart and Luas within that time.

  1. I think the 90-min fare idea is great. I currently live in Helsinki, Finland and that system is used here across all public transport methods. It is so handy as sometimes you need to go by bus/metro/tram when travelling to a final destination and it works out cheaper than having to buy two separate tickets.

    1. Really? So, how much is it? Surely not more than the current >13 stage fare of €2.60. I guess it maybe depends on where you are coming from.

      Having lived in Belgium where a 90-minute flat fare and the option of switching between all modes of transport has been in place for decades, I can confirm that it is much better system in pretty much all situations except when you only want to go 3 stops. In which case being encouraged to walk is no harm at all.

  2. All these people and their worries. I get it, there will certainly be some people that will be adversely impacted because of the nature of their journey, but the impact should be relatively minor. For the vast majority, this new system is almost certainly going to be a big improvement; it has been designed from the ground up based on best practice. Of course it will take time to bed in, but the outcomes will almost certainly be positive The current system is pretty messy and wasteful because it evolved and was not designed.

    I live way out in North Kildare and I am pretty optimistic about this plan as it connects all the local towns together as well as providing links to areas that were never accessible by public transport before such as D15 and Tallaght without going into town and back out again. Also the radial routes go more directly without going into every estate and suburb along the way.

  3. It has not be thought about from the ground up as there was no interaction with the customers or with people with disabilities. They have 2 hubs in Shopping centres that are gridlocked for 6 weeks of the year. The service as is is disability aware but this new plan is disability exclusive including the livery of the bus dark blue and interior all grey.
    If you live on the end of a long route you could be left waiting a considerable time if the busses arrive to you full as you then may need a connection or just to get a space on the bus as a wheelchair user.
    The present system needs changing but this is crazy stuff

  4. Another issue though is whether Dublin’s reliance on big noisy double decker buses is really appropriate for short stop transport around the center of a small city off peak at all. It would seem to make far more sense to instead use mini buses, like many European cities do, with easy access doors, hop on-hop off.

  5. Lots of people myself included bought housing in Dunboyne based on the fact that it was on a direct Dublin bus link into the city. This needs to be borne in mind with the proposed changes. Having to change from a full 70 bus at peak times to get on another full bus in Blanchardstown (with its current chronic traffic issues) does not make any sense. Improve the 270 service off peak as it already servers Blanchardstown but keep the 70 services as it is vital for those commuting to/from Dublin from Dunboyne/Littlepace/Clonee at peak times.

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