Below is a draft submission for the third round of BusConnects consultation. This consultation is just on “corridors” – the physical road changes to improve bus journey times – not the actual network of routes themselves.
It’s quite a long submission, but apologies for any omissions – there’s a huge volume of maps, routes and changes.
Important: Making a consultation can sound formal or intimidating, but it’s really just sending a simple email with some of your thoughts. You don’t need to be an expert, go in to great detail, or have to cover everything. Something as simple as “Great project, but I think you should move X to the other side of Y street” is fine. More people should do consultations!
Here’s the text I have sent in. Let me know if any thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter here.
Bus Connects is a brilliant project, which I have been proud to support since before the local elections. Major investment, total overhaul of the network, and a focus on proper infrastructural changes to make buses faster and more regular.
Most of the points below are locally focused to my area (routes 6 through 11), but there are some general points for the consultation, which likely apply across all corridors.
1.1 Cycling for All
While making changes to routes, BusConnects should aim to not simply add or retain cycling infrastructure, but shift the nature of that infrastructure into an explicit model which allows cycling for all ages.
In practice, this means physically protected or segregated cycling infrastructure, which leads into protected junctions. Rather than experimenting with new designs, these junctions should explicitly copy what we know works – in particular in the Netherlands.
The two main concerns with BusConnects that disabled people have raised with me are around “floating” bus stops and the wider BusConnects principles of changing buses.
When it comes to bus changes, explicit care should be given to ensure that every stop which is worked on is fully accessible – rather than just the standard kerb which often doesn’t facilitate easy bus boarding.
On the “floating” stops, trial installations should be prioritised to allow consultation and testing with disability advocate groups. Dublin City Council did this well when it came to “build out” footpaths as part of their COVID mobility measures. From what I’ve seen in other countries, floating bus stops can work well, but can also be poorly and sharply designed, making them a hostile space for those with visual impairments. Getting the design right will be key and some trials before full rollout would be welcome.
1.3 Public realm
I’m really glad that BusConnects isn’t just doing transport, but looking at the public realm of streets they’re working on. Where possible, I’d encourage lots of planting, lots of softer non-concrete space, benches at stops, and the use of nicer-looking materials than the usual unpainted steel which is all over the city. A unified design/style pallete could be really useful for this. Big projects like this can redefine the city’s public style – let’s do it right!
On a similar note, the final plan should consider explicit targets to consolidate road signage and bus stop signage. There are a huge number of unncecessary metal poles across Dublin – they look crap and present accessibility problems. The pointless “there is a tram here” signs along the Naas Road (below) are a good example of the kind of clutter to be avoided.
2. Local changes
2.1 Dolphin’s Barn (route 9)
Dolphin’s Barn is an area that clearly needs a bit of municipal love. It’s a busy, hostile road, covered in hard surface and little else. A promising plan was put together by the council to improve the area, but this was essentially stopped to allow BusConnects to proceed with their plans.
Because the area has been waiting for change for so long, it would be helpful if BusConnects considers it for priority/expedited implementation. The new pedestrian crossing that is planned is welcome, but plans should also:
- Improve the public realm in front of Bole’s Pharmacy – planting, softening and creation of a nice public space
- Keep road lanes narrow to limit speed and sense of it being merely a through route
- Bring in a coherent public realm plan, along the lines of what is proposed for Bus Connect’s plans for Grattan Crescent in Inchicore
- Remove old pedestrian barriers
- Expand tree cover
- Resolve the hostile junction (for pedestrians and cyclists alike) on the south side of the canal
- Take these principles (in particular on greening) all along St. Luke’s Avenue, which is a hard, hostile environment
2.2 Inchicore (route 7)
The changes to save the trees at Grattan Crescent are really welcome. They served as a useful test case to prove BusConnects was willing to genuinely consult, and the combination of the public realm plan and traffic calming will make a huge difference to the area.
The proposal to create new cycle lanes and make two-way traffic on Memorial Road is also welcome. As one local resident who contacted me said:
“The Memorial Gardens and Chapelizod River Walk are a wonderful public amenity but with a de facto motorway running between Inchicore Road and the Gardens in the form of the Con Colbert Road, accessibility to our parks can be limited and at times dangerous.”
This suggests that such plans should also ensure strong pedestrian and cyclist crossing rights at the junction. This route is used by many to access local schools in Islandbridge, along with the park. It will eventually link up with the OPW’s planned cycling and walking bridge. Getting this junction right for pedestrians and cyclists is really important and the current proposals need more ambition in terms of safe, easy crossings.
