Updated: Jun 22
PRESS RELEASE – 27 April 2023
Public transport is not just for commuting. We propose a simple change to currently planned bus routes which will allow public transport users to access some of the nature and hiking locations on Dublin’s doorstep.
Dublin has an abundance of nature surrounding the city. It's perfectly situated, with the sea to our east, and with rolling hills and mountains directly to the south not even 9km from the centre of the city. While we have long enjoyed the benefits of both the coast and the mountains on our city's doorstep, it has almost always been true that to access the mountains, you have to have private means of transport to get there – most typically a car. This means for many Dubliners who rely on public transport, the mountains they can clearly see from Christchurch or Capel Street are very much out of reach. We can do better at making the nature on our doorstep accessible to all by facilitating those public transport journeys.
Creating a bus route that would connect Dubliners to the mountains they see every day would be a huge improvement for the city. It could result in a reduction in the number of private vehicles used to reach these locations, positively impacting congestion and parking issues, while also opening these amenities up to greater numbers of people in the community who currently can't access them. A small restructuring of our current resources would be a major step in improving the lives of thousands of Dubliners.
We can learn from success elsewhere
Dublin is not the only city that has faced this situation. Other cities around the world have had to try and solve the issue of accessibility to their own natural environment. We can look to their efforts and successes for inspiration and guidance on how to improve accessibility in our own city.
In Vancouver, Canada, buses are used to connect people from the city to one of the most popular skiing and hiking spots in the mountains to the north of the city. Grouse Mountain is a similar distance (10km direct) from downtown Vancouver as the Dublin mountains are from the city centre. It's serviced by three frequent bus routes that connect the mountain to different parts of the city, including directly to the busy downtown area.
The result is that it's possible for those who don’t own a car (whether by choice or because they can’t afford to) to still enjoy the outdoors any day of the week, at any time of the year, and from early in the morning to late at night. It's not uncommon to see skiers and snowboarders fully togged out in their snow gear, boarding city buses around downtown Vancouver, headed for an afternoon on the slopes.
In the US, recent legislation has resulted in a number of cities instituting transit services to connect people in city centres to hiking trails in nearby places of natural beauty. The Transit to Trails Act has given cities such as Seattle the impetus and grants to connect underserved communities to public lands and trails. Trailhead Direct is a system of bus routes from downtown Seattle to Mount Si, over 50km away. The focus is on improving accessibility for all city residents, but particularly those who come from lower income and minority communities, who disproportionately can find themselves locked out of access to these spaces.
The good news is that solving this problem in Dublin will be easier than for many other cities around the world. We already have bus routes going in the right direction – we just need to connect two routes that are already planned as part of the current roll-out of Dublin’s new bus network.
The planned routes L33 and L35 travel from Dundrum towards the Dublin mountains (Map 1). As currently planned, these routes are practically identical to the existing routes 44B and 161 respectively.
Dublin Commuter Coalition proposes replacing these routes with a loop service to and from Dundrum, covering the existing 44B and 161 routes and connecting between them (Map 2). This route would be a relatively small change to the already planned network, but would have a huge impact on public transport access to nature.
The gap between the L33/44B route and the L35/161 is home to some of the Dublin mountains’ most popular natural attractions, including Tibradden Wood, Massy’s Woods, Cruagh Wood, Montpelier Hill/the Hellfire Club, Bohernabreena Reservoir and Ticknock Forest, all of which would be served by our proposed loop route.
As well as filling the gap between the existing routes geographically, the timetables will also need to be improved. The L33 and L35 are currently planned to be very low-frequency routes (less than once per hour during the week, and no service on weekends). To be successful, our proposed loop route will need to be served more frequently – at least hourly in each direction, including on weekends.
We have designed a timetable for our proposed route (below), which provides an hourly service in each direction throughout the day. This timetable is achievable with minimal resources, requiring a total of only four buses to operate (two in each direction). And of course this new service will replace the two existing routes, freeing up those resources for use elsewhere.
We call on the NTA to implement this new route, and help connect public transport users with the natural beauty available on Dublin’s doorstep.
— Dublin Commuter Coalition