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At Lucan Village, five people board the 25a bus. Three more jump on at the corner of Esker Road.
It’s off-peak at about 11:30am on Thursday and the roads are quiet. But halfway into town, all the downstairs seats are full. As the bus rumbles closer to the city, the crowds at the stops grow.
It’s a busy route, says Vanessa Manunga, who takes this bus about once a week. At rush hour, it fills up fast.
“Sometimes, it’s still not enough between the 25a and the 25b,” she says, and the packed buses drive right past commuters, leaving them waiting on the side of the road.
Posters on the Chapelizod Chap Lips group on Facebook complain that they often have to stand, and shared a post claiming that the National Transport Authority (NTA) is buying smaller buses for routes in the area.
Buses are smaller than they used to be, said Thomas O’Connor, a national executive member of the National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU). But that’s because of emissions regulations.
Hugh Creegan, the director of transport investment at the NTA, says the BusConnects plan to overhaul the bus network aims to resolve issues around under-served routes, such as these ones in Chapelizod.
Several models of double-decker bus are used in Dublin, says O’Connor, of the NBRU. He was a bus driver for 20 years.
As European emissions standards change, so too do engine requirements for buses. The “Euro 6” engine buses entered service between 2014 and 2016, and the standard ones hold up to 95 passengers.
Larger tri-axle buses have about 30 more spaces on them. But their engines don’t comply with emissions standards, says O’Connor.
So while it’s true that Dublin buses have a smaller capacity than they had two years ago, it isn’t a choice by the NTA, he says.
There are about 70 of the larger, older tri-axle buses still used by Dublin Bus, he says. They’ve got six or seven years left on the road.
Creegan of the NTA says the maximum capacity of all double-decker buses purchased over the last few years is 95. This includes the buses serving Chapelizod and Islandbridge, he said.
Capacity or Frequency?
Gerry Jordan worked for Dublin Bus for 34 years, first as a conductor, then as an administrator, before he retired last February.
“More frequency would be the most helpful, [especially] in the morning,” he said, last Thursday, on his way into town.
“Once you’re past ten, you’re fine,” he says. But if you’re coming from town back towards Lucan after 5:15pm, the bus is usually full about two stops into its journey, he says.
Like Manunga, he says the service’s capacity is too small at rush hour, and people are often left waiting as buses rush by, full.
The answer to full buses is “usually to increase the level of service or to provide an alternative network layout that has a bus service starting closer to the point of current overcapacity”, says Creegan.
Under the BusConnects draft plans, Chapelizod would be served by bus route 14, which would run direct to the city centre every 30 minutes off-peak, and every 15 minutes during peak hours.
Like Creegan, O’Connor believes increasing the frequency of a service is the way to go if people are being left behind. “The bigger you make a bus, especially in a city like Dublin, sometimes they can’t take [certain] corners.”
The old tri-axles couldn’t fit in the Cunningham Road Garage to be washed, he says.