Route 7 touches onto Tyrconnell Road in Inchicore proper. While much of the road is not a core corridor, it is impacted by BusConnects and will still feature some bus routes. Working with Dublin City Council, a simple two-way protected bike lane would ease bike pressure on nearby routes.
There is sufficient width on the road for such a design on the north of the road, as set out in this image by campaign group D8 Development.
2.3 Islandbridge (route 6)
The current junction between the South Circular Road and the Con Colbert Road/bypass is one of the biggest failings of the current BusConnects proposals.
The road is clearly an important arterial route, but the nature of the junction makes it an unpleasant space to be and a dangerous one for cyclists and pedestrians. The route is increasingly used by pedestrians (as large apartment blocks are developed in Islandbridge), accessing homes, the nearby parks and sports grounds, and the multiple schools in the area.
BusConnects should wholly revisit the unambitious approach to this junction, with an aim to:
- Reduce the number of lanes in the area, perhaps removing a full car lane from the three (!) on the north of the junction
- Simplifying the pedestrian crossing experience so that the whole road can be crossed in one go, without the need to jog
- Narrow lanes going north and south on the SCR, which encourage bypass-like speed on what are suburban roads
- Ensure that the cycle lane on the SCR northbound, south of the junction is improved – the current setup where it is an advisory lane conflicting with queueing traffic is worse than nothing
- Remove (or at least narrow and add signals to) the dangerous southbound left hook, coming from Islandbridge, which is an ongoing practical risk for cyclists and encourages fast driving
- Revisit the three-looping lanes approach on the east of the junction, which is confusing for drivers and hostile for any other road users.
The proposed greening of the ugly pedestrian median, along with protected cycle turns is welcome, but the protected turns should be in line with best Dutch practice, rather than a new design.
The removal of the overflow taxi lane on St. John’s Road is also welcome, as this in practice leads to a build up in emissions due to idling and makes cycling the road dangerous.
2.4 Kilmainham (route 7 and Orbital)
Although not provided as a corridor route, consideration should be given to infrastructural measures along the Suir Road/Rialto/SCR roadway, which will be used by the 73 and 123 bus routes. The road (as currently designed) is not adequate for this level of traffic, making it an already-dangerous place for cyclists and pedestrians.
If the SCR is to take the O orbital route, it will need changes throughout to accommodate this high-frequency bus traffic, while also offering improved safety to cyclists and pedestrians. It would be useful if draft plans for any corridor-style interventions on this road were published soon.
The proposal for a bus gate at Mount Brown is controversial, but I support it. The road faces far too heavy car traffic and is a hostile, dirty space because of it. The speed of much of the traffic needs calming and a bus gate is an effective way to achieve all of that.
Some residents are disproportionately hit by the measure, however, some of whom have particular mobility needs which requires car access. Especially if camera-based enforcement is to be used for the bus gate, Bus Connects should consider access strategies that leave the gate open at certain off-peak times or, better yet, a permit-based system for affected residents in Mount Brown/Ceannt Fort. This could work along the same lines as residential parking permits on streets with pay and display. A step like this would, in practice, keep the benefits of the bus gate, but also ensure local acceptance.
In addition, BusConnects should consider traffic restrictions to prevent displacement from Mount Brown to the already congested and narrow Kilmainham Lane. The aim should be to displace car traffic to the bypass – not to other residential streets.
The decision to leave the traffic flow direction as is on Brookfield Road is a good one, and a useful example of consultation being listened to.
On Emmet Road, there is an understandable move to remove some on-street car parking. If possible, it would be best to avoid installing additional parking in front of the billboards on the SCR end of the road. If absolutely necessary, such works should leave as much of the green space untouched as possible.
It is not clear from the designs why the footpath space needs narrowing, given the existing lane configuration. Given the need for pedestrian priority and the closeness of homes to the road, revised plans should consider reducing car lane width rather than footpaths.
2.5 The Liberties (routes 7 and 9)
The proposed cycle lanes along James Street and Thomas Street should be physically protected. Better junction design could connect to DCC cycling plans for Bridgefoot Street, along with a possible contraflow bike lane for Watling Street.
The junction at Christchurch seems to suffer for being half in one route and half in the other. This is a dangerous and unpleasant junction for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike. Local residents complain of regular beeps as drivers get confused about what they should do.
The junction should be looked at as a whole unit – not just the end of two routes – and redesigned. This could include Dutch-style junction protections for pedestrians and cyclists, along with lane narrowing and reduction – to calm traffic as it goes further into the city core.