‘In the transport hierarchy the bus is below the bicycle’
Do only losers take the bus, as Thatcher reputedly said? Loyal bus users June Shannon, Peter Murphy, David McWilliams and Bryan Dobson would all disagree
“I live in Portobello, so I get the famous 46A out to RTÉ,” he says. “Because we’re so close to town, we sometimes walk in, but we do short hops on the 9, the 16, the 16A. I use a Leap card, which has the benefit of obscuring the fare.”
Making the Leap to cash-free
The electronic Leap cards, which can be used on all types of public transport in urban areas, have been protected from the worst of the fare hikes, making travel on a Leap 20 per cent cheaper, as the National Transport Authority wants to encourage more passengers to travel cash-free. “Leap is the way to go,” says Dobson.
That, and the Dublin Bus app and texting service, which mean that you never again have to stand at a bus stop wondering if there is still a service operating.
Buses are, even in these days of mobile phones and earphones, still social places. “People say hello and ask about something on the news,” says Dobson. “Or the driver says, ‘Hello, Bryan, how are you? Say something nice about the buses’.”
All these bus users note the huge improvement in the Dublin Bus and Bus Éireann bus fleets. And they agree there is a snobbery about bus use. “I think there is a bit,” says Dobson. “I find people are surprised I’d use a bus. And even from people who live on good bus routes, they sometimes give lame excuses [for not using the bus].”
“Sometimes I get the bus in my suit, in full armour, and people do a double-take,” says McWilliams. And it is true that on public transport here, unlike in other European countries, you rarely see a man in a sharp suit.
“We all have learned to live in cubes,” says Murphy. “We want to sit in our air-conditioned cars listening to our own CDs.” He calls himself an anti-social bus traveller because he likes to work while on board, but he has no problem travelling with his fellow citizens. “I’m a mucker that way.”
Even loyal bus fans have tips for the inexperienced traveller approaching Bus Éireann for the first time. “Never, ever base your travel arrangements on their website,” says McWilliams. A couple of weeks ago he was travelling to Derry, and turned up at Busáras in Dublin for the bus, which the website had listed as leaving at 6.30pm, only to find that it had left at 6pm. When he complained about this, an official advised him to “never mind your f***ing website, son”.
Peter Murphy thinks the high-water mark for the regional bus service has been reached. “It went from the medieval to the modern between 2008 and 2011 and now it’s in decline,” he says. Murphy also points out that, on some routes, “prices are steep. For a 25-minute journey between Wexford and Enniscorthy it’s a about €8. They get you on the one-ways.” He finds it ridiculous that “you can’t buy a ticket which allows you to get off and get on along the route. You can’t on trains either”.
Even with the fare increases – “another rise we could all do without,” as Shannon puts it (she spends €25 per week on her Travel 90 ticket) – buses are still much cheaper than the more respectable trains.
Murphy says that “when I did my tax last month, I swear to God, my biggest expenditure was on train travel.” For this reason he has decided to start driving again next year